Actor Kevin Spacey said the best advice he ever received from a director was, “Do it differently."*
Even the best speakers form habits. You can probably do a good impression of a colleague because we all fall into communication patterns.
Habits can be dangerous when you stop having choice over what you are doing. When in "presenter mode" or "sales mode," it’s easy to miss opportunities. Maybe the listener has a question or the crowd isn’t warm to that type of joke. Often, people don’t even realize their tics, filler words, or “go to” responses.
How can you successfully shift a habit?
The key is called “Inhibition.” Every time you do a habit, that neural pathway deepens. If you try to change your habit by instantly doing a different behavior, it’s like asking your brain to swim upstream. It can work for a little while but eventually you’ll fall back into the old way. (That’s why all those January gym memberships end up going to waste.)
When you “Inhibit” an impulse, it’s like asking your brain for a tiny pause. Instead of trying to do instantly change/swim upstream, you’re simply saying, “don’t jump in that stream.” Then there is the possibility to do something different.
So the next time you have an important presentation or meeting, focus your attention on when you feel the impulse to fall into habits. In your head, say “no” to the old behaviors and wait 2 seconds. Take a breath and explore making new choices based on the needs of the listener.