If you tend to be shy and critical of yourself, what can you do to improve your conversation confidence?
One of the best ways to become more confident at making conversation is to notice what negative messages you are sending yourself about your conversation ability.
You may have negative messages to yourself that are very automatic, that start appearing in your mind as soon as you say anything that you think is less than perfect.
The first step in getting rid of your negative thoughts is to notice what you are saying to yourself. Only then can you fight back against your negative messages by putting new positive messages in their place.
Pay attention to your negative self thoughts. Write them down so you can examine them. Chances are that your messages to yourself are very critical. For example, you may be mentally calling yourself names like “loser” and “idiot”.
Why would you do this? This may be a habit you have developed because you have low self esteem. Or you may be simply repeating the kinds of words your parents often said to you.
Why would you put yourself down this way and repeat this harsh criticism to yourself?
The real reason is that some part of your mind thinks that by criticizing you harshly with such negative words you will change your behavior and suddenly become a confident, competent person.
Does this technique actually work? No! If you have been criticizing yourself this way in the past, you already know that it does not make you perform better. In fact, all this negative internal criticism will only make you more nervous, more awkward, more embarrassed and more tongue-tied.
So, how can you switch your mind to a more positive way of thinking so that your confidence and your conversation performance will actually improve?
There are several different ways to do this, and you may benefit from using more than one method.
One good method to use as a starting point is to counteract the actual content of what you are telling yourself when you say those negative criticisms. You counteract your negative automatic thoughts using positive logical statements.
Here’s an example. Suppose that while you were having a conversation with somebody, you just said mentally to yourself, “I’m such a loser. I never say anything right. Every thing I say sounds so stupid. These people must all think I’m an idiot. No wonder no one ever likes me.”
These are certainly very negative statements to use on yourself. Will such negative thoughts help you to perform better in the future? Will they give you the confidence you need to relax and enjoy talking with other people? No they wont!
And they are not even realistic statements. They are not based on real facts. They are just very negative, automatic statements that have become a habit for you.
First, tell yourself to stop thinking the negative thoughts. Give your mind a clear signal to stop. You can simply say “Stop!” to yourself. Say to yourself, “I will no longer make such negative statements to myself. I will search for a better, more positive message to send to myself in the future.”
Here’s an example you can use:
“I just noticed that I’m automatically saying all those negative things to myself again. I called myself an idiot over and over again. But am I really an idiot? That’s just name calling. I’m not really an idiot. I’m actually smart in a lot of ways. Do I really say stupid things all the time? I probably say stupid things once in a while, but not any more often than everybody else does.
I don’t know whether other people think I’m an idiot or not. I’m not really a mind reader. And I guess if some people sometimes think I sometimes say stupid things, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not really the end of the world.”
“When I tell myself that nobody could like me, once again I’m making negative statements where I exaggerate and think that I really know what other people are thinking. I don’t know for sure whether all other people like me or not. It’s more logical to think that some people like me and some people don’t. All I can do is to try to be myself.”
When you consistently retrain yourself to change your negative thoughts about the way you perform when you are talking with others with positive thoughts, you will become much more relaxed and confident when you make conversation with others.