Communicating with ‘Calmfidence

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You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Patricia Stark. Patricia is a certified personal and executive coach and a certified body language trainer. She heads Patricia Stark Communications and specializes in helping clients build their “calmfidence”—which is a word that she’s coined, combining “calm” and “confidence”—helping clients build their calmfidence in interviews, on camera and in daily life. She has extensive experience as a health and medical news anchor, a radio interview host and appears regularly as a TV guest expert on topics of communication and confidence.

Her new book is called Calmfidence: How to Trust Yourself, Tame Your Inner Critic, and Shine in Any Spotlight, and it’s being published in September of 2021 with Sounds True. To me, communicating from our truth, from our soul, what we care the most about and being able to connect our communication with other people, it’s so important. It’s the only way we get to be whole people who are bringing our true selves forward. Patricia Stark helps us develop the calmfidence to do so. Here’s my conversation with Patricia Stark.

As a way to introduce yourself, Patricia, to the Sounds True audience, I’d love to start with having you share with folks your own winding journey, your own personal path that brought you to be a communications coach and teacher.


Patricia Stark: Sure. Well, thank you so much, Tami, first for having me here. I am so thrilled and have so much gratitude to be here with you today. My journey definitely started when I was a young child. I did not have a lot of confidence. I couldn’t raise my hand in class without feeling sweat pour down by my sides and having this out-of-body feeling. Even when I knew the answer and I so much wanted to read out loud in class, my heart would pound. It was debilitating.

I remember having to take a friend up to the lunch line with me just because I couldn’t walk up through the cafeteria by myself. I had this for many, many years, even until I went into college. I remember doing my first public speaking project in a business class where I had to get up to the podium and talk about the stock market of all things. I remember I was shaking so much that I couldn’t wait to get behind the podium because then I knew that no one would see my legs and my body shaking so much. I think that I was always someone who was hidden inside this nervous and anxious person, who desperately loved people and wanted to communicate with others, but I just didn’t have that confidence and that belief and that trust in myself at that young age.

It really was a process of feeling the fear and putting myself out there and working through it and getting desensitized over time. My first public-speaking teacher was this wonderful woman […]. She had an amazing personality, and I think that she was really more of a life skills teacher rather than a public speaking teacher. She would help us get through and try to realize that it wasn’t about us, that we were there to give value and be of service and try to help the people that were in front of us, whether it was to educate them or inspire them, entertain them, whatever it may be.

Then one day I discovered the broadcasting and communications classes at the college that I went to, and a light bulb went on. I loved all of the behind the scenes and directing and editing and lighting and you name it. But when I would get in front of that camera, it was thrilling and terrifying simultaneously. It was just many years of getting through, working through that fear and finally finding and building that confidence and earning that confidence to know that I had the right to have a voice and to contribute to those around me, but it was definitely a very lengthy process.


TS: Now, you’ve coined this term “calmfidence.” I’ll be quite honest with you, Patricia, when I first heard it, I thought, “That’s a little corny.” Then as I started reading the book, Calmfidence, and I started saying it over and over, I noticed it became part of my natural vocabulary and now it’s a word—it’s part of my vocabulary and I really like it. Tell me how you came to coining this term “calmfidence”?


PS: It seemed that of all the clients and students that I had over the years, the two things that they had in common, and I talk about this in the book, was that, sure, they wanted to be confident. Everybody wants to communicate with confidence and be confident whether they’re a public speaker or getting in front of the camera or having a difficult conversation over the phone or a job interview. But what they also wanted first and foremost was to find their calm.

Because when you’re not calm and you’re agitated and you’re anxious, you really can’t think straight. You can’t access what it is that you want to communicate specifically, and it’s really about how we’re communicating with ourselves internally before we communicate externally.

When you’re juggling a million things or there’s something stressful happening in your life, you literally feel like you can’t think straight. Then when it starts happening physiologically and your body starts reacting, we do get that out of body experience, or we feel like we’re blanking out.

Everybody really wanted those two things, and it became a marriage of helping people find that calm that would then help them find their confidence. Really, the definition of that for me is what is it that you need to do personally, that may be very individual for you, that helps you to internally trust yourself first so that then you can trust how you’re interacting with people or how you’re communicating outwardly? What do we need to do to establish that self-trust and that feeling of “I’ve got this, I can talk myself off the roof as much as I can get myself worked up and aggravated”?

When I first started having the idea for the book, “Calmfidence” was actually the last chapter title. I thought that that was where I was going to have my natural remedies and exercises and mindset examples. Then it dawned on me that no, that’s really what the whole foundation of the whole book was. Then I went back through the manuscript and anywhere where I used the word “confidence,” I changed to “calmfidence,” and that ended up being that theme throughout the entire book.


TS: Now, just to share something personally for a moment, one of the things I have relied on is not so much being some terrific public speaker or interviewer, but being—and this would be the key word—authentic or true or real, something like that. I wonder how that fits in for you, in terms of calmfidence and this inner trust that you’re describing.


PS: Yes, I think that it’s tremendous, because throughout my career, I have had to read scripts that other people have written. I’ve had to do corporate media where I was maybe the host or spokesperson or you name it, where it was someone else’s product or service. For a long time, I struggled with the fact that in many times it was like acting and I didn’t always feel authentic and genuine and as it was me, because this is our job to take someone else’s words, make them our own and bring them to life.

But yes, that is 100 percent part of trusting yourself, is “What am I feeling in my gut here? Is this really who I am and what I believe? Does this feel true to what I believe in, my values and my view of the world and what’s important to me? What do I want to be? Who do I want to be in this world every day when I wake up and when I show up?”

