It’s no wonder we don’t know how to small talk. In this society of ours we communicate through social media, talking on the phone or texting and that is where our limitations begin. We don’t know how to create trust when face-to-face.
In this article you will learn how to conquer your limitations or more specificly your thoughts. It’s all about win-win because you’ll be better at small talk and get a framework to overcome stuttering – because – duh – talking and stuttering go hand in hand.
Society without risk other than the stranger around the corner
In the second article on small talk, we discussed the signs and symptoms of social anxiety. It’s what makes you stick with one person in a crowd. Some of the signs and limitations are:
- You worry about what other’s might think of you
- You’re overly selfconscious
- You avoid eye contact
- You feel insecure and worthless
- You keep to your comfort zone
According to the other article, it’s because of fear of rejection, fear of being a bore and fear of not knowing what to say. In other words: fear is a major factor. I believe fear is a factor because in this society we don’t have much going on with our neighbors. We keep to ourselves. And Lord have mercy on those who find their way on the other side of our fence. Because they will be bored to death. And it will be ugly and embarrassing.
According to sociologist Anthony Giddens, the current (western) society does not have any risk factors (risk as in immediate such as saber tooth tigers and hunger). Some of the risk decreasing factors are (Giddens 1991):
- Clean tapwater
- Improved sewer systems
- Central heat
- Pasteurized milk
- Improving cancer treatment
I believe, when we don’t have anything to fear and with our bigger houses and longer fences we come to believe that other people are the enemy. But the truth is that we are our own worst enemy. But it’s hard acknowledge this because we are our own blind spot. The risk is how we construct the world around us with our blind spots leading us.
This society without real risk cause fear, worry and anxiety for other people and it affects our beliefs (what you think of other people), emotions (how you feel and your level of self-consciousness), role (what you do) and body (how you react uncontrollably).
A cognitive model to understand your limitations
This framework is a general framework based on cognitive science. It’s made for you to understand what’s going on inside your head when meeting other people. The model can also help to guide you in the right direction to overcome stuttering and not fear other people. This model builds on learning theory and is great to unlearn social anxiety.
Thoughts and how they shape our being and our limitations
No matter what you do it will be a reaction based on your belief, emotions, and thoughts. If you walk up to someone and suddenly feel like suffocating your mind starts racing with negative thoughts. I’m going to die! Meeting people is the worst! It’s better to be alone! Lem’me outta her!
And then you walk out of the room. Now you have had the experience of people being evil without ever talking to one.
Another scenario could be that you walk up to someone but then you realize that you start to blush. Then you think that the other person will notice your insecurity. And then you remember that you stutter. And now it’s impossible for you to open your mouth because you cannot control anything. You think you ought to walk away because the other person will think you’re weird. Then you feel like shit because you didn’t do what you wanted. Oh, the anxiety. The anxiety! You think if I just didn’t stutter or if I just didn’t…..Congratulations. You have arrived at wishful unicorn thinking. Not helpful.
Everything you do, see, feel and experience runs through a filter that evaluates if it’s good or bad. Whether the judgment is good or bad, you construct a belief around that.
It’s you thinking that creates the world around you. And it’s how you interpreted an event that determines what happens next. Here’s an example:
If you meet a stranger at the mall and that person says “hello”, what do you think?
- Negative: (s)he’s a creep
- Realistic: s(h)e want’s to be friendly
- Positive: s(h)e thinks I look amazing
When you’re insecure and don’t have the right tools to meet the world, then it’s easy to focus on all the wrong things. You have to stop and step back to look at your thoughts:
Step 1 – What do you think? Or how do you limit yourself right now?
The first step is to consider what your thoughts are made of. When your emotions and your body overwhelms you it’s not easy to think clearly and proactively. You’re in a never ending negative circle where your negative thoughts enhance the uncompfortable in the situation. What you need to do is to stop your thoughts and step back to look at them. Here are some questions to help you:
- What went through your head when you became unsure of yourself? What about the moments leading up to?
- What’s the worst that could happen now?
- Is this scenario realistic?
- What would an alternative scenario look like?
