Combating Stage Fright with Positive Emotion
We’ve all been there before-wringing our hands, watching the clock, and hearing our name in an introduction as the next speaker, presenter or talent act. Our nervous system is signaling the “fight or flight” scenario during this heightened state of emotion, just seconds before walking on the stage. A bystander may notice our anxiety and gently nudge us and say, “Stay calm,” which makes us even more anxious knowing others are witnessing our paralyzing overdose of anxiety.
According to author, Amy Cuddy, it’s time to give yourself a ‘self-nudge’. In her book, Presence, Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, she explains how to move from a state of negative emotion into one of positive emotion, like excitement. It all boils down to a matter of interpretation. For research, Cuddy used her colleague’s, Alison Wood Brooks, series of experiments that elicited stage fright as subjects participated in a singing competition, a public-speaking contest and a difficult math examination. In each experiment the subjects were asked to reframe their fears with a self-talk statement- to keep calm, to get excited, or no self-talk. In all three scenarios, the subjects who reframed their self-talk to excitement outperformed the others. Brooks relates that, “When you’re excited, it primes an opportunity mindset, so you think of all of the good things that can happen. You’re more likely to make decisions and take actions that will make [good results] likely to occur.”
Reframing anxiety as excitement seems like a simple fix, but if it works, we’ve hit the jackpot. Take the leap from stage fright to stage presence and see what happens!
Originally published in the Bay City Tribune on September 11, 2016.