That may be how you interact with a waiter or waitress. I see some people that get agitated or that are all upset, and they don’t maybe treat somebody well who’s waiting on them in a restaurant, and I’m thinking, “OK, that’s really a sign of what’s going on inside of them.” That doesn’t feel like they’re OK with themselves if they might outwardly treat someone like that in their interpersonal skills. Feeling real, authentic, genuine, and knowing who you are is 100 percent going to affect how you communicate to the world around you.


TS: With calmfidence, there’s an inner dimension and an outer dimension. I want to talk about both. We’re starting here with the inner dimension, and I think that’s the most important. I’m curious what you think. If someone gets the outer dimension down perfectly, so they’ve got the right look, they’ve got the right clothes, they’ve got their exercise, all that’s there, but the inner dimension isn’t, what do you think will happen as they try to rock their calmfidence in the world?


PS: Well, I think that that’s twofold. Certainly, there’s something to be said for getting your act together, feeling like you look your best, you feel good, to where then you can forget that. You can know everything is as good as it’s going to get, and you’re satisfied with that. Then you just push that out of the way because “now I no longer have to worry about that.”

There’s something to be said for feeling good and presenting yourself to where you’re satisfied that you outwardly are confident. But if that’s all you’re focusing on, and there is this lack of depth, or emptiness, or you haven’t done that inner work, that’s only going to take you so far, and oftentimes that’s where the imposter syndrome will come in because people truly, secretly in the back of their mind know that they haven’t earned the right to be somewhere or haven’t earned the right to have a seat at the table and speak up and voice what they truly believe.

I think that the internal work has to come first, but the way you look on the outside does have an influence. There’s that whole “look good, feel better” program for people who have gone through cancer treatments and studies have shown that when they get themselves looking better and feel that they’re together again, that that does give them some inner confidence.

The two do weave together, but I believe that everything really does first happen within, and then that will come to the out. We’ve all met people that outwardly looked beautiful, and then when you get to know them, suddenly maybe they’re not such a beautiful person. Then we’ve all fallen in love with people that maybe we weren’t initially outwardly attracted to. Then once we hear them speak and we get to know their personality and what’s important to them and their sense of humor and how caring they are, suddenly they’re incredibly likable and attractive to us.


TS: Now, you mentioned, Patricia in your own biography that you were terrified of speaking. You’ve talked about sweaty palms. I think a lot of people find themselves in situations like that, especially when it comes to public speaking. I wanted to start by asking you what you think the root is of that fear? I have two things I’m going to nominate, although I don’t really know. I know you’ve coached more than 2,000 people, and I’m sure many of them have come to you and have been afraid. But OK, here’s my two nominations. We’re really afraid of being humiliated […], and then we’re really afraid of being rejected. “The tribe is going to kick me out. I’m going to be exiled and I’m going to starve out there in some mythic tribal space because of the way I appeared publicly.” Are those the two root causes or is there more? Why are we so afraid?


PS: Those are pretty good root causes. I think for some people both of them may be a concern. I think though that it can be very individual. I think that when we grow up, we hear a lot about public speaking fear. We learn from seeing things in television and media and stories, and we hear other people’s horror stories, and we internalize them and visualize them even maybe before we even opened our mouths, or maybe we had a bad experience when we were younger, and kids can be mean and somebody made fun, and we carry that around like luggage and maybe even subconsciously and don’t realize it. Or we just don’t have a strong enough sense of self to where we are at the point where our opinion matters more to us than someone else’s opinion.

That’s hard. That’s a hard place to get to, especially when we’re bombarded with social media and there’s so many opinions and there’s a lot of judgment and there’s a lot. There’s a lot that you’re up against when you stick your neck out there and you get into the spotlight.

I think that before you do that, this internal work on self is what is so important so that you can get to that point where you know why you’re going to stick your neck out, you know why you want to share and communicate with others. I think that you also have to get to the point where you’re not so worried about mistakes because in media, it’s really a very well-known thing that if you worry about mistakes, it’s the very thing that’s going to make a mistake happen.

But once you learn, especially like on live television or live on stage that that’s the nature of the beast. No one is a perfect, robotic, scripted person. If you just accept that, mistakes are going to happen, I’m going to be allowed to be human, you can then let it go. But I think when you’re not 100 percent sure of who you are, what your values, what your beliefs are, it’s very easy to get caught up in worrying more about how you’re going to be received by others than really what you know is important to you.


TS: In writing the book Calmfidence and sticking your neck out, so to speak, to use that phrase, what did you identify as your why? Why were you doing it? What kept you at it, kept you going?


PS: At some point my coaching and training, I realized, became a sacred calling for me. I realized that it was a great responsibility to help others to believe in themselves, to find their voice and to be able to communicate confidently in the way that they first were thinking of things and what a high price they were putting on things, and then how they were going to be able to interact with others.

When I started receiving more and more feedback from clients, and they would say things like, “You changed my life, you changed my self-concept, you made me look at things differently,” or, “see myself differently.” It was shocking to me because when I first started coaching and training, I went through that imposter syndrome as well. I was like, “What am I going to do? How am I going to do this? Is this really going to be of value?”

Even in the early days of thinking of writing a book—you go through this feeling of “Why me? Who’s going to listen to me? What do I have to say that could help people?” But after enough feedback comes in to where you realize that you’re making a difference and that you’re helping others live better lives. Once you can communicate confidently internally and then with the external world, your whole world can change. The way that you make a living can change, the way that you work through ups and downs and problems in your life and the different dynamics of the people that we all interact with so many different personalities throughout our days.

