In Aygen Blog24 October 20227 Minutes

Aygen Blog

Has this ever happened to you?
You are in a meeting with your international colleagues: French, German, Japanese, British, American…of course the meeting is in English and you need to respond to questions, answer questions and present your own ideas. You’re doing ok, managing to understand the different accents and respond clearly. But…your brain doesn’t stop thinking bad thoughts:
“You should have used the past simple there, not the present perfect. Duh!”
“That was the wrong word!”
“Don’t make too much effort with your pronunciation – you’ll sound fake and stupid!”
Fear of judgement is one of the biggest mindset issues we work on with our clients at Aygen Training and it’s something that can take a long time to get over.
Let’s have a closer look at where this fear comes from, what you can rationally tell yourself and how to feel better about it.

Where does this fear of judgement come from?

Last year I did training to become certified as a Neurolanguage® coach. The trainer has worked with learners from all over the world. One day she said, “The biggest number of traumatised learners I’ve ever seen was in France.”
Yes, traumatised learners!
What does that even mean?
If you have only ever been to school in France and the pedagogical methods are the only ones you’ve experienced, you might not realise that the way languages – but also other subjects – are taught in schools does not help your confidence. I have 2 children in secondary school in France, so I see this first-hand.
Every time my son speaks in his Spanish class, the teacher reprimands him in front of the class because he has made a mistake (it’s normal, he’s only been learning Spanish for 3 years.) Imagine what that is doing to his relationship with the Spanish language? He will always have this fear in the back of his mind of making a mistake.
Don’t get me wrong: the French education system is good and very high level, but there is no balance between pointing out the things you have done wrong and recognition for what you have done well.
Unfortunately your fear of judgement (and the judgement itself) can continue into the workplace: I was shocked, no, horrified, to hear about not one but two of my clients whose managers correct their English. In client meetings! For these people, their fear of judgement is real!

The real story about judgement

So I understand that if you’ve gone through a school system where every mistake is magnified and if you’ve then had a manager who also liked to point out everything you are doing wrong, your fear of judgment is very real.
But let’s look at the wider situation: back to the call with your French, German, Japanese, British and American colleagues. Your German and Japanese colleagues are also speaking English as a foreign language, which means they have their own accent and their own mistakes. (They are also speaking English as a Lingua Franca, or Global English, like you.) The chances that they are judging you are minimal.
How about your British and American colleagues?
Did you know that only 25% of British or American people can have a basic conversation in a foreign language? That includes all of lucky people who grew up in bilingual households. The likelihood that your native English-speaking colleagues could do a conference call in French or in another language is very small. They are definitely not judging you. In fact, if you ask them, they will generally say they are impressed, and that there is no way they could do what you do.
That leaves your French colleagues. Sure…there might be one occasionally who judges your English, but most people are too worried about their own English to think about judging someone else’s.

What can actually help you

Everything I just wrote is rationally correct. However, your brain might not believe these rational facts. The fear of judgement comes from the primitive part of your brain – the monkey brain – that makes all the irrational decisions. In caveman times, if your group judged you to be weak, you would be left behind and eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger.
I suggest trying some different techniques and see what works for you:
Repeat to yourself before you have a difficult meeting: no one is judging me.
Ask for honest feedback from some of your English-speaking colleagues: you may be surprised what they say.
Try doing a power pose before a difficult meeting: it really helps!
You can work with a language coach to get through these issues: building confidence is probably our number one task (as well as helping you to improve your English, so you know that you speak better.) If you’d like to know more about working with us, click here or take an appointment.
Speaking a foreign language take courage! And in today’s world, finding this courage is often not a choice: you have to do it or you don’t have a job. Congratulate yourself for having this courage in the first place and make sure you are the first person not to judge yourself.