Have you been asked a question in front of a group and gone blank? You know your stuff and it’s not like you don’t have the answer, you just can’t think of it right there.

Or… someone challenges your idea and you can’t think of a way to respond. Even though you can see holes in their argument, you just can’t think of the right thing to say in the moment.

Or… you are in a conversation and have something to say, but when your opportunity to speak comes around you go blank.

Or… you are invited to ask a question to a speaker, you have a question but you feel too anxious to ask, freeze and end up not asking the question.

So often in these instances, you think of things you could have said later and say to yourself “why didn’t I say that at the time?!”

The reason why we freeze when put on the spot is because we can’t access the brainwave frequencies associated with our memories, creativity and intuition.

So what are these brainwaves?

They are the brainwaves produced when we are in a relaxed state – in particular, the Alpha and Theta brainwave frequencies associated with a calm, relaxed state with access to memories and creativity*. When you are stressed and panicked, these brainwave frequencies cannot be accessed and our memories and creativity get shut down.

It’s just like when you see someone you know and you just can’t remember their name, even though you know them pretty well. They approach you and you’re panicking because you’re embarrassed that you can’t remember their name. You go blank. As you chat, you somehow bluff your way through without using their name (in Australia, often ‘mate’ is used to get away with it) but you’re still feeling stressed that you can’t remember their name. Finally, you say ‘see you later!’ and breathe a sigh of relief. A few minutes or even seconds later, you remember their name… and say to yourself “Why didn’t I remember the name, I know them so well!?!?!?”

Your embarrassment, stress and panic stop you from accessing the Alpha and Theta brainwaves.

The question then is, how do you increase your likelihood of accessing these Alpha and Theta brainwaves when you need it?

While it’s not a simple switch you can flick, you can train your mind and shift your thinking so you’re less likely to stress and panic. This is what the five enablers (Belief, Brainwaves, Response, Presence and Reframe, as introduced in the last post “Do you worry about being put on the post (and what you can do about it)”) will help you to develop.

It was so interesting to hear the feedback from the ‘Speaking on the Spot’ pilot workshop participant who said that she was expecting to learn what to say when put on the spot but what she found most valuable was to shift her belief and worry about being put on the spot. It allowed her to access the right brainwaves by worrying less. To be informed of future events like this, sign up for the newsletter on the Quietly Powerful website.

*A quick brainwave 101: We have electrical impulses in the brain and they can be measured with an EEG (electroencephalograph). They are measured in cycles per second or hertz (Hz) and there are five frequency bands named gamma, beta, alpha, theta and delta. In general, different levels of awareness are associated with dominant brainwave states.

Gamma brainwaves (39 – 42 Hz) are the fastest and most subtle brain waves and have been equated to ‘heightened perception’, or a ‘peak mental state’ when there is simultaneous processing of information from different parts of the brain. Gamma brainwaves have been observed to be much stronger and more regularly observed in very long-term meditators including Buddhist Monks.

Beta brainwaves (13 – 38 Hz) are small, faster brainwaves associated with a state of mental, intellectual activity and outward focus. We see beta brainwaves when awake, alert and when we are busy thinking, though we may be overactive and stressed.

Alpha brainwaves (8-12 Hz.) are slower and larger. They are associated with a state of alert relaxation, single point of focus and calm. Alpha is often produced when we are lost in a good book or movie, absorbed in something creative or repetitive.

Theta brainwaves (4-7 Hz) brain waves represent a day dreamy, spacey state of mind. At very slow levels, theta brain wave activity is a very relaxed state, representing the twilight zone between waking and sleep. The theta brainwave spikes when we have a moment of insight or creative idea (a-ha moments).

Delta brainwaves (1-3 Hz) are the slowest, highest amplitude brain waves, and are what we experience when we are in deep restorative sleep or meditation.