When you can get to a place where you can feel somewhat more of a sense of control of that. But I don’t want to use the word “control” because there’s so much that we’re not in control of, although we can control how we react to the things that happen to us and the people in our lives. But it’s when you feel this sense of peace of mind within yourself, that you are comfortable with who you are, you’re comfortable around others, you start to be more other focused and less self-focused because now you’ve stopped worrying about yourself and you’re more about making others feel good and connecting with others.

My whole world was changed. My entire life changed when I got to that point. If even a small part of what I do can help that with other people, I feel that I have such a wonderful gift that I’ve been given to try to make a difference with the life that I have on this planet.


TS: In our conversation, I want to bring out some of the most helpful gifts, and there are many that you put in the comprehensive toolbox of ideas in Calmfidence, and we’re going to get there and to some of the exercises. One thing I want to point out, you talk towards the beginning of the book—with these more than 2,000 people that you’ve coached and worked with—that many of the people that have come to see you, if not all, have some level of nervousness, have some level of that fear. That’s why they’re coming to you. They need coaching.

You write about how nerves make you sharp. They mean that you care. Just because you’re nervous doesn’t mean you won’t do a good job. Lots of people do great things when they do things in spite of their nerves. I thought that was so interesting because I think some have said, “Well, I’m too nervous for that. I’m too nervous to be successful.” Tell me how nerves make us sharp.


PS: Yes. I remember I was at a celebrity baseball tournament where the local television station that I was working at at the time—I was a producer at the time—we were going to be playing some of the local celebrities in the area of the Hudson River where I live. Helen Hayes was one of the people that were attending. She wasn’t playing baseball. She was older at the time. For those that might not know who she was, she was an amazing star of stage and screen for decades, real icon. There’s Broadway venues named after her and a big hospital here.

I had the chance to sit down next to her. I was in my early 20s. I said to her, “I just get so nervous still and I’m really trying to work through this; and, unfortunately, I’m working through it in the spotlight and in front of the camera. Sometimes I just don’t know how to deal with it.”“

She looked at me and she said, “Honey, if I stop getting nervous, put me in my coffin, because that means I’m done.” I was like, “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” She said, “It means that we care, that we have that fire in our belly, that passion, that life, that we’re not just going through the motions anymore, that we’re just not so over it all.”

She said, “It’s really our job to make the butterflies fly in formation.” That was really my first introduction to “You know what, maybe I’m labeling this wrong. Maybe I’m running from this thing that doesn’t feel comfortable, and it’s really excruciating sometimes, but what if I thought of it as, ‘You know what, it’s happening again; this means I get to do this thing that I want to do. I don’t have to be here. I don’t have to get up in front of these people and talk right now. There’s something that’s drawing me to this that’s making me want to be here.’”

Then I started realizing that that was the same feeling you would get if you were jumping off the high dive or any of these other things that cause this adrenaline rush. I did have this switch flip at one point, that when I started to feel those butterflies and that heart pounding and that out-of-body experience, I was like, “Wait, this means it’s showtime. Something exciting is about to happen, and no one’s forcing me to do this.”

Now, with that being said, there’s a lot of people that feel that they’re getting forced to do this if they don’t want to have to speak at work or go on that job interview. But the one thing that I’ve absolutely learned over time is that you do get desensitized to it a little bit. I hope I never lose those butterflies and that feeling completely because I see how it does get that adrenaline going. You do think sharper, you do have to try to control it and make it work for you, rather than against you.

But when we run from it and we shun it and we don’t want to face it, it can never start working for us. It will always only work against us if we don’t have that courage to just work through those uncomfortable feelings, till we finally get to a point where we can now not have it be so much about ourselves and we can actually use those skills to benefit others.

Because if we are going on a job interview, hopefully we’re going there because we want to be good at a job that’s going to be purposeful in some way. If someone has asked us to speak, there’s probably a good reason. They think that we have something that might help others. I think it’s getting to that point of, how can I work through this enough so that then I can get out of my own way?


TS: OK. But let’s talk to that person who says, “I have all these butterflies and they’re not flying in formation before I stand up and speak. In fact, I’m going to the bathroom first and throwing up and finding myself crunched over, and I’m actually not giving my best presentation either because it’s debilitating, to some degree or another.” How do we, as you say, take control or get the butterflies to be in formation so that we can be effective?


PS: I had a client recently, that I worked with for almost a year over the phone, and she had enormous speaking anxiety just on the phone with co-workers. It was really something that we had discussed where she, for 20, 25 years had been speaking negatively to herself. She really had this very deep-rooted feeling that she was not of great value, that she was going to always only visualize herself failing and not succeeding because she had a very, very negative self-image.

I am not a psychologist and I make that very clear with my clients and with my students. But so much of what we talk about is that self-talk and positive psychology and what is that story that I’m telling myself first? First, I would say to someone, “Let’s really try to unpack this. Where did this come from? Were there moments in your life where someone made fun of you? Did someone make you feel that you were stupid? Did someone make you feel like what you were saying wasn’t going to matter?”

Try to work through what have you been carrying around for the last several years or decades that A) might be making you feel this way. Then the next thing that I would suggest would be to try to get your feet wet, in less high-value situations, less of a price on them. Where could you possibly try to speak or get up in front of others, to where you feel it’s a safer environment, a safe space, a place where you’re not going to be judged as much?

Maybe that’s just taping yourself on your phone in your room by yourself that nobody else has to ever see. But trying to do things ahead of time, before you get yourself so worked up in that moment that you physically can’t function.

