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Cognitive Restructuring


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing Yourself > Cognitive Restructuring

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Restructure how you think about things that make you anxious, such as public speaking with the following method.

1. Identify negative thinking and self-talk

Walk slowly through your thinking as you become anxious. Listen to the things you are saying to yourself. Notice the images you imagine. Hear the sound of the inner voice.

2. Identify underlying beliefs and distortions

Consider carefully where each of those thoughts come from. For example:

  • Is the voice of someone in the past?
  • Are you endlessly replaying just one bad experience?
  • What are the beliefs that these things indicate?
  • How is this imagining an exaggeration or distortion of what is actually likely to be true?

3. Develop elimination or coping strategies

Find ways to remove these blocks or otherwise handle them in such a way that they do not trouble you. For example:

  • Turn down the volume of the voice.
  • Force imagining of good images when you start to feel anxious (so you feel better).
  • Find better beliefs (and start believing them).
  • Correct exaggerations and distortions to something more realsitic.

4. Practice until they work consistently

Your coping strategies may not all work at one, but practice will make them better. Be persistent, using them determinedly until they do work.


When a friend thought about doing presentation, he would imagine people laughing at him and his mother telling him he was no good. He changed the the audience first to just smiling and then to smiling because they liked what he was saying. He changed the voice to that of a teacher he liked who was always encouraging and praising him.


We all fall into patterns of thinking that become habits and which seem to be permanent. Yet they are constructions that we have produced, often early in life when we did not understand as much as we do now. We still have choice, including over how and what we think.

It is not always easy to change a habit, but it is always possible, and determined cognitive restructuiring is a powerful way to do it.

See also

Ellis' Irrational Beliefs, Kahler's Drivers


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