Confidence in the heat of the moment

This is an embarrassingly simple tool for handing nerves, so that you can find your confidence. It’s particularly handy for when you’ve in the middle of some big event or other. It could be an interview, asking someone for a date or a raise, or a presentation. It works like this..

Some things really ARE a threat - so don't use this to handle zombies.
Some things really ARE a threat – so don’t use this to handle zombies.

When you’re very nervous your body produces a set of hormones which kick your body into overdrive – the famous fight or flight response. One of the things that also happens is that your brain starts to filter out all the things you can see which aren’t part of the direct ‘threat’. The ‘threat’ in this instance, is whatever is making you nervous: typically it would be the person you’re talking to. From an evolutionary point of view that’s great as it removes potential distractions and means your brain can take in more details about the threat.

Sadly, in days when we’ can’t hit or run away from the ‘threat’ that’s not much help. In fact it makes it worse, because it means that everything our brain is focussed on is the threat!

The technique is so simple it hurts to admit it 🙂

It’s this: make a conscious effort to be aware of the things that you can see in your peripheral vision – that is, the things around the edge of your field of vision. The result of this is that instead of 100% of your brain being giving over to the threat, you now have the ‘threat’ in the context of lots and lots of other things which aren’t threatening.

An example here might help.  Suppose my computer was the ‘threat’.  My eyes still take in lots of information but my brain filters it so my entire focus of concentration is now on my computer. However, by consciously taking account of my peripheral vision I am now aware of lots of things, including

  • glasses case
  • pens
  • cuddly toy
  • remote control
  • iPhone
  • workbooks for an upcoming training course
  • picture one of my kids gave me when they were very young

and none of these things is in the least bit nerves-inducing! Effectively what I’ve done is ‘dilute’ the threat and put it in a broader, safer context.

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At first this might feel a little tricky – and your eyes might glaze over for a moment, so don’t use it too often if you’re talking one-to-one, intimately! 😉  After just a little practice however, you’ll be able to do it without any side effects at all. I found I got to that stage in just about a dozen attempts.


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