How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs about Your Communication

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How finding it difficult to communicate can impact you

Being able to communicate is essential for living. We need to be able to communicate with others to get things done. Communication challenges such as the fear of public speaking, anxiety about interacting at social gatherings, worry about what to say in meetings etc, can affect your self-confidence and self-esteem. A good first step in getting over your problem is to look at the beliefs you currently have about your communication.

Unhelpful beliefs you might have about your communication

Unhelpful beliefs behind the way you communicate usually arise through the experiences you have in life and the perceived meanings you give to those experiences. For instance, examples of beliefs about communication you may have could be the following:

“I can never speak in front of a group.”

“I fear being rejected by other people.”

“I look foolish because I can’t express myself.”

It could be a whole host of other beliefs.

The more experiences you have, which you find unpleasant, the more beliefs like those above repeat, which then strengthens them. Before you know it, your communication problems become problems about you as a person.

Beliefs about your identity

“I’m a bad communicator.”

“I’m too shy to talk with people.”

“I’m worthless.”

“I’m tense.”

“I’m stupid.”

“I’m inadequate.”

When beliefs become about you, they seem final, rigid and unmovable. However, with some effort, such beliefs can be changed and you can empower yourself to communicate confidently.

A good place to start to overcome negative beliefs, involves questioning and doubting your current beliefs around communication, finding evidence to the contrary and using this evidence to help you overcome what you currently believe.

Has it always been like this?

If you currently believe you’re a poor communicator, then have you always believed this?

Has there ever been a time when you did communicate well? Even if it’s just one time you can think of and it may have been a long time ago, it is still evidence to the contrary of your current belief.

What was it like that time when you did communicate effectively? Remember the time as vividly as you can and consider how you can use this experience now to help you overcome the unhelpful belief.

Do some difficulties with communication really define you?

You may be experiencing some challenges with communication, but does this really define who you are a person? Surely, you are more than a problem you are facing?

For instance, if you’re having challenges with giving presentations at work and because of this, you tell yourself “I can’t do anything right”, is this really true? Surely you can still do other things.

We humans usually take on multiple roles and positions in different stages of our lives. A good way to get unstuck from negative beliefs about communication is to consider what else are you that is, more than the current difficulty you’re facing. Perhaps you’re a mother, a father, a brother or sister, a good musician or a talented author.

Have you considered you might have exaggerated a little?

Let’s say for instance, you’re in a social situation and suddenly you become unable to speak because you become anxious. You then tell yourself “I’m going to die if I don’t get out of here.” The next time you think about going into the same social situation, you just avoid going altogether, telling yourself “I can’t go there. I’ll die.”

This would be an example of taking a situation or experience and exaggerating it. In reality, you wouldn’t die from going to a social gathering.

It’s helpful to bring such beliefs into conscious awareness and really consider whether what you tell yourself will happen, will happen in reality. Most likely it never would.

Are you taking it too personal?

For example let’s say you’re at work and an important potential client comes in for a meeting with you and three other colleagues. The meeting happens and you don’t get the order. You then blame yourself because you believe you were too passive in the meeting because you were slightly nervous.

However, in this case you forgot this potential client was only interested in seeing if your company could do the work cheaper than a competitor, which your company couldn’t afford to do.

Hence, if you believe aspects of your communication, are the cause of undesirable outcomes of situations, then a good habit is to look for other reasons why an outcome might have happened. They are usually there. You just need to spend some time looking for them.

Continue getting into communication situations

You can do a lot of work by yourself just through looking at beliefs you currently have about your communication and looking for evidence to suggest otherwise, or through considering other aspects of life in which you have made progress, or by looking for situations where you might have over exaggerated about.

In order to help re-enforce this work, actually going into those situations where you find communicating difficult, is a great way to slowly become de-sensitised to the difficulties you are experiencing.

As you do go into communication situations,  notice how you’re feeling without judging yourself and practice new communication behaviours. By adopting such an approach you’re just trying things out. This then takes off the pressure to communicate in a particular way and gives a sense of always working on improving your communication and getting better.

