5 Reasons Why Voluntary Discomfort is Necessary for Communication Growth and Confidence

Find out why voluntary discomfort is key for your communication growth and speaking confidence.

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If you’ve wondered, what does ‘voluntary discomfort’ have anything to do with communication? You’re in the right place.

To give a bit of background, ‘voluntary discomfort’ comes from ancient Stoic practice which involves forgoing pleasures in the present with a clear goal in mind: to prepare for a better future. As humans, we’re creatures of habit, and from an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense! After all, we’ve been wired to repeat those same things that bring us feelings of comfort and safety. However, that’s not all that there is to the full picture. We’re also filled with curiosity, with the desire to improve and change our lives. But for this to happen, we need to put ourselves in a position where that bit of discomfort is required.

Voluntary Discomfort

It comes from ancient Stoic practice which involves forgoing pleasures in the present with a clear goal in mind: to prepare for a better future. As humans, we’re creatures of habit, and from an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense!

The same can be said about communication too, in fact, even as a priority! Given the complexities of communication, we’re sure that many of us can recall instances in the past where we’ve felt uncomfortable speaking – think: introducing ourselves to strangers, being interviewed, giving a presentation… and the list goes on! You’re not alone. Any and every communication exchange requires consideration of the individuals, context, social conventions, cultural differences, and on top of that, environmental variables! This may be the exact reason why you know that you should be working on your speaking, but the mere thought of it may bring you discomfort at the same time!

And this, our friends, is the phenomena known as ‘cognitive dissonance’. Piqued your interest? We’ve interviewed Caroline Rosenberg, an organisational psychologist, about her work in this space. Find out more at the link below!

If this is all too familiar, we’d like to assure you that, despite the intricate ins and outs of communication, it’s like a muscle that you have the power to change 💪. All it takes is a mindset shift and the persistence in putting it to action! Read on to find out 5 compelling reasons why voluntary discomfort is the secret ingredient that grows speaking comfort and confidence.

#1 Voluntary discomfort highlights strengths and weaknesses.

One of the first things that we must do to improve our communication skills is to
identify our strengths and weaknesses. In order to do that, we must examine ourselves and be honest with our current abilities 🔍. Oftentimes, this means seeking input from experts so that we are guided in the right direction.

Think of it this way. If you want to work on achieving your fitness goals, you’ll seek out a personal trainer who will tell you your exact needs so that you can build and strengthen your muscles in the most specific and safest manner possible. The same goes for communication! If you’d like to achieve your communication goals, the best way to do that is to consult with a speech pathologist who is best positioned to provide you with tailored feedback about your current communication needs. 📝

This is frequently the first and hardest step to take, since it forces a reality check on whether we’ll be able to meet our goals and objectives based on how things are going at the moment. But once you take that leap of faith 🦘, know that you’re set up for success from the get-go as you’ll know exactly what your speaking needs are right away.

#2 Voluntary discomfort fosters a growth mindset.

Powerful and effective communication is a skill that CAN be learnt. That’s why everyone can grow in their communication skills if they invest their time and effort into it. Knowing this, it’s much easier to embrace the discomfort that comes with trying new and different things. This means that each and every time you take one little step outside of your own comfort zone, the wheels of change are set in motion towards your speaking goals.

It also doesn’t matter how big or small those steps are because everyone has different tolerance levels when it comes to discomfort! This is OK. The key is to recognise that learning and change takes time, so trust the process 😌. That’s why we envision communication growth to be like growing a plant: we can water and fertilise all we want, but it still takes time to grow and mature. 🪴

We’d also like to take a quick moment to address the complexities of communication and the stress that it may bring and mean to different people. Stress and communication tend to work against each other, so sometimes we might face a plateau in our communication growth despite our best efforts. If that’s the case, please don’t hesitate to consult a psychologist who can best assist you with these areas.

#3 Voluntary discomfort facilitates discipline.

