If you thought your fear of cockroaches was the most prevalent fear, you are wrong! The fear of public speaking beats this phobia by a mile. Would you believe it, if told, that the fear of public speaking exceeds the fear of death among Americans?
Illogical as this fact may sound, this fact is cause for some serious reflection. When we have such a large fear right in our midst-three in four people have it by some estimates-isn’t it time to look at this issue?
My intention is to help my readers understand this phobia from a few select perspectives. I will dwell into an understanding of what this phobia is, but more importantly, I will try my best to offer solutions on how to overcome it.
Ready? Let’s get started. Even before I venture out to laying out what all I will be covering in this blog, I want to warm up your minds with a course what fits this topic like a peg to a hole. Take some time off to go through this lovely educational material. It will aid and supplement the article that is going to unfold before you over the next few paragraphs.
As promised, I will first lay out the outline for this blog. This blog’s outline is as follows:
- Public Speaking Anxiety
- How do I know if I have social anxiety?
- What are the signs of speech anxiety?
- What are your greatest fears of public speaking?
- What causes a fear of public speaking?
- Why are so many people afraid of public speaking?
- How to keep your nerves calm during a speech, aka tips for helping you overcome the fear of public speaking
- What are the best ways to overcome social phobia?
- How to deal with sudden anxiety or a panic attack in public
- Is the fear of public speaking bad for you? How to know if it is good or bad for you?
- What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Public Speaking Anxiety
The first step to dealing with public speaking anxiety is obviously, to get an understanding of what it is. So, let me get started on the common understanding of public speaking anxiety. The words spell out what this malady is: the fear or anxiety of speaking in public. Here, the public need not be the person on the street or the park, but someone who has a connection with the speaker in some or another way.
Let us say lecturing is a