Following on from my previous post, with a clip from Billable Hours, my friend Jeremy suggested on the Public Speaking Skills Facebook page that we analyse the public-speaking advice given to The Big Bang Theory’s Dr Sheldon Cooper. If you’ve never seen the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory, I recommend you seek it out – it’s an excellent programme, intelligent, witty and reliably entertaining. It’s about four nerdy young men and their relationships with each other, with their neighbour Penny and with other characters who gradually gain importance. In an episode called The Pants Alternative, Sheldon wins an award but is so afraid of having to make the acceptance speech that he considers turning it down.
Because it’s comedy, the advice Sheldon’s friends give him doesn’t necessarily help as much as it might in a different context but, in my opinion, the suggestions Raj, Penny (first time round) and Leonard offer have a lot to be said for them.
Raj tries to help Sheldon overcome his fear of public speaking through meditation. While I don’t meditate as such, I’m an absolute believer in the power of the mind and I can well see there would be benefits to those who do practise it. The same goes for hypnosis. Basically, if you’re plagued by negative, self-sabotaging thoughts, find a way to banish them and to replace them with messages from your subconscious mind that are going to support and encourage you. Whatever method works for you, use it.
Penny takes Sheldon shopping for a new suit to wear for the awards ceremony. How we (think we) look plays an big part in how confident we feel and new clothes can give us a boost. Although it’s important to dress in a way that fits the occasion, I think it’s even more important to feel comfortable and secure in whatever we’re wearing. However elegant they may be, it’s not a good idea to put on new shoes for your speech or presentation, nor any garment that may impede your movement, such as a tight jacket. The real benefit of new clothes is not the smartness of the outfit itself but the effect it has on you, so choose apparel that makes you feel good without making any demands in return.
Leonard’s attempt to heal Sheldon’s fear through psychotherapy soon slides into role-reversal but, again, even though it doesn’t work for Sheldon, it’s a great idea. A deep-rooted fear of public speaking is almost certainly a result of childhood events, and identifying and working through these events can be transformative. The difficulty is to find the right therapist to facilitate this and, before you go spending loads of money trying to find someone to help you, I recommend you read up on some of the theories and see what you can achieve by yourself. There’s a lot in the first chapter of my ebook about this but, if your fear of public speaking goes far beyond the butterflies most people experience, you might find it helpful to explore redecision therapy.
In the end, rather than face down his demons in a healing and productive way, Sheldon allows Penny to ply him with wine. Of course, this is not what is meant by the episode’s title The Pants Alternative, since this is British slang and not American, but you’ve only got to watch what happens when Sheldon takes the microphone to realise alcohol is not the answer.