Interview: From shaky and shy to confident communicator

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Diana Robertson helps people gain confidence through her work as a Communication Skills Trainer with Toastmasters International, but she was a shy teenager and has learned her techniques through the school of hard knocks. She was often crushed by her own lack of confidence and revealed to Sorted Magazine: “I used to be extremely bad at speaking in public. In fact, on the occasion of my first presentation, I ended up totally forgetting my script despite spending three days memorising it. I felt so terrible, that my hands started to shake, which made my job even harder; not only did I forget what to say but I could not even read it from my script due to all the shaking! As you can imagine, this experience absolutely shattered my confidence. But after a couple of days, instead of focusing on how bad I was overall, I chose to focus only on how poor my skill of speaking in front of the public was. Separating myself from my skill was crucial because it gave me clarity on what I could do about it. The next thing I did was to join one of Toastmasters’ public speaking clubs where I received the help and support I needed to become a confident presenter.”

Diana shares four actionable ways she has used to effectively build confidence:

1. Cash in on current confidence

The first and most important step towards building confidence is to be aware of what you have already been successfully doing in your life. Diana has this advice: “All of us feel confident about particular aspects we know we are good at. Equally, each and every one of us struggles with a specific area that needs improvement. And yet, when we face our pain points, instead of offering constructive solutions, our minds may find that there is something wrong with our whole being. This is a trap because each of us is a completely whole being with numerous qualities. Once you start working on developing a new skill, your confidence will grow with it. Thus, you track what you’re good at and don’t let yourself identify your overall confidence with the areas you feel least certain about.”

2. Change your negative thoughts with positive statements

Use positive affirmations. When Diana was learning to speak in front of a crowd she found that saying, “I’m excited to be called out onto the stage” worked like magic. She repeated it to herself as her turn approached. She enthused: “After six presentations I started to get genuinely excited about my turn instead of being terrified.”

3. Challenge your negative thoughts

Diana invites you to ask the questions below. She said: “You will find out the fears that are hidden behind your lack of confidence and learn how to transform your destructive thought patterns into constructive ones.”

  • How can I describe the exact negative thoughts on this particular subject in only one sentence?
  • Is this thought 100% true? Is it a fact or is it my assumption?
  • What proves that this negative thought is completely or partially false?
  • If the event that I most fear happened, how would it truly affect my life? What would I do (realistically and without exaggeration)?
  • If my best friend had this exact thought, what would I tell them?

4. Celebrate small achievements

“Sometimes, when we take on difficult projects they don’t go according to plan. In such situations, it’s easy to forget that one unsuccessful event means little, and that true success is achieved by taking small but consistent steps towards the goal. So, if you’ve just failed at something, remember; the key to becoming better at anything is to shift your focus onto your progress over longer periods rather than holding on to the setbacks along the way.”

Find out more about Diana Robertson’s work with Toastmasters International here

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.
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