A few years ago I met my friend John right after his interview with the New York office of one of the biggest financial companies in the world. I still remember a strange feeling when I opened the door of the coffee house and noticed him staring at the cup. “Something went wrong!”
“Hi, John. I have never seen you so depressed. What happened?”
“They didn’t take me…. Do you know what the interviewer said? He said, my experience was a perfect fit, but I was too nervous during the entire interview. Andrii, joining this company was my dream for the last 5 years. I can’t believe that this stupid nervousness made me fail at achieving my dream. I feel so miserable!”
“John, you definitely should try the “square breathing” technique. I use it when I am nervous before coming on stage in front of the audience. It is more than 1,000 years old, and many psychologists consider it the most effective one to calm down the anxiety before an important job interview, speech, or negotiation. You can do this technique at any time, in any place, and it only takes 5 minutes.”
“Andrii. Sounds enticing.”
“John, you might have noticed that when you are calm, and when you are nervous your breathing is different. Square breathing technique will quickly calm you down by changing a pattern of your breathing and blocking your negative thoughts.
The biggest secret of “square breathing” technique is that you need to break your breathing into 4 equal parts. Inhale-Pause-Exhale-Pause. For example, you inhale for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then repeat the entire cycle.
The state of complete calmness that you will achieve in about 5 minutes has 2 main benefits. Firstly, your interviewer will feel much more comfortable talking to you. Secondly, your mind won’t be blocked by negative thoughts, and you will think on your feet much more effectively.”
2 months after this conversation, I received a call from John: “Hi, Andrii. I just need to share something with you. Remember our conversation at the coffee house?”
“Well, two weeks ago I managed to get an interview with the Chicago office of the same company. Guess what? I was so nervous again sitting in the lobby of the company office and waiting for my name to be called. To be honest, when you first told me about “square breathing” technique I didn’t take it seriously and almost forgot about it. But that day in the lobby a thought popped up in my mind: “I just need to do something about my nervousness. Otherwise, I will definitely fail like last time. I’ll give this square breathing technique a chance.” After 5 minutes, I completely calmed down and talked to the interviewer just like I talk now to you. Do you know what the interviewer said? He said that my experience is the perfect fit for their company, and I have awesome communication skills. This Monday is my first working day at the Chicago office!”
Now, every time I talk with John on the phone and he tells me about his upcoming presentation, important negotiations, or meeting I ask: “John, are you nervous?” And John loudly breathes in his headset. It’s our ritual.
If you have stage fright, just breathe for 5 minutes using “square breathing technique” before your speech and maybe somebody in the audience will think: “This speaker is very confident and has excellent communication skills. This speech is so interesting.”
To get inspired read: 27 Public Speaking Quotes That Can Inspire You to Become a Better Speaker
To become a world-class speaker read: Magic of Public Speaking Book