Want to be more confident and stop choking under pressure?

Posted on September 27th, by Dr Rob Yeung . 2 comments

If you’ve ever felt so nervous under pressure that you weren’t able to perform at your best, then you’ll know what it feels like to ‘choke’.

Sports people often choke under pressure – a tennis player who has practised a forehand thousands of times may still get it wrong when it’s match point in a big tournament.  Or a manager who has rehearsed her speech dozens of times may still fumble over her words when she’s actually stood in front of the audience on the big day.

Thankfully, a new study conducted by Jürgen Beckmann at Technische Universität München in Germany points to a simple yet effective way to reduce our chances of choking.

Looking at athletes in three different sports – football (‘soccer’), tae kwon do, and badminton – the researchers found that players who either squeezed a ball in their left hand or simply clenched their left fist tended to perform better than players who weren’t taught this trick.

Professor Beckmann and his team found that squeezing a ball or clenching the fist stimulates the brain – causing something they called ‘hemisphere-specific priming’ – in such a way that we’re less likely to choke.

You can read the more technical discussion in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by following this link if you like.  But the lesson is simple:

If you’re feeling nervous and worried you’re not going to be able to deliver your best, try squeezing a ball in your left hand or simply clenching your fist.

2 Responses to “Want to be more confident and stop choking under pressure?”

  1. Daniel Paulson says:

    You’re right: this works! I often get very nervous in meetings when it’s nearly my turn to speak and my heart is racing. When I tried making a tight fist under the table, I felt less nervy! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  2. marvin says:

    will try this, thank you for sharing dr yeung

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