I often stumble trying to find the right words to say, that I almost forget how to speak English.
Has that ever happened to you? Where you’re just like “ugh, I feel so stupid I can’t find the right words to say!“.
This usually happens when I spend the whole day in my head, or when I spend too much time writing out my thoughts. It’s as if my brain is saying “sorry, you’ve used up all your words today, see you tomorrow!”, but I actually still have to talk to people. Go figure.
Being a polyglot, I tend to lose my words oh-a-plenty-of-times, and if it happens frequently enough during a week, my social anxiety kicks into high gear. And then it’s much more difficult to tone it down than it is to keep it in check.
We all have those moments where we ramble and make a fool of ourselves – and while that’s tough for anyone, it might be tougher for introverts because most of us pride ourselves in being methodical and careful with our words. This is the extrovert equivalent of getting mad ass drunk at a party and leaving behind a trail of unsavory pictures for the world to see. The same feeling, I imagine…
But fear not, you can always redeem yourself!
Here are 3 (out of 5) things you can do to get back on track:
If I don’t make it a point to speak slowly, I get agitated and jump from one explanation to the next without any correlation between them whatsoever. Speaking fast derails me and makes me forget what I want to say. But that’s not even the worst of it…it makes me look incompetent, among other things.
Organize your thoughts
Before you meet with someone, jot down the sequence of your ideas so that you can have a rough outline in your head of how you’ll approach the discussion/conversation. This tends to usually work better when you know who you’re meeting when you’re meeting, and what the agenda/topic of conversation is. Impromptu conversations are much harder to organize but not impossible. I’ve written about this before, but I tend to role-play conversations with people beforehand, just to arm myself with preset knowledge.
Take your time
Take your time to make sure you’re not missing anything crucial – don’t feel rushed to get to the end. This is related to #1, but more in the sense of allowing yourself to pause between sentences, allowing the silence to work in your advantage. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF SILENCE. If there’s one thing you should learn how to do, especially if you have social anxiety, it’s to learn to love the silence. Don’t try to fill the space in with useless words, it will just make it worse because you’re going to panic about it. Give yourself enough time to 1. Speak slowly, and 2. Organize your thoughts.
Phew, that’s quite a bit of information. I’m sure you know most of it already but it’s good to reiterate so you keep your calm when you start talking Chinese. Trust me, I’ve had days where I had to seriously question my competence as a professional adult.
The sucky part about putting so much emphasis on finding the right words is that if you’re not able to, all that dark inner talk comes rushing out, making things that much worse! So if you walk away with anything from this, it’s to just slow down and not place such high expectations on yourself.
I have 2 more things you can do over at my blog, so go read the rest 🙂