People can tell when you are nervous

When we’re nervous most of us make what are called ‘comfort’ or ‘self-soothing’ gestures.
When we do this, at some level the other person know that we’re nervous, afraid or not in control.
This happens one-on-one, in a small group and even when you’re presenting or on stage.
When this happens you lose all your credibility and power.
Watch the video, read the transcript or listen to the audio to learn what these self-soothing gestures are and how people can tell when you’re nervous

People Can Tell When You Are Nervous

Are you nervous when you meet new people? Are you nervous when you stand up in front of a team meeting? Are you nervous when you stand on a podium and present to everyone that’s out there?

The answer for most of us is yes. It’d be unusual not to be nervous. And, the more we do it, the less nervous we become.

But the more nervous we are and the more ‘nerves’ we show that the less respect that audience will give us.

And that audience may be really small, just one person, or a small team group or even a large audience of 200 or more people present.

The more nerves that you show, the less credibility and believability you’ll have, the less trust you’ll develop from that audience.

It’s really, really important therefore,  that you show a ‘strong’ presence and that you show that you’re ‘in control’ and that you are not nervous.

Let me share some nervousness behaviours with you.

A couple of really simple nervousness tells or giveaways include the following; 

  • when people scratch themselves, on their knee or their arm, anywhere in fact or
  • when they twiddle with their earing, twiddle with their hair
  • another one is playing with the tie or some jewellery that’s around the neck

The little indent at the front of the neck is called the suprasternal notch, and just under it are some arteries and veins and nerves When we rub this area, it soothes us and slows our heart down.

Therefore, when we play with our tie (men or women wearing a tie) or when, women play with their jewellery in this area, they are doing so to ‘calm’ themselves down – even though they may not realize what they are doing, and these are all ‘nervous’ gestures.

Other self-soothing or nervous gestures include;

  • biting your finger nails
  • chewing gum
  • ‘adjusting’ an item of clothing
  • rubbing ones shoulders
  • etc.

Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, look, Diederik, I don’t consciously see or recognize those things that you’ve just said so I can’t tell when someone is nervous.”

I’m going to beg to differ because you may not consciously be aware that someone else is nervous but your subconscious definitely is!

And so at some level you will feel that ‘something is not quite right’…. – but you might not have any idea why.

This goes back to our caveman days, and back then we HAD to learn to read someone else’s body language.

We had to learn to ‘read’ that other caveman who was approaching us or that person that we were with and know whether they were friend or foe, threat or enemy, confident or nervous.

We innately recognize those body language ‘tells’, maybe not consciously but certainly subconsciously, and that gives us a feeling of “I don’t know why but I don’t trust that person – something is not quite right.”

The other thing I want to show you is another nervousness gesture – I just did it to show you — and it is called ‘turtling’.

Turtling is where you pull your shoulders up towards your ears. This minimises the ‘length’ of your neck and the exposure of this ‘sensitive’ area to others.

The neck and the throat are very sensitive areas – so we want to protect them! So, if you ‘turtle’ that shows that you’re nervous because you’re trying to cut down the exposure of this high risk area.

What we’ve gone through are just some of a whole host of nervousness gestures that we all recognize at some level. Therefore, when someone makes or uses these gestures, we have less credibility, trust, authenticity and belief in that person.

The take-home message here is; even if you don’t think you’re nervous, watch your body language and check-in and see if you do any of those behaviours.

And if you do some of those behaviours or ‘tells’, may I suggest that you practice not doing them because that’s going to hugely improve the communication outcome and the trust and credibility that you receive from your audience, whether that’s one person or a huge room.