Friends, it’s over to you:

• What other ways can we use to overcome limiting beliefs about the way we communicate?
• Please share your valuable views, experiences and thoughts in the comments box below.
• Please also share this post on your favourite social networks. Thank you.

Photo Credit: Andrew Feinberg

32 Comments
  1. Hey Hiten. Loving this. Sometimes it can be just one kind of communication situation that is terrifying, when everything else is ok.

    For me, I can give presentations, lead meetings, and even turn up to a social event on my own and do ok. But ask me to approach someone and speak to them in French (a language I’m learning) and I literally want to run away!

    Your point about repeating the event is a great one – the more times you put yourself in the difficult situation and get through it, the easier it becomes. Starting is the hardest part!

    – Razwana

    1. Hi Razwana,

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the article!

      Indeed, communication fears can be extremely context dependent. As you said, one situation is ok, whereas another isn’t.

      I can certainly appreciate the fear of speaking in an unfamiliar language. I guess one way of looking at it, is like this – You’re in France. Surely there’s not a better place in the world to practice the language?

      Indeed, with any type of belief change work, the biggest change always comes from direct experience, again and again.

      Many thanks for leaving your great comment! Have a great week ahead.

  2. What you say is so true Hiten…we have experiences, we give them meaning and we then expect to get more of the same. We are the creators of the cycle we find ourselves in. I think your idea of actually putting yourself into these situations on purpose can begin to break the cycle.

    We’re always at choice to exchange one belief for another…it isn’t instantaneous, but by focusing on the experience we’d like to have, chances are greater that we’ll get it.

    Nice post. 🙂

    Elle

    1. Hi Elle,

      I’m so glad you could resonate with the point about making meanings of experiences. Humans are serial meaning making creatures. However, it is also in the structure of how we make meanings, where the magic lies.

      We can create other meanings, which empower us, simply by choosing another meaning. It’s easier said than done, but something which can certainly be done.

      As you quite rightly said, when we focus on the experiences we want to have, rather than running away from those that don’t, we increase our chances of getting what we want.

      Many thanks for leaving your brilliant comment, Elle and for adding so much more to this post. Have a great week ahead.

  3. Hi Hiten,

    Yet another wonderful topic covered so well here 🙂

    I would just say one thing – it’s all in the mind. Everything actually turns out the way we want it to, when we think about it, whether negatively- when it turns to be negative, or positively when we think positive.

    The same thing happens when we communicate. If we don’t have the self-confidence and self-esteem that we can do it, we can never really do anything, whether it’s work or communicate. Yes, our past experiences are often what turn up as our fears that stare us in the face and stop us from moving ahead. We need to break those barriers and limiting beliefs, and proceed. I guess we need to make ourselves understand that if things haven’t worked out at some point of time, it doesn’t mean they won’t work out the next time too. Instead, we need to learn from our past mistakes and move ahead, and keep trying till we succeed.

    I remember the time when public speaking was an uphill task for me – it still is for that matter, but that’s because one is out of touch for so long. But the only way to overcome that fear was to face people and just talk – nothing else really works!

    I agree about the exaggeration bit too. I think most people overdo things or exaggerate about their fears because they keep living in their past and take those experiences and mix it with their present ones, without realizing how it’s going to harm their present and future. Nothing actually happens, but because they assume it might – it just might because of the way they think.

    Thanks for sharing this important topic with all of us. Have a nice weekend 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the topic of the post, my friend!

      What you wrote about it all being the mind, is just so true, as is what you said about how we create our own worlds through the thoughts we entertain. I feel like shouting your message from the roof tops!

      I could really appreciate what you wrote about our past experiences hampering what we want to do now. Almost by default, our minds will try to judge what we’re experiencing in the present moment by something which happened in the past. We need to do what you stated, which is to learn from previous experiences and leave it at that.