Following on from #2 in shifting to a growth mindset, the next steps are all about persistence. What do we mean by that?

Communication change requires behaviour change. In other words, to reach your goals in the long term, you NEED to change your existing communication routines and habits. Your current communication consists of accumulated behaviours over a long period, so do expect equal if not greater time and effort to establish new and different communication behaviours. ⏰

The same principle applies to fitness. Many of us learn to apply discipline when trying to work out more consistently. This involves consciously implementing systems of habits/routines that work well for us, like… exercising first thing in the morning before getting a coffee, attending group classes to be part of a community, or going with a buddy to boost accountability. In fact, many gyms even reward their customers for showing up consistently! The more you power through the initial discomfort by showing up each time, the easier it gets over time. The key is to continually make action (no matter how small!) so that eventually it becomes second nature.

#4 Voluntary discomfort boosts confidence and assurance.

Voluntary discomfort is uncomfortable, tiring, time-consuming, risky… and the list goes on. We hear you! It takes A LOT of mental and physical effort to brace ourselves for the challenges that are not pleasant at all. In fact, the initial hurdle can often appear to be the biggest one of all.

You see this happen all the time when it comes to weight training. Completing reps with your very first weights can be so daunting! However, we continue to do so because we know that muscle size and strength improves when we continue to put them under stress. This encourages your muscles to adapt, so that over time your muscles become stronger and more resistant. Eventually, people see changes to their physique and endurance, which also builds confidence and self-esteem!

One thing that we can say for certain is this: once you muster up the courage and do the exact things that bring you discomfort, you have the confidence knowing that you CAN withstand greater challenges in the future! While these challenges don’t feel good while we’re doing them, many of us will enjoy the feeling of having completed them! Remember those positive thoughts and feelings that come immediately after, so whenever those feelings of insecurity arise the next time, you can rely on your past self to bear witness that you CAN do this because you HAVE done this before. ✨

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#5 Voluntary discomfort encourages appreciation and gratitude.

After all that discussion about communication change through voluntary discomfort, we’re sure that you don’t need any more convincing that communication is a set of skills which are often taken for granted. Just like any skill or craft, it requires constant honing and refinement, until we get to where we want to be.

Knowing this, no two journeys are the same. With this newfound awareness about our own abilities and the practice pains we’ve taken to achieve our goals, we’re sure you’ll be able to appreciate and welcome the wide variability of communication styles more readily. After all, there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ communication, instead, only one that works best for you and your circumstances.

And this is all the more reason to celebrate! Diversity in communication, language, and culture (and the list goes on…) is what enriches and extends our communities.

Take the time to reflect on whether you’ve acknowledged the countless times you’ve confronted speaking stress and consciously applied yourself to practice. Do you feel thankful for your past self for choosing to embrace that temporary discomfort?

speaking confidence


Let’s face it, communication change is HARD. Be it pronunciation, fluency, voice tone, or social communication, each of these have their own unique challenges. Let’s normalise these temporary discomforts during the learning process and tackle them straight on so that we have the best chance at reaping the long-term benefits. Notice yourself becoming more informed, resilient, disciplined, confident, and appreciative along the way when you’ve got your eyes set on the prize. Speaking comfort and confidence IS possible.

At Voice Science, we dedicate ourselves to working with individuals who are ready to commit to communication improvement. We value the importance of adult-centred communication learning and growth that is strength based, so you don’t have to figure it out alone. We’ll equip you with personalised strategies and practical tools to take your communication skills to the next level. 👍

Still not sure about what we offer? simply click the link below for more information about how we can support your speaking confidence and communication goals.

Let’s wrap up this discussion with one final encouragement by James Clear, ‘every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.’

You’ve got this! 👏

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  • Woolley, K., & Fishbach, A. (2022). Motivating personal growth by seeking discomfort. Psychological Science, 33(4), 510–523. https://doi.org/10.1177/09567976211044685