Disclaimer: This post is not trying to persuade you to never speak to yourself/practice speaking in front of mirror!
Look, even I speak in front of mirror. I see it as a valuable technique. I use it when I want to prepare myself doing a power point presentation in front of clients, practicing interviews, etc. There are tons of techniques that you can employ, whether that’s recording yourself speaking (I’m a huge fan), speaking in front of mirror, etc. My problem is when some people mistake speaking in front of mirror for real life speaking with other human beings.
Since I’ve come back to Iran, I’ve been talking to a lot of people here, and there’s something that I hear a lot “Oh, I speak in front of the mirror! I don’t really think I need speaking partners to improve my English!”. There is nothing wrong with speaking in front of mirror, but let me tell you there is so much wrong with that attitude though! Here are 3 reasons why you should change your mind:
Two things are complex: human beings and speaking! Why? We human beings are full of emotions and social cues…as a good speakier you MUST always look for social cues…even if you are speaking on the phone! You don’t get this when you practice on your own in front of a mirror, do you? So imagine for years and years you have taught your brain that you are a great speaker because you speak to yourself tons in front of mirror and then one day you meet a high school friend of yours after many years…and she’s sad for whatever reason, and you see that sadness in her face. Either two things can happen: you shut down completely and are lost for words and don’t even know what to do or say, or you complete ignore those social cues of hers and talk like there is no tomorrow. Yeah, failure, big time!
Imagine you are on a job interview and they ask you about your previous job experiences…and you start explaining everything in details, two scenarios (or more) can happen: they might cut you off and ask you to be more brief and precise or even ask you to add more details. If you have not experienced this before in your speaking sessions with other real human beings, you’re gonna fail miserably, my friend. And here is why: you have to train yourself to be looking for feedback from other people (for instance, "am I speaking too much/too little?) and be able to turn around quickly from that and adjust!
Why was mirror invented in the first place? For us to look at ourselves! So it’s a major visual thing. A fatal speaking habit (well, figuratively speaking) that speaking in front of mirror can bring you is that you might focus too much on your gestures and how you say things. As much as those things are important, but so is having a great well-rounded message when you speak. I don’t care if you are the best actor/actress in the world, I don’t care if you are the best marketer with the perfect smile standing at Sharvand Supermarket chain, waiting to get me buy something, if I don’t like your message and see that your speaking abilities suck because you cannot adjust your speaking to the social situation that you are in (i.e. speaking with me), you’re not going to connect with me.
So once again, I didn’t say don’t it…do it, but sporadically! But please for the sake of God don’t fool yourself that what you are doing is replacing the real thing.
Hey, look, I understand it’s not easy to find speaking partners (as much as it sounds as if it is easy), specially these days because of the pandemic situation. But that should be your long-term goal, period! I don’t care if you are an introvert (I am an introvert myself) or if you a misanthrope and you hate people’s guts, this is an area that you definitely need people if you want to become a better speaker or improve your speaking in any language. It might take you a year or even two to find good speaking partners, so go ahead and use ‘speaking in front of mirror’ technique, but please don’t fool yourself and make sure finding real human beings to talk to is still your main goal!