Make a fool of yourself Program
In my post Make a fool of yourself to reduce stage fright and become a more engaging speaker I suggested that you regularly take actions that carry a risk of you making a fool of yourself. Here’s a program for doing that:
The list of actions
1. Ring a wrong number deliberately and say “I’m sorry, I dialled the wrong number”
2. Ask for something where you think you’ll get a No in reply eg: ask for change in a store
3. Ask for something where you know you’ll get a No in reply eg: ask for change in a store where they have a notice saying “No change given”
4. Ask for a discount on a product you intend to buy
5. Arrange to pay a bill later than the due date
6. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you in a queue
7. Go out in public (say shopping) in a lower standard of dress than you normally would.
8. Go through the checkout counter of the supermarket (all your food is packed) and then say you’ve forgotten your wallet.
9. Go to a park and pretend you’ve lost your dog. Yell out your dog’s name (you don’t need a dog for this BTW). Ask people if they’ve seen your dog.
10. Phone in to your local radio station and have a rant (h/t Simon Raybould)
I’ve put these actions into an excel worksheet for you. Download the worksheet and number each item with a number between 1 and 10, where ‘1’ means you think you could do this action relatively easy and ‘10’ means you wouldn’t do this in your wildest dreams. For instance if you think asking for a discount would really easy for you to do then put a ‘1’ by it. If negotiating more time to pay a bill would be really hard – but not impossible, put an ‘8’ by it.
Use “Sort and Filter” to put the actions in the order of easiest to hardest. Now commit to taking one action each week.
You have a choice about how you react
A lot of the time, you’ll take one of these actions and nothing untoward will happen. You’ll wonder why you were ever concerned. But you might also get some unpleasant reactions. Your request might be rejected, or you might receive a snide remark. And you might feel embarrassed.
That’s OK. In fact, that’s the point of taking these actions. It’s to have you feel embarrassed and realise that you can cope with that.
However, it’s important that you choose how you react to being embarrassed. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a book that had a lasting impact on me. Here’s a quote from the book:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Choose how you react. If you react by telling yourself “That was awful, I’ll never do that again”, then you’ll stay stuck with your fear.
Instead you could say: “Well, I didn’t enjoy that, but I did cope and I could cope with it again”. Then you’ll be more willing to take a risk in the future.
And remember, that willingness to take a risk will reduce your fear of speaking, enhance your career and make you a more engaging speaker.