So much of what we worked on with her was just really visualizing differently and thinking differently, and then having small wins along the way that then would build up and give her more confidence to speak and hold a meeting. She was one of the ones that I’d gotten a feedback from, that she felt like once she reached that, it did change her life at that point.


TS: I mentioned that you offer different exercises and lots of tools and checklists. There’s a couple of confidence exercises that I wanted us to do together. One is the snow globe exercise. Let’s start there, and take us through it.


PS: Sure. Everyone knows what a snow globe is. Usually from their childhood where you’d shake it, and all the snow would float around. I’ve used the analogy even of a glass of water with dirt all floating in it. Well, either of those get a chance to settle, you can see everything slowly floating to the bottom. What I like to do with my clients and students when they’re feeling very agitated, and really their mind just feels very filled with so many things, including stress and anxiety and fear, is to close your eyes for just a moment, and picture your mind as that shaken snow globe.

Everything’s swirling around, everything is just very filling, filling that globe, just like all of the thoughts, the somewhat 60,000 thoughts that are racing through our mind every day. Just watching in your mind’s eye to see everything slowly settle, as you’re breathing, slowly, you’re taking in that breath and you’re holding it and as you slowly release it, you’re watching everything settle, settle. You can do this very long, or you can just do a shortened version of this, depending on what you’re up against.

But as you’re doing this, and you start to feel all of the snow settle to the ground, and it finally is like a fresh fallen blanket of snow, a couple of things start to happen. You’re controlling your breathing; you’re slowing your heart rate. Now, when you’re looking at that clear snow globe, it’s more of a clear mind, and this can help you now start to think straight in the moment now, that you have to go into.

A lot of my clients might do this for 30 seconds behind the stage before walking out onto set or to do a public speaking event or they might do it at any different points throughout the day. Really, the beauty of it is that can be a quickie, or it can be a little bit longer depending on what you need to do. But I like this one in particular because it calms both your body and gives you that clarity of mind so that I feel that you can think a little bit straighter and then start to visualize what you want to have go right.


TS: Just to ask you a personal question, Patricia, when you’re preparing personally for an important presentation, let’s say, an important public talk that you’re giving, what’s your special, secret, personal protocol—or preparation hygiene, if you will?


PS: Sure. Also, with one of my other hats I do a lot of health and medical programming and videos a lot of continuing health education for the medical industry. Many times, these are live satellite broadcasts where they hand me medical terminology, and sometimes names of pharmaceutical remedies and products and things that I’ve never heard of before, and sometimes an hour before a live program. It might as well be a foreign language because this medical terminology is made up—especially for some of the names of some of the medications.

A couple of the things that I will do is, first, I will remind myself that it is not about me, that I’m there to be of service and to help those that are watching. Then I will repeat what I want to say, over and over again, where I’m seeing it happening only, again, in the way that I want to see it. I won’t visualize flubbing a word or saying things that aren’t correct or stumbling. But what I’ll do is the breathing, [which] is really important for me.

I will take a deep breath in, and I’ll think, “Breathe in calm and confidence,” and I’ll hold it, and then I’ll say, “And breathe out stress and anxiety,” really slow. My breath out is always much slower than my breath in. But I will go around, where I can be alone, and I will just do that snow globe, I will calm everything down, and I will visualize the broadcast from beginning to end seeing how I want it to have happened, right down to the feedback that I will receive at the end.

Then I will remind myself that it’s OK to be human, that I’m not supposed to be some perfect, plastic talking head here, that I am going to be having a one-on-one discussion with someone that I will pick as the viewer through the lens, because I’m not seeing these people in this situation. I’m not seeing them in front of me. I will always pick that they’re allies, that they’re happy to be there with me, that they are eager to learn, and that they want to see things go well, and that they are someone that I can have a discussion and a conversation with as another human being rather than a faceless mass of strangers or an audience that is judging or being overly critical.

I do all of that, really leading up to the event in whatever preparation that I can do. I make sure that I can get a good night’s sleep the night before if I can. But a lot of it is trying to control my physiology, control my thought process, being as prepared as possible. Then always and only seeing that I’m speaking with, again, people that are happy to be there, non-judgmental, and that I’m just having a human conversation, and that it doesn’t have to be perfect.


TS: Talking about affecting our physiology in a powerful way, I loved this practice that you introduce in Calmfidence called the sack of potatoes relaxation exercise. Take us through the sack of potatoes exercise.


PS: When I was just starting out in my career, there was a man that worked in the station that I was at, and he was a very loud and bold type of character. He had a lot of stress. There were many, many people that were relying on him for their livelihood.

I remembered he would disappear into his office every day for a while and no one was allowed to go near the door, “Don’t knock”—etc. One day I asked him, “Just out of curiosity, are you meditating? What do you do, that you’re going into your office each day?” He said, “Well, you know, there’s a lot of stress on me, and I don’t want to have a heart attack. I don’t want to get sick.” He said, “I do this technique where I go into my office, I shut the light out and I relax into my chair.”

He said, “I pretend that my whole body is a big sack of potatoes, just stuffed with big, big, big potatoes or rocks or you pick.” He said, “I lay back in my chair, and I pretend that I take a pair of mental scissors, and I relax my body as best as I can so that the chair supports me, and [I] cut off the bottom of the sack and visualize each of the potatoes or rocks falling out one by one.”

In his mind, whatever the worries or the stresses are of each individual day, he identifies them on to each different individual rock or potato and watches them all roll across the room, until the sack of potatoes, the sack itself, is just like a burlap bag, draped over the chair. He just felt that it emptied that pent-up amount of worry and stress and relaxed his whole body.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, he would emerge from the office with this newfound energy and enthusiasm and positivity. He felt that this was what made him not feel like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

I tried it, and lo and behold, it started to work beautifully for me when I was working my way through all of those stress and anxieties that I had myself through my early career. I always found it incredibly effective, and my clients and students all tell me the same. I get great feedback on that one.


