This happens most often because of reasons other than language knowledge. Many people know exactly how to learn the language, and spend most of their free time doing exactly that, but still hesitate when it is time to speak.
So, what else can we do about it then?
Well, try this. Start by asking yourself:
“What kind of speaker am I?”
Think carefully about this. Don’t think about just your English abilities (or whatever other language you are learning), but your native language as well. Which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
“I am a ____________ speaker.”
Some people are confident, some are shy, some are fast, some are slow, etc. All of these will affect how you see yourself as a speaker, and therefore, how you speak.
My role as a speaker
Thinking about what kind of speaker you are helps you to understand your beliefs about speaking.
Your beliefs about your ability directly affect your performance.
If this is hard for you to agree with, let Tony Robbins explain it to you:
So how do I understand my beliefs?
Simple. Just ask yourself questions. Similar to the one earlier. This time, focus only on your English abilities.
- What kind of speaker am I?
- How well can I speak?
- Why am I speaking?
- How much do I enjoy speaking?
- How often do I take advantage of opportunities to speak?
As you ask yourself these questions, write down all the ideas that come up. Make a list. Make sure you write down everything, positive and negative. Then, ask yourself why.
It’s best if you actually spend the time to think about this before continuing.
Some examples may include:
- I hesitate when I speak
- I always say exactly what I need to say
- I have trouble finding the correct words
- I make mistakes when I speak
- I feel confident when I speak
- I feel nervous when I speak
- I love using English
- I feel like I have to speak, but I don’t want to
- I don’t know what I’m saying most of the time
- I always forget the words I need most when speaking
- I’m a good speaker
Are they useful?
Next, ask yourself if you really need these beliefs. Which ones help you to be a better speaker? Which ones don’t?
The ones that don’t help you, where did they come from? What can you do about those beliefs that stand in your way of success?
Where did these beliefs come from? That’s the difficult question.
That is the question that might take you some time to figure out completely. If you are patient, you will find the answers.
More difficult beliefs tend to be linked with negative experiences in the past, sometimes even traumas (and most people will avoid admitting this because it makes them uncomfortable). It’s important to acknowledge this. There is nothing wrong with it.
These “bad experiences” in the past are actually positive because they help you to understand how much has changed since then. Society has us believing that failures are destructive, but they are actually constructive.
Beliefs in action
The process of recognizing where these beliefs are coming from may happen immediately, or may happen over time, perhaps when you are speaking. You might pause one day while speaking because you have trouble finding the right word.
You might think to yourself:
“This is because of my belief that I can’t use the correct words”
You might even think:
“This is because when I was a child, my teacher yelled at me for saying the wrong word”
(Let’s hope not!)
The process of self-awareness
This style of thinking helps you to notice your beliefs in action.
Noticing is much different from micromanaging because it is a process of acknowledging something and letting it be. Micromanaging, on the other hand, is trying to control something that cannot be controlled.
Nobody likes being watched while they work, so why would you do that to yourself? Let your words just come out… but just be careful that you don’t lose yourself.
If you think too much about what exactly you are doing, your energy isn’t focused on the doing. It is focused on the what if I’m not doing it correctly?!?
You may have noticed that the key here is to find a nice balance between observing and allowing.
Observing how a certain belief affects your speaking helps you to recognize a difficulty, accept it, and move on. If you observe this difficulty too closely, however, you begin to monitor, which creates resistance. This is like trying to swim upstream.
It might sound simple, but what about those stubborn beliefs? Those ones that are difficult to deal with? They might require a change of perspective.