      Indeed, the example you shared about public speaking and the only way of overcoming fear was to talk, is very true as well. We can do so many things cognitively to help us be in a position where we can confront a fear. However, such efforts won’t amount to much unless we put ourselves into the fearful situation over and over again.

      The point you made about assumptions was very interesting as well. Isn’t it strange how by assuming something in our minds, using information from the past, which is no longer even relevant, we end up creating undesirable scenarios in the present?

      Many thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment and sharing your views and experiences of this area.

      Have a wonderful week ahead, Harleena! 🙂

  4. Dr Hiten,
    Another lovely post from you! This is really encouraging and motivating.
    Agreed, that being able to communicate is essential for living. I used to be very shy to speak in front of a group.Constant practice helped me. Now I can speak in front anyone without fear.
    Thanks for the share.
    -Seun

    1. Hi Seun,

      I’m so glad you liked the post and thanks for your words of appreciation!

      Thank you so much with sharing your experiences of overcoming shyness of speaking in front of groups!

      As you stated, through practice and perseverance, you’ve reached a position where you can speak without any fear. This is such an inspiring and great example of creating a big change.

      Once again, thanks for sharing such an authentic example from your own life and for adding so much more to this post!

  5. Hiten,

    Some excellent ideas on how to present more fully. Another important element is to remember to breathe! Maybe it is a relaxing breath before beginning or pacing ourselves as we are presenting. It helps relax our mind and focus on what is most important – getting our message across effectively.

    Thanks!

    Jon

    1. Hi Jon,

      I’m so glad you liked the ideas in this post!

      Many thanks for including the use of breathing as another way we can use, to improve the way we communicate. You’re spot on about breathing before we communicate and how doing so helps to relax our minds and helps to increase our focus. Our breathing can be such a powerful tool and even a slight change in our breathing can impact our moods.

      Many thanks for adding further to this discussion and have a great week!

  6. Good Stuff Hiten!

    I’d bet that the majority of people have some limiting belief or another related to how they communicate . . . even the great communicators. Like you say, the trick is to learn how to overcome them.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestion to slowly introduce yourself to those uncomfortable situations and gradually desensitize yourself to those ever present doubts and fears.

    The more comfortable you get, the better your communication. The better your communication, the more comfortable you get.

    It’s self-reinforcing.

    And everyone benefits.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Trevor,

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post!

      As you quite rightly said, most people have some type of limiting belief about the way they communicate. I’m glad you could resonate with the point about actually going into the uncomfortable situations. I really do believe that it is the single most effective way of overcoming the limiting belief. By experience, we create new pieces of evidence that we are in fact communicating in ways that we previously believed we couldn’t.

      Many thanks for leaving your great comment, Trevor!

  7. Great points, Hiten, to help others overcome untrue limiting beliefs about communication. I’ve heard that the greatest fear is not actually death but public speaking. That underscores how deep this fear is to most people. One tip that may be helpful in debunking limiting beliefs about communication (or anything, really), is to be careful with “I am” statements. Turn them into “I feel” statements, so that we can address the fear for what it is, rather than internalizing it as an identity issue. For instance, instead of saying, “I am a bad communicator,” even sayinig “I feel like a bad communicator” makes it easier to work on feeling more confident than changing who we think we are. It’s a subtle but powerful shift, because it’s easier to shift feelings than to shift what we believe we are. What do you think? Thanks again for yet another practical, accessible advice piece!

    1. Hi Alice,

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the post!

      Ah, the advice you shared in your comment was brilliant! I just loved what you said turning “I am” statements into “I feel” ones. As you stated, doing this helps to ensure we don’t identify with the statement. False identification with negative beliefs is what can create so many problems in the first place. Approaches which help to create separation from such identifications are well worth exploring.

      Many thanks for adding such a brilliant tip to this post about how we can deal with limiting beliefs.

  8. Communication is essential and I love that you addressed this topic. Personality has so much to do with it as well. The outgoing, chatty people feel very confident most of the time with their communication style. It feel that it is easier for them to communicate on their feet and ad lib as they say. I would say introverts, for the most part, have to work at it a little harder and find what works for them in different situations.