TS: It’s interesting, because, of course, at this point, having founded Sounds True 36 years ago, and having talked to so many different meditation teachers, and having heard so many different meditation practices, I think that the sack of potatoes relaxation technique is up there. It’s one of my favorite on-the-spot techniques that’s so effective and simple.

You can really feel it. It’s kind of funny too, just strange to be a big, fat sack like that. It’s fabulous. I love that.


PS: It’s great. Kids and teens really love that one too, because it’s just fun. It’s so self-explanatory, and just so easy to grasp.


TS: It’s awesome. OK. Now you have a section of the book that you call “Calmfidence Killers.” These are the things that live in us that work against us in our calmfidence. One of them that got my attention, for good reason, is perfectionism. You’re talking about how it’s not possible to be perfect, but for those of us who have perfectionistic tendencies, we can look back and say, “Well, I should have used this other word. I could have gone in this other direction, I didn’t really land that point very well, this or that happened. I wish I’d done it differently.” How do we work with our own perfectionism, so it doesn’t trip us up so much?


PS: I think this might resonate with you. Something tells me that you are probably someone like myself, who believes that a growth mindset is really important. I think that when we’re trying so hard to be perfect, it gets in the way of having a growth mindset. Because if we’re perfect, then there’s no more room to grow.

I think that wanting to dot our Ts and cross our Is and be organized and strive for excellence, those are all great things. But to look back and “should have, would have, could have, and oh, if only” does no good. It’s great to reevaluate and help us learn to move forward and say, “OK, I’m going to try this next time.” But when we try to be perfect, it really can make you freeze up or make you not be flexible.

I can remember years ago, when I worked at one of the stations that I was at, there was a guy that was one of the audio technicians, and the executive producer of the network would get so frustrated and so angry with this guy because he’d say, “He’s such a perfectionist that he actually gets in his own way, and things end up taking so much longer, and he’s just so—there’s no room for just good enough.”

Because, especially in live television, especially when things are moving fast, especially when things are changing quickly, the ability to be flexible and improvise and have things just be good enough is really important. But when you get hung up on perfect, it can really become a roadblock, it can really just stop the flow. I think that good enough is darn good, and it gives you room for flexibility and a growth mindset.


TS: When you find yourself reflecting on things, does the kind of self-talk you just took me through as a “I’m going to have a growth mindset,” does that work? Does that release it for you? Or what does?


PS: It does, and I think that we can all look back on things that we could have done differently or said differently or wish we had done differently. But I really believe that I’m here to develop as a person, to grow, to keep getting better. I hope I keep getting better when I’m in my 100s. I hope that I learn from what didn’t work as much as I love learned from what worked.

Books and audio books in personal and professional development helped me also so much in developing my sense of self and liking myself and trusting myself. So many times. And biographies. So many times, I heard over and over and over from people that they learned the most when they failed, they learned the most when they didn’t do things so well and figured out what not to do, rather than not just what to do. I always will remind myself of that and say, “All right, well, it was a learning experience. If it was something that helped me grow as a person and gain wisdom, gain empathy, learn something that I didn’t know before—because I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I did the wrong thing or made the wrong mistake—I’m better for that.”

The hardest, toughest times in my life, looking back when things weren’t so great, was when I did grow the most, when I did become who I am now the most, through those processes. I don’t second guess them; I think that everything happens the way that it’s supposed to unfold, and I’m grateful for those.


TS: You share quite vulnerably in the book, about your own writing process with the book. Here you are, you’re writing a book on calmfidence, you’re the communication expert, and the pandemic starts, and you hit some kind of skid, if you will, or block in your own bringing forward this book, under all of the stress that’s happening. First of all, I want to thank you for sharing that, so vulnerably, and I think it’s important for people to see that even someone who’s been at this for a long time, can hit a rough patch in their own communication. I’d love to know more, how you came through it to deliver such a gorgeous book?


PS: Well, thank you for all that. It was a tough time. It was a tough time for everybody. I talk about in the book that “sometimes you have to retreat, so that you can emerge with force.” I don’t know where I heard that saying. I’ve looked for it, I wanted to attribute it to something. I couldn’t find the source of that. This was one of those times where I realized that I needed to do that. I got to a point where, like everyone, I was just trying to protect myself and my family, and it was exhausting, and none of us knew what was going to happen. I think all of our heads were spinning. “You know what, I got nothing, I got nothing to offer right now. I’m just trying to keep my own head above water. I’m just trying to get through each day.” And I found myself beating myself up over it. Was I not going to meet deadlines? Was this not going to be of good quality? Was this really that important in the scope of things, [when] everybody else was really worrying about surviving in the world?

I just said, “That’s it. I’m just going to cut myself some slack, and I’m going to do nothing.” This was one of the most important times, that I realized in my life that doing nothing was doing something, because after I gave myself that downtime, it was refilling my cup, and after that, when things started to get a little bit more digestible, I started to have something to give again, and some re-found energy, and actually some better insight into how I wanted to approach things that I felt might be important and helpful to people, moving forward, with the book.