- What do you focus on?
- What will likely happen of the two scenarios?
- How can you make sure that something great happens?
When you’re able to catch your thoughts you are on a journey to change how thinking and behavior. And when that happens your limitations will wither away. That means that you are able to avoid the common human bias that you might experience in social situations.
According to cognitive therapist Judith S. Beck (2011), there are several cognitive bias’ that we humans experience on an almost daily basis:
- You take things personally (you make everything about you. If somebody leaves the group while you’re talking, then it’s because of you.)
- Mind reading (you believe you know what other people think “Now she looks away, Oh, she doesn’t think I’m worth listening to. It’s because I stutter.)
- Catastrophe thinking (You feel you need to make everything perfect or else the world will turn into Armageddon.)
- Overgeneralization (If I stutter in this situation, then I will always stutter.)
- Fortunetelling (I will never learn to be fluent.)
- Labeling (I’m a stutterer. It’s what I do and I can’t do otherwise.)
- Wishful unicorn thinking (If only I didn’t stutter then everything would better.)
In order to be better at small talking and in order to overcome your stuttering you need to question our thoughts.
Step 2 – Think different
To become better at questioning your thoughts ask yourself what would:
- Mother Theresa
- Sir Richard Branson
- A fool
- A king
- A dictator
- The president
- Your best friend
- Lev Tolstoy
- Someone else…
think in this situation. This exercise will help you see other options and change your thinking and your behavior. If this doesn’t work ask:
- What are the facts right now? What facts am I missing?
- How would I think if I felt confident?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- What’s the best that could happen?
- How do my cognitive bias affect me? Am I using mind reading or labeling or…?
- What alternative thoughts could I have right now?
Everything has two sides. If you’re small talking and anxiety creeps in remember that anxiety too has two sides:
- It helps you to be alert and perform extraordinarily and ultimately succeed.
- It inhibits you from doing what you want and fail without even trying.
You decide what to do with anxiety. You may not be able to control your emotions or your body but you do control what you think and you do control your actions. You need to look around for other data that will help you think differently and one way to do so is by thinking your’re someone else.
Step 2b – Don’t think – or just fucking do it – or the 3 seconds rule
A tale from back in the days.
There will be situations where there is no time to think. The pressure is too much. When that happens I jump across where the fence is lowest and don’t think diffently. It’s because I stop thinking entirely and I just do whatever I need to do.
If I need to talk with someone and I can feel my thoughts begin to stir, I immediatly do something physical like walking towards the person, focusing like a madman on him and immediatly start talking and listening and asking questions. I bypass my brain by counting down from 3-2-1 GO! It works because it’s metacognition. Metacognition means that I am aware of my thoughts and how my brain works. That if my brain set into gear it will rapidly make me anxious but I can avoid that by counting down thus interrupting my thinking.
It’s exhausting but it works. And I get an experience where I don’t stutter. Because I won’t let myself do it. I suspend my thinking and overrule my stuttering. At least that’s what I used to do. I don’t have to do it any more.
Those experiences where you don’t stutter are very important. They are fuel for thought later on, because they show you in real life that you don’t always stutter. And you need to focus on the positive sides of your speech in order to overcome stuttering. You need to collect those experiences and always carry them with you. Have a notebook where you write the experiences down and what you did to achieve that success.
Where to go from here
First things first. What is the one thing that you can do today that you have learnt from this post?
In this article we discussed the limitations we put on ourselves because of how we think. And we also discussed that people are more afraid of other people because of the fact that there isn’t many threats anymore. Without threats we begin to think that other people are the problem when they are in fact a way to help us doing what we want to do; talk fluently.
Because of our way of thinking we don’t know how to talk to people or to read them. So when we try our communication skills at small talk events or at work we fail. Our body fails us. Our emotions and thoughts and role fails us.
We fail because we don’t have the right tools or the right mindset.
When we’re in a difficult situation we need to look at the facts and question those facts and force ourselves to think differently. We need to force ourselves to construct a new way of seeing. And that new way will set us free.
What would be your best move in order to talk more? Tell me in the comments.
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