The feeling—a burning sensation that washes over your body—when you make a mistake around people…
…it’s not fun.
Why does it happen?
Why do you stumble and get off-center?
The Spotlight Effect
There’s two layers to the problem.
On the surface, it’s because you’re talking too fast. You don’t give yourself time to formulate your words.
But why, in the first place, do you feel compelled to talk fast?
If we dig further, it’s because you’re not comfortable being the center of attention and having the spotlight on you.
If that’s the case you’re probably a highly sensitive person.
Research from Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, shows that 20% of the population has a trait known as “highly sensitive”. A person with this trait has a very excitable nervous system.
So what happens is, with this trait, you become flighty and reactive when you’re in the spotlight. The pressure is overbearing so you act hastily to reach the next moment where you’re no longer the center of attention.
Handling the Pressure
How does one deal with having a highly sensitive nervous system?
Thankfully, there is a way to diminish the effect social stimulation has on you.
Well, two ways, actually, if you include alcohol. Alcohol dampens your nervous system’s excitability.
But alcohol is a band-aid fix.
The long-lasting solution is progressive desensitization, aka exposure.
Just like weightlifting and progressive resistance—you can build your “stimulation muscle” by putting yourself into stimulating situations until they no longer affect you.
Exposure is the only way?
At the end of the day… facing your fear is the only way to overcome it. And I think you know that.
Slow and Steady
Now that you’re prepared to face your fear, there is a way you can better cope with being in the spotlight.
As a highly sensitive person, you know the spotlight is naturally overstimulating, and it causes you to rush what you say and do.
That’s why you must always take it slow.
Talking slow, and reacting slow, allows you to process what’s happening. It gives you time to communicate and frame what’s rising inside you.
So instead of rushing yourself and tripping over your words—you’re able to stay centered in yourself and allow the words to flow uninhibited.
Meeting Someone New
Do you ever get bad reactions from a person you’ve just met? That’s probably because you’re rushing the interaction.
When meeting someone for the first time an unknown factor exists between you both. And for evolutionary reasons, the first thing you unconsciously assess is whether that person is a threat.
Taking your time puts the other person’s unconscious mind at ease. It gives them space to figure you out and become familiar with your energy.
Meeting Another Highly Sensitive Person
Even when you have your inner-game handled, and you feel confident around people, there are still millions of others who haven’t.
And their high reactivity is something you have to be careful of…because it can trigger you.
In these times, you have to remain especially alert and watchful so you don’t fall into the same reactivity.
When they are make fidgety movements, talk fast, and dart their heads…
…you have to take your time even more when you speak and make movements with your body.
Doing so might help the other person become more relaxed. But at the very least it will keep you calm and centered.
If Things Get Hairy…
Can you remember the times your body has gotten hijacked? When your pre-frontal cortex shuts down, your lizard brain takes control (fight or flight), and you lose all ability to form a coherent sentence?
Without your pre-frontal cortex in the driver’s seat—it’s impossible to stay in harmony with the people around you. And that’s because your PFC moderates social behavior.
There’s but one way to take back the reins—regaining control of your breath.
In a state of fight or flight, your breathing will become erratic and short.
But when you consciously slow your body down by breathing deep into your belly—you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the center that controls your relaxation response.
And that is what will ultimately allow you to take things slow in those especially anxiety-provoking times.
Talking Slow is Magical
Besides being able to handle the pressure and better communicate your words, talking slow has another huge benefit.
People unconsciously pay more attention, and respect, what you say.
Talking slow signals that what you have to say is worth hearing…because why else would you take your time if it’s not important?
When you respect yourself (by talking slow, taking your time, asserting yourself), the world will mirror that respect back to you.
— Ben Brewer (@instinctrovert) June 14, 2016
Rhythm and Balance
Talking slow also gives your speech a rhythm and balance.
When you talk fast and trip over your words—you lose that rhythm and balance.
It’s like a musical instrument being played. When everything is on point, people naturally focus on the music. They don’t pay much attention to you.
But as soon as you botch it? everyone does.
That’s why talking slow is so crucial. Unless you want even more attention, you’d best take your time and stay in-sync.
Making it a Way of Life
Being a highly sensitive person in the modern age can be difficult.
We evolved from living in tribes of 150 people where we knew everyone.
But nowadays we’re constantly around, and interact with, new people.
That’s why taking it slow has to become a fundamental way of life.
Even when you’re just interacting with friends and family—it’s still best to take your time.
Once it becomes second nature to always relax, talk slow, and take your time, you’ll notice that all your interactions improve radically.
P.S. If you liked this post, I’m releasing a full-blown guide on overcoming social anxiety. Sign up below to get informed on its release date!
Learn to overcome social anxiety
Enter your email address to get announcements for the guide's launch date.