Then after the summer, and then working with some wonderful editors at Sounds True, and just talking some things out about the book, it was amazing how things beautifully fell into place. One thing that I will tell you also (it’s a vulnerable thing to talk about, because it’s such an intensely individual and personal thing) is—what is all of our individual journey with what we believe in, as far as faith goes, and whether that’s what you call source or universe or God, or whatever that is for your own truth—that was something that is incredibly deep and personal for me. I have an extremely strong connection and relationship to what is my truth with that. I tapped into that, and I asked for guidance and something to come through me, that would be bigger than me, that could help others. There were times that I would write, suddenly, it felt like I was playing the piano, and it just flowed, and it just came. Then when I got some of the edits back months later, I’d look at things and I’d look at my husband, and I go, “I don’t remember writing that. But it came through me from somewhere.”

Some people might not buy into that or think that that sounds hokey or weird. But that was what happened for me, and it was wonderful. That’s where a lot of my flow came from.


TS: Let me ask you a question about that, Patricia. How did you tap into that source? What were you doing? Were you praying, or what were you doing?


PS: I was meditating. I was praying. Praying is a form of meditation, many people feel. But I was definitely going within. When I say that I wasn’t doing anything, I guess that I was doing something. But because there were just many times that I would be 100 percent alone, just really going very internal, going as deep as I could, to trying to tap into a place, and a connection that I could only do alone by myself in silence, and asking for that connection and seeking it and being very open to receiving it. I knew it when I did, and it would flow.


TS: I’m going to be so bold to say, from my perspective, that the deepest kind of well of calmfidence comes from that connection.


PS: Yes.


TS: That’s my experience, I think. I’m so glad that, that became the taproot of the book. That’s wonderful. It’s beautiful.

Now, I know you’re a body language expert, and I found this part of the book especially interesting. I’ll tell you why. I sometimes think that I have a good—just to be personal for a moment—a good way of using my voice, but when it comes to my body, and especially my face, oy vey, I’m not quite sure.

I’d love to hear more. Let’s just start with something simple, like smiling. Because one thing I’ve found is that when people smile and it’s fake I just can’t stand it. I can’t stand a fake smile. But I’ve been given feedback, and maybe other people have been given feedback, “You should smile more.” I think, “Well, great. I’d smile more if I felt like smiling.” How do you help people smile more in a genuine way?


PS: It’s interesting, because if you’re very internal person, and you’re always thinking and processing and thinking, first inside, you’re not always aware of what messages you’re sending externally.

A very strong lesson in this for me was I was teaching a workshop one day, and I noticed that one of the women that was sitting up towards the front of the room, had a horrible look on her face. She really looked very dissatisfied and angry and upset, and I’m thinking, “Well, I really need to approach her at lunchtime to find out if she’s dissatisfied with something, is there a problem,” etc.

Of course, who ends up running up to me first, during the break to tell me how much she’s learning and how wonderful the day has been? I look at her and I say, “Are you kidding me? This is crazy. I thought that you were so unhappy and so dissatisfied, the way that your face was looking.” She says to me, “Oh, well, I’m so sorry. I’ve been told that when I’m really intensely listening, and I’m very interested in something, that I get this terrible look on my face.”

I start to chuckle, and I’m thinking, “Oh, she’s already been told this, and she hasn’t worked to try to correct it”—not that she needed to, in that situation, because she wasn’t the one that was on; she was the one that was receiving the information.

But when we are outwardly interacting with people—we know that you have a beautiful, wonderful communication tool in your voice, and that is the microphone of our body. You use it absolutely wonderfully. I told you that when we first said hello, because I’ve listened to so many of the podcasts. But all of our body language is our toolkit. We need to be more aware of—what is our face saying to others? What is our body language saying to others? Because if we want to be a great communicator and have great interpersonal skills, we want others to feel comfortable around us. If we’re doing things that we’re not aware of that might be making other people feel uncomfortable or guarded or not wanting to necessarily open up to us and be around us, we need to investigate that, and we need to have a little bit more understanding of all of our tools.

It would be like, your plumber’s showing up with his toolbox and he’s got the ones he’s really good at, and he’s like, “Well, there’s this box of tools here, and I don’t know how to use them”—he wouldn’t be a great plumber. So, we would expect that we need to learn about all of these things, and that’s why I videotape people a lot when I’m training them, so that they can get that self-awareness and understand, “Wow, I thought that I was smiling.”

What I would say, as far as the smile that you started off the question with, is that if it’s going to be a put-on, then don’t even bother, because—you’re right—it sends the wrong message; it’s phony, it’s a turn-off, it’s a fake. But that’s when again, we have to go inside and—what is that self-talk? What is that story that we’re telling ourselves? Is it, “Am I genuinely happy to be here? Am I glad to have this opportunity to communicate and to be among these people?”

Sometimes we have to check that before we walk into a communication situation so that we can be that self-aware of what our face and our body language is going to say to others. When we start being aware of that, then we start also noticing other people’s facial expressions and body language. It’s not being a mind reader; it should lead us to ask them how they’re feeling and have more lines of communication open.

But certainly, we might not be somebody that grew up smiling a lot—or I’ve worked with people that were taught that smiling was a sign of weakness, or that it was silly. But then we have to then again, reflect and say, OK, what is my goal for this communication situation? How do I want the people around me to feel? And maybe a smile isn’t appropriate for that situation; maybe it’s a more serious situation.

But if it’s a place where you’re building rapport, and you want others to feel comfortable around you, then at the very least, start with a smile that can just say, “Hey, I’m happy to be here with you today.” Just as long as the corners of your mouth are turned up a little bit to let people know that you’re glad to be among them, I’d say that’s a pretty good start.


TS: OK, beyond smiling, what other ways can someone be aware of their face if their goal is to be connected, warm, coming across well, bright, alive, interested and natural? What are the self-awarenesses one needs to have about their face?


