Forge Guide to Public Speaking

How I Tricked My Body Into Being Okay With Public Speaking

DBT and the other acronyms that changed my life

Kelli María Korducki
Published in
4 min readDec 18, 2019
Illustration: Kiki Ljung

This story is part of How to Get Better at Public Speaking, the Forge guide to talking in front of a crowd.

II like to tell people that I got my first job at the age of 30. The truth is a little more complicated. I spent most of my twenties as a full-time freelance journalist and eventually became the boss of a couple of online magazines at the same time, managing teams of contractors mostly from a home office in my pajamas.

When I found myself a potential escape hatch (that is, one single job that would pay me enough to live on), I leapt at it. Little did I consider that, there, I’d have to participate in meetings. Real meetings. In rooms, with other people, and the added bonus of even more people piped in by video from a conference room across the country.

For a person unaccustomed to presenting with authority in a professional setting, the expectation to do so on a weekly basis in front of the person signing my paychecks was a real-time, waking nightmare. My awkwardness at talking to a roomful of colleagues became a constant preoccupation. I lost sleep. I clenched my jaw with such routine force that I broke a tooth into the shape of Mississippi.

I’d uprooted my entire life for a job I wasn’t sure I was qualified to have. So I did the only thing I knew I could: I quit everything and joined a subsistence agricultural commune in Tahiti.

Just kidding. I got a therapist.

DDialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a mode of skill-based psychotherapy designed to help people regulate their moods and communicate effectively with others — basically, to make it easier to both listen and be heard. It was designed by the psychologist Marsha Linehan to treat severely emotionally distressed and suicidal patients, but I knew enough about DBT to suspect that its methods could also help me with my problems at work.

My DBT therapist was a cherubic, tattoo-covered New York City native who’d gone to high school with Nicki Minaj and taught me the difference between Bronx and Brooklyn accents (Brooklynites talk…



Kelli María Korducki
Writer for

Writer, editor. This is where I post about ideas, strategies, and the joys of making an NYC-viable living as a self-employed creative.