    I’m in a group listening to some people talk about going to the WDS in Portland that is coming up. One woman, who is an introvert was going and was very nervous about who she was going to talk to and how she was going to handle the large crowds. The other gal who had been there before was completely confident and knew exactly how she was going to handle the situation. I’m not going, but it was an interesting discussion about communication with large numbers of people. Thanks for sharing a topic that is a concern for many.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      I’m really glad you liked the topic of this post.

      Indeed, I agree with you that people who are naturally chatty tend to ad lib more easily and introverts need to make effort to develop such communication skills.

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences with the people from your group. I bet the more that woman who is an introvert goes into environments, where there are large groups, the more her confidence will grow until it won’t even be an issue anymore.

      Thanks so much for leaving such a great comment, Cathy and for adding so much more to this post.

  9. Hello Hiten,

    I read that public speaking is perhaps the greatest fear. So yes, where there is fear, there are bound to be limiting beliefs. I was a shy and reserved child. And so, being able to speak and make friends was an uphill task for me for several years.

    It is a good idea to start with a small group before speaking in front of a large audience. Over the years, I have become more relaxed over public speaking gigs. Still, I find it something that I need to continue to work on.

    And yes, I totally agree that not being able to communicate well does not define who we are. It is something that can be overcome. Practicing in front of the mirror repeatedly helps!

    Thanks for a great post, Hiten!

    1. Hi Evelyn,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences of this area! Like you, I too was very reserved as a youngster until I began to work on my confidence and that including learning to communicate more assertively.

      I loved what you wrote about public speaking and it being a good idea to develop confidence in front of small groups. Indeed, one of the things I love about public speaking groups are that they are very supportive and no judgment takes place, which allows a person to increase confidence in a safe environment.

      Many thanks for leaving your great comment, Evelyn!

  10. Thank you Hiten for another great post!

    I feared public speaking because my upbringing was so filled with criticism. I was so afraid to get in front of people for fear someone would tear me apart. What I found was nothing but encouragement – even when I just did an okay job… still I received nothing but encouragement. I felt the Universe was sending me a huge message. Now even though I still feel pangs of that fear when I first think of getting up in front of people – my new mindset takes over. I receive nothing but encouragement to be myself, to speak from the heart and to express myself… that internal mantra gets me past the past!

    Thank you for all the great points Hiten and the encouragement to get past this fear of communicating. We all have something beautiful to communicate and share in this life. I encourage anyone with fears about speaking to find a new way to think and feel about it. If you change your mind about it…everything does change! 🙂

    1. Hi Karen,

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post!

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences with public speaking and how it has helped you. The new mind-set you have developed with regards to speaking in front of groups and your internal mantra sound great!

      One of the things I really like about public speaking groups in the UK are how they are geared up to completely supporting and encouraging a new person getting into public speaking. I definitely recommend public speaking to anyone who wants to increase confidence in the way he/she communicates.

      I loved what you wrote in your comment and especially the point you made about how everything changes when we change our minds! This is brilliant and so true!

      Many thanks for adding so much more to this post, Karen!

  11. Being able to effectively communicate in a presentation, conversation, or meeting is so essential. I’ve had to and still do have to overcome a lot to move past my fears and self-doubt about public speaking. I do really good about communicating in a one-on-one or small group setting but am working on becoming better(By doing it) about speaking to larger groups. Great post and thoughts. Love your content!

    1. Hi Dan,

      Indeed, as you quite rightly said, being able to communicate in everyday scenarios is essential.
      Many thanks for sharing your experiences with public speaking and the efforts you’re making on improving your skills in speaking to larger groups. It’s wonderful to hear stories about such positive action!

      Many thanks for leaving your comment, my friend.