PS: Well, on camera, we call it active listening. The best example I could give you is, let’s say that you were doing your podcast on television, and there were two cameras on your guest, and then the camera that was going to be on you. A good director wouldn’t just have the camera on the guest the whole time. They would go back and forth to you, even when you’re not saying anything, for something called reaction shots, so that they can break up the camera angles, show that you’re fully on board, and that you’re actively listening, and that you are in the moment with your guest, that you’re not just looking ahead at what your next questions are going to be, that you’re not disengaged, etc.

When we give the greatest gift that we can give anybody—of our full attention—and we want them to know they’ve got our full attention, we do that with smiling, with our eye contact, with active listening. I’ve had guests come up to me at the end of interviews and say, “You actually helped me through that interview with your facial expressions.” I’ll say to them, “Well, what do you mean?” They’ll be like, “Well, your head nods and the way that you use your eyebrows and the way that you looked at me and the way that you smiled at different moments, I knew that you were digesting what I was giving you, I knew that you understood my points, I knew that you were really listening to me and not just going through the motions.”

That’s some of the greatest feedback that I could ever hope for after doing an interview with someone. So, make sure you’re fully present, really engaged. Really, you’re helping the other person communicate, and you’re letting them know that they’ve got your full attention. When your facial expressions give them that feedback that you are understanding and that you are with them with everything that they’re saying and trying to explain to you.


TS: Now, you also offer some facial relaxation exercises. I wonder if you can share one of those with us.


PS: Yes. Well, when we are doing a lot of talking or a lot of interacting, whether it’s at an event or a job interview or a family function, whatever it may be, sometimes people get a lot of tension in their jaws, or if they’ve been trying to smile, your cheeks can start to hurt. Going into an event or an interview or somewhere where you’re going to be using your nonverbals a lot, you want to try to relax those 40 facial muscles ahead of time.

There’s a great one called pumpkin raisin, where you suck in your lips, like you’re sucking on a raisin or you just ate a sour lemon, and you squeeze it, squeeze it in, and then you push it out like a blowfish or a pumpkin, and you really extend your cheeks. That’s why it’s called pumpkin raisin. You do this several times, and that will relax those facial muscles and get that all working.

A lot of actors will just widen their mouth, open up their mouth along with the pumpkin raisin. That just gets the juices flowing, loosens up that jaw, and gets you so that you… It’s almost like warming up before you do a workout. Because sometimes communicating and interpersonal skills can feel like a workout, depending on how long the event or the interaction is that we have. It’s something you can do afterwards to try and relax your face.

You can also hang your head over and just let your face feel like it’s drooping, kind of like a basset hound and let all the blood flow into it. Then put your head back up and just let it all relax and just let your face go deadpan.


TS: You mentioned earlier in our conversation, Patricia, natural remedies that are related to calmfidence. I think most people think, “OK, there’s the inside part, there’s the outside part, I want to have the right clothes that make me feel good. But natural remedies?”


PS: Yes. Who doesn’t like a magic bullet? Who doesn’t like something they can have up their sleeve, that they can feel like it’s something I can take to change how I’m feeling or to make me feel a little bit more calm or a little less stressed out? Nature really is our friend. I had one client come to me, and she was very stressed out, and she said, “Can I take half an Adderall and a half a Xanax so that I’m really focused and really chill at the same time?”

I was like, “Well, I’m not a doctor, I don’t want to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do.” I said, “But you want to be fully present, you don’t want to be zoned out.” I’ve had other clients that will take a glass of wine before something and then they spend the rest of the time trying to clear their head before they have to speak.

Those things don’t always serve us well. It’s a different story if you’re someone who really suffers from extreme anxiety, and you have to take a beta blocker or you have to take something that a doctor recommends. That’s all fine and good, and that’s something to talk to a doctor about. But there are different foods, and there’s something wonderful called lemon balm that someone told me about many years ago. She was going through cancer treatments, and she was getting very, very anxious. Her doctor told her about it. He’s like, “Rather than taking something that’s prescription,” he said, “Try this, and sometimes it just takes the edge off.”

She had success with it. So, I went out and I bought some. Just a little tincture, you put it under your tongue, like the way you might take echinacea or something like that. I found that it did take the edge off almost the way that maybe a half a glass of wine might have at one time. I noticed that it was working for me. Then if I was working late into a night on a job and I wanted to sleep in a chair for 40 minutes, and power sleep, I found that it was useful for that.

Then when my son was younger and he had some test anxiety before school, he’d try it. Then I started telling my clients and students about it, and they were responding and saying, “Hey, I really found that that was very effective.” Then some other clients will take a little CBD oil now. There’s a whole array of different things.

There’s a lot of herbs and foods and many things that can be found in nature that I put in the book that people could just try out and work in. When I was working overnights sometimes, working in production, a lot of people would put cherries in their smoothies because they felt like the natural melatonin helped take the edge off and make them not be so stressed when things were stressful at work.

I tried to get a collection of things that you could work into your diet, maybe work into your breakfast, things that you could take immediately before maybe a big speech, an audition or an interview, or that you could just maybe make part of good healthy eating habits throughout the week that tend to just make us be a little bit calmer in our body, mind, and spirit throughout our days and nights. I think I got some nice little nuggets in there.


TS: Then again, just to make it personal, because I’m curious—which is your go-to move for you, personally?


PS: My go-to move. I definitely, when I make my smoothies in the morning, I almost always have nice, sweet dark cherries. That’s definitely part of my daily regimen I would say. I always have lemon balm on me. It’s always in my bag. I have it not only just for myself, but sometimes if I want to give it to a client or I want to tell people about it or share it with them. I love that one.

