GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING VULNERABLE // SPEAKING OUT
Vulnerability feels like a big risk. Your investment of passion and emotion feels precarious when opening up and speaking out to a crowd, no matter how large or small. Whenever I feel hesitation because I am putting my thoughts, a project or a performance out there, I know it's a moment where I will feel vulnerable. A moment at which I'm think, am I ready for this? Press the button and here goes.
The benefits to vulnerability are boundless. It can lead to personal and professional growth, in addition learning and connecting with others who may be feeling the same way. Otherwise, we'd just keep our work to ourselves, right?
Over the next few weeks, offer a few tips to support you in exploring vulnerability when leading a group. It's less of a how-to (there are many resources for that here, here and here), and more of ways to leave yourself open to being vulnerable.
CULTIVATE YOUR BREATH
Taking a leap into vulnerability can be a bit stressful, and your breath can help relieve some of the worry. Deep breathing seems like a thing that is reserved for yoga class or meditation, but there's a ton of research out there to support the nerve-soothing power of a breath practice.
Here's a simple breathing technique. Sit tall (but comfortably) on a chair or cross-legged the floor. Alternatively, you can lie down with a pillow under your knees or with knees bent and the soles of the feet resting on the floor. Let your belly relax as you inhale and exhale on the count of five. Repeat this breath for at least five minutes at a time at the beginning and end of each day.
You'll see short- and long-term results as your body learns to be soothed by your breath. I've felt this breath shift me in times of stress. When I tune in to my inhales and exhales, it can feel as fresh as drinking ice water. Its reassuring presence reminds me that feeling comfortable with being vulnerable is as easy as breathing.
However, this practice is only as effective as the time you invest in it. By practicing, you're informing your parasympathetic nervous system to lower your blood pressure and resting heart rate. Each time you come back to the breath in times of stress or anxiety, your previous breath work will support a calming response.
YOUR WORDS ARE A POEM
Public speaking in any context is an exercise of vulnerability. Sharing your thoughts in front of a crowd is intimidating for many. In my own experience, I have challenged this feeling in terms of becoming a yoga teacher. Finding my voice in front of a class has helped me to feel more comfortable in front of crowds of all sorts.
Somewhere along the way, I noticed a parallel with how many of my yoga teachers deliver their cues using a cadence similar to the way poetry is performed. Things clicked into place.
Poetry was the first medium that tethered me to a lifelong love of writing. As a traditional student, I processed my day, emotions and life events most easily through the short-form structure poetry provides. When I cue in class, I tap into this voice.
When you are speaking, imagine your words as a poem. Deliver your words with confidence, even if you're unsure about them. It's fine. It'll be fine. Say something incorrectly or maybe trip up a bit? Use it as humor.
Pauses are OK. Don't be afraid to use them. You know what you want to say, but maybe the sentence didn't shape up to be exactly where you were aiming. Take a breath and a pause, and finish your thought. Your words are a poem and pauses are a part of the process.
I've got a few more tips next week, but here are some amazing books on this subject.
This book, originally published in 1975, is one of the first modern studies on the effects of meditation and deep breathing on the nervous system.
One of my favorite books for exploring vulnerability is Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. In the book, she writes a lot on this subject, because asking for help is nothing if not an exercise of vulnerability.
Palmer writes, "From what I've seen, it isn't so much the act of asking that paralyzes us—it's what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.”