Before getting into the blog, I wanted to welcome back any readers who have read my posts before. It has been a while since I have posted on this blog and so thought a re-introduction was worthwhile. I run the student-voice side of this blog, offering insights into student life, delivered by a current student. With that done, lets get into the power of talking and what university students stand to gain through their voice!
Why Look At Talking For University Students?
The UK is a rather extraverted culture and I know that other parts of the world are no different. Yet, many – if not most – of these cultures demonstrate specific introverted tendencies when it comes to certain topics for various reasons. For example, few people talk about mental health openly because of cultural attitudes that are built up over generations. One such example of these cultural attitudes – in this case regarding toxic masculinity – relates to how “men don’t show emotion”.
Similarly, very few people talk about growing confidence and using talking to help you with that. As well as that, you might be thinking there are tons of different resources and talks surrounding the development of confidence and public speaking. But, there is a critical flaw in all of those resources. Most often, such talks are delivered by people who are extroverted, who make their money by talking, and aren’t that relatable to introverts.
Despite this though, talking and actually opening up at university can be very helpful – so how students achieve that? The focus of today’s blog will cover two themes with a somewhat intertwined nature. Firstly, we will cover the importance of talking from a mental health perspective. University is a tricky time and will, for many, be the first time the student is having to deal with life and all of its stressors independently. But that does not mean they should suffer in silence. Secondly, we will consider the confidence required for talking, how this might relate to public-speaking, and how we can grow to find our own voices.
Why Is Talking Powerful For University Students?
The Mental Health Perspective:
Considering my background is psychology and mental health I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it at least briefly, and this is the area that the Samaritans focus on. It is well documented that holding in your struggles, concerns, and difficulties will lead to mental health declines. The mindsets forged by cultural attitudes that contribute to this ‘bottling up’, will likely cause long-term damage regarding your mental state.
Therefore, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog and my own podcast, talking to others and actually telling them what’s going on really can help you. It might help you to see the solutions to your problems, how to deal with what is bothering you and most importantly it doesn’t make you weak in the slightest.
If you want to learn more, definitely check out my post on: How To Find Mental Health Support Services For Students?
Helping each other to begin communicating
So, how can we help one another? To help another person talk more openly, it is paramount to establish a safe-space by offering compassion and understanding. Atop this, you can provide the template – demonstrate your own ability to talk openly. Alternatively, you can ask questions about how they are doing, as long as you do so conscientiously – it is important not to push for answers on difficult topics if they are not comfortable sharing.
Actively looking out for each other’s mental health can make people realise the strength of their support system, because you’re taking the time to find out how they actually feel. Then it can lead you to open up about yourself too because you can both share your experiences and realise you aren’t alone and you can both plan how to sort out your situation together. Probably deepening the bonds of your friendship even further.
Overall, actually taking the time to talk to your friends and family can have great benefits for you, them and your mental health. Therefore, definitely try to make time for this “deeper” level of conversation and talk to your friends and see how they are.
Confidence is a strange thing. Oftentimes, unrelated practices can help you find confidence for other areas of your life. The idea of this came from a comment a family friend made yesterday when I was out with them, because they mentioned how her son working in a pub had increased his confidence. Of course, I am not saying you should all suddenly decide to work in a bar. Like anything, practice makes perfect: if you consider confidence to be a skill that requires training, then doing anything outside of your comfort zone will naturally enhance your confidence. In this instance, starting a job that is inherently customer-based and talkative will forge the baby steps to grow in talking confidence. This can be a great steps towards building your confidence and if you can speak to anyone easily, then public speaking and presentations will be a lot easier too.
I know this is true from my university Outreach work as a Student Ambassador. As a result of me having to talk with students, teachers and help the lead ambassador do whatever they’re doing. It forced me out of my comfort zone and it did increase my confidence, which is why I’m actually looking forward to September as I’ll be doing it and seeing great people again. But like I said earlier, if confidence is a skill or a muscle, it requires training and training in different contexts. Growing confidence in one area of your life, such as making small talk / dealing with customers, can provide you added confidence in your university life too. Perhaps that next presentation or piece of group work will feel just a little less daunting than it used to.
On a side note, when it comes to university, you truly do get out what you put in, and that goes for the social just as much as the academic side. Whatever approach you take, treating your confidence and your voice like a skill that needs training might help you in regards you didn’t see coming. When we grow, we’re likely to make new friends, new connections, and increase your confidence even further.
Talking can be scary, whether its in a public-speaking, social, or personal setting. Of this I have no doubt. But, university students have one thing in common. You’re all new to what you’re doing and getting used to a new way of life. Everyone at university is there to learn, they’ll have similar concerns and difficulties as you. Therefore, you are never alone and you never know how much of an impact on someone else’s life you might have by you taking the first step and talking to them.
So talk to people, make friends and make the most of university.
For most people university might just be three years. But those three years don’t have to be dull or uneventful. They can be the best three years of your life, but only if you take the first steps towards that happening.
And it all begins with talking.