I would also say that tea, I’m a definitely a tea junkie. There are many different teas that I talk about in there. I find it to be extremely like a relaxing ritual, where I can pick what type of herbal tea I want in there. But there’s something about the making it, the warmth, and when I decide to have it, and then the quiet that I take along with it when I remove myself from the world and have my tea moment. That’s always been a big one since I had tea in my Tony the Tiger cup when I was a kid growing up.


TS: OK, I just got two final questions for you here, Patricia. Here’s the first one: Let’s say I want to help someone I’m with feel more confident with me. I want to help them relax, I want to just give them, “You can just be really confident with me here.” What would I do?


PS: First, I would say, “OK, let’s just stop everything that we’re doing right now. Now, just take a deep breath, and then hold it. Let’s breathe it in for eight, let’s hold it. And now let’s release it very slowly. Breathe it in for four, hold it and then release it for eight.”

First, I would try to get them to control their breathing, to really get a hold of that. Then I would ask them, “What’s the worst that can happen right now? Let’s go to worst-case scenario right now.” If worst-case scenario isn’t death, and dying for you at that moment, then anything else has less of a price on it. So, let’s gain our perspective now.

First, get that breath, get yourself centered, and now really just think about that perspective. A lot of my clients who were getting extremely nervous on stage or in front of the camera, I’ll say, “Think about right now—where would you rather be? Would you rather be dealing with this very stressful, nerve-racking situation where your heart’s pounding? Or would you rather be at the deathbed of a loved one?”

I know that’s a horrible comparison, but let’s really put things to perspective right here, where would you rather be? Of course, they all say, “Well, certainly right here.” I said, all right. Then this isn’t that bad. Let’s put that perspective in there, and now that we’ve controlled our breathing, let’s clear our mind, let’s get some perspective, and now, you’re probably thinking, “What can go wrong?” Because that’s a wonderful defense mechanism that we’ve all used to try to protect ourselves, is “I’m going to visualize the very worst that can happen here, because I need to protect myself in case that happens.”

Now, we’ve got to flip that. Get that breath, put things in perspective, calm yourself down the best that you can, and now focus on what do you want to have happen, and what is your plan to make that happen? If you don’t have a plan, let’s think of a plan right now. What are we going to do right now to try to get the result that we need? What’s going to be A, B, and C?

Now, instead of worrying about what could possibly go wrong, just focus on your plan. What do you want to do? How do you want to see it go? How do you want to see it go right? Now, focus on that plan. If you can, try to think to yourself—is this something you’re doing for selfish reasons? Or what is your purpose here? Do you have a purpose here that can help others in some way or benefit others and be of service to others in some way? If the answer to that is yes—and hopefully it is, for most things that we’re doing in our lives—now focus on that, and get yourself out of the way, and go outward; focus on others and how you can be of service and be of value for them; and try to let yourself go, and get out of your own way.


TS: That’s beautiful and really helpful and naturally leads into the final question I want to ask you. Because you talk about how we all have an inner critic that is a confidence killer, but we also have an inner coach. Right here for this person, they’ve got their plan, they’re going forward. What might their inner coach sound like? Because I think a lot of us, we really know the sound of our inner critic, but we’re not that familiar with what our inner coach might say to us.


PS: I would say, think of someone in your life, maybe it was a teacher, or a coach or a mentor, or that favorite beloved aunt or parent or friend, someone that you know you could trust that was your biggest fan, that would only want to see great things for you and always somehow knew what the right thing to say was. That is what your inner coach should sound like.

Because if you’re getting to the point where […] you can trust yourself, hopefully you also can learn over your lifetime how to like yourself, and hopefully even love yourself. If there is a part of you that likes and loves yourself, even just a little, that’s the part of you that should be your inner coach. That should say to you, “Look, you can do this, you’re a great person. You want to help others, you want to do good, you want to be good, and you can do this, just like anybody else in the world can do this.”

This has always blown my mind that we all have a different fingerprint. No one before you has ever had this fingerprint; no one after you will ever have the same fingerprint. So, put your own personal stamp on everything that you do, no one can touch this life and others the way that you can with your personal stamp and your personal fingerprint.

Talk to yourself like that, because then you’re not going to compare and despair; then you’re not going to be worried what other people are going to think, because you’re here to be you and to do something that you are meant to do. If you are trying to be genuine, and you’re trying to be authentic, and you care, and you really care, and you really do want to help, you have to talk to yourself and remind yourself of that. Because the inner critic will tell you every reason why you can’t and why you’re not those things. But the inner critic—it’s almost like that old analogy of the devil/angel, and those two voices absolutely are in all of our minds.

I’ve met people that have had enormous success and fame and wealth and you name it. When they are growing or doing something they’ve never done before, you better believe that inner critic comes out and it’s not going to go away. But that doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. That doesn’t mean that we have to take direction from it. It means that that’s when we then have to start talking to ourselves rather than listening. You’re making an active choice to talk to yourself as that coach that cares and values yourself, rather than listening to the negativity and that inner critic that’s like the squatter in the back of the mind that is always going to be there. But we can override it with our inner coach.


TS: I’ve been speaking with Patricia Stark. She’s a communications and public speaking coach, a media trainer, and the author of the new book, Calmfidence: How to Trust Yourself, Tame Your Inner Critic, and Shine in Any Spotlight. Patricia, thank you so much. Thank you so much for bringing forth your gifts to help other people bring forth theirs. Thank you.


PS: Thank you so much, Tami. I’m so grateful for this time with you.


TS: Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at And, if you’re interested, hit the Subscribe button in your podcast app. Also, if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you, and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. waking up the world.


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