Our brains can do a huge number of truly incredible things and we have it to thank for pretty much everything we’ve ever achieved in our lives. If you didn’t have such an amazing brain then you wouldn’t be able to hold down a job, perform well in your studies or solve any problems that life throws at you. More fundamentally, you also wouldn’t be able to move… or breathe.
But while our brains are responsible for a lot of good, sometimes they can still seem determined to cause us grief. Such is the case when we find ourselves in a stressful social situation and our brain starts going into overdrive thinking of all the ways we could embarrass ourselves and making us feel wholly un-confident. The result? We choke and end up stammering nonsense…
So what can you do to fix it?
CBT stands for ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’ and this is a psycho-therapeutic approach that teaches people how to better manage their brains. This often revolves around something called ‘cognitive restructuring’, which in turn focuses on changing the way we think in order to impact on our feelings and our emotions.
This starts with something called ‘mindfulness’, which challenges you to identify the negative thoughts that are impacting on your performance. For instance, if you are someone who experiences social anxiety, then you might find yourself worrying that you’re going to stutter or say something stupid. You might imagine everyone laughing at you. As you can imagine, this isn’t helpful and only makes those things more likely to happen.
So what you need to do is to assess the beliefs you hold and change them…
One way you will do this is with something called ‘thought challenging’. This simply means that you’re assessing how realistic your beliefs are. Does it really matter if you stutter? Is your audience really cruel enough to laugh at you? If they did, would you even ever need to see them again?
When you do this, you can often realize that your fears are unfounded and that in reality, you’re unlikely to see any negative consequences.
But the really smart bit is the part called ‘hypothesis testing’. This means that you’re now going to actually test that theory that you have in order to see if it is justified.
So if you’re worried people are going to laugh at you when you stutter, hypothesis testing would involve testing the theory. How? By stuttering on purpose.
You can do this in a setting where it really doesn’t matter – such as in a shop that you’ll never need to visit again. Over time though, you’ll realize that there really is nothing to fear because you’ll have proven it to yourself. What’s more, your body will have become desensitized to the physiological stress associated with those situations – meaning that you can keep your heart rate calm any time you have to speak in public or meet new people!