  12. This is a great topic Hiten. When I was much younger I was definitely one of those who avoided uttering a peep in public regardless of the size of the group. There is no question in my mind that was a hold-over from being bullied as a kid. Fortunately I was eventually able to work through it and mustered the courage to join Toastmasters – I am a HUGE fan of this organization! My experience with Toastmasters gave me the confidence to go into sales and that launched my career in travel. I truly am a believer in all things happening for a reason. 🙂

    1. Hi Marty,

      I’m really glad you liked the topic of this post and many thanks for sharing your experiences from when you were younger, how you dealt with bullying and how Toastmasters helped you. Like you, I’m a massive fan of public speaking and it can help people develop confidence in so many areas of their lives. It’s wonderful how public speaking helped you to get into sales!

      As you quite rightly said, everything happens for a reason. Many thanks for your wonderful comment, Marty and have a great weekend. 🙂

  13. I loved the way you explained it, Hiten. Thankfully, this is one area I haven’t had problems with. I used to be very shy growing up. I used to be scared to talk to people – anyone. Thankfully, I’ve taught myself out of it now.

    1. Hi Anne,

      I’m glad you liked the post and many thanks for sharing your experiences of overcoming shyness. I used to be the same and would be afraid to go into social situations. It took a lot of effort and practice to get over this.

      Have a great weekend!

  14. Thanks for this fantastic post! I am pretty good at giving presentations if I have practiced and know exactly what I want to say. However, when it comes to thinking on the spot and coming up with answers then and there, I have major problems. I always take a long time, never sound confident and never think of the best answer. As you say, it is important to remember these difficulties do not define me and to not take things too personally.

    1. Hi Val,

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for sharing your experiences of this area. If you’re interested in developing your ability to think on the spot, then I definitely recommend improvisation training.

  15. Hey Hiten,
    Again one of my favorite subjects you have written upon.
    According to me, communication is generally hampered by its medium. I mean people often and generally come up complaining rather excusing that we can’t communicate because we don’t know this or that particular language. But I think that “Language” has never been and will never be a barrier for communication but infact a “builder” for a communication.
    Actually communication is language independent and expression dependent. There are thousands of people in the world who don’t have a language but expressions.

    If you want to express your best of form through communication, try to make the opposite person comfortable. Give that person a space to know of what you are and your motives. Unless and until you won’t make the opposite person acquaint with your thinking, you can’t make a move ahead.

    And once you are master in achieving that thing, the number of people or any other factor wont be able to shaken your confidence.
    For me a simple funky yet formal talk has driven me to the best communication. 😛

    Enjoyed a lot reading it.

    Regards

    1. Hi Charmie,

      It’s great to see you here, my friend!

      Thanks for leaving such a wonderful and informative comment. What you wrote about people using language as a barrier to communicate and how the essence of communication is dependent upon expression is so true, and makes a lot of sense. It also reminded me of the power of body language and how so much can be expressed through gestures.

      I loved what you wrote about making the person we’re talking with comfortable. Indeed, doing so is essential to create trust with a person.

      Many thanks for adding so much more to this post, Charmie! Have a great week ahead.

  16. Hi Hiten,

    Nice article, solid self confident is very essential to be an effective communicator. Limiting beliefs are psychological barriers that limit you in showing your full potential and stop you being as successful and as happy.
    your belief system doesn’t only determine your identity but also determines your success potential and the extent of your achievement.There can be some peoples in your life who don’t believe in u and stop u to do something like your partner who complains about life, your negative colleagues, your friends with limiting beliefs.
    So to overcome from your limiting beliefs its essential to continiously communication as u said, supportive friend circle, high self esteem etc.

    Thanx for sharing such a nice topic.

    1. Hi Rupali,

      It’s great to see you here and I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I loved what you wrote about limiting beliefs being psychological barriers. Indeed, they are created in our minds by our thoughts and reactions to both the outside world and our inner worlds of more thoughts and beliefs.

      I could really resonate with what you wrote about our belief systems determining our success. Hence, if our current beliefs are not supporting us in having the life we want, it is right time to change our beliefs.

      Thanks for adding some great insights on this area, Rupali!

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