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The "Laying on of Hands"

Updated: May 2, 2019

This is part three of a four part series on how to improve your public speaking...

In this series on how to improve your public speaking and overcome various nervous habits like words or specific types of movement there is one weird and seemingly “unkind” way of getting you to make a change. I call it “the laying on of hands.”

Before I tell you what that means, let me remind you that when you have a habit of rocking back and forth, using your hands too much, or wandering aimlessly around the stage it’s not necessarily a bad thing unless it takes away from what you are saying. AND it is also almost always unconscious. Therefore, in order to fix it, it has to become conscious.

Here is what you do:

Let’s say this issue is rocking back and forth. When you go to practice your speech or presentation, ask a friend or family member to sit behind you and hold on to your ankles.

Sounds ludicrous right? Perhaps you might even think of it as a bit “unkind.” But every time you rock back and forth and your feet don’t move because of the person holding you in place your CONSCIOUS brain is forced to understand that the habit exists when otherwise you brain is clueless. Over time, you will learn to stand in place or at least not rock quite so much.

The same can be done with arms, etc. And asking a friend or family member probably makes it more comfortable for you.

This idea comes from the legendary acting teacher Stella Adler who was known to tie actor’s hands behind their back when she needed them to understand how their movement was affecting what they were doing. I don’t recommend that. After all, the person sitting or standing behind you can always be told to let go.

Once again, different tools work for different people. You have to find the one that works for you when you are dismantling some of these unconscious habits. And this is one similar to noticing when you say the word “Right” all of the time. The person sitting behind you holding your ankles services as “notice” of your habitual movement.

And, if you need to, you have the added bonus of asking the person to say that word you say too much every time you say it.

That’s called “killing two habits with one helper.”

Up Next in Part 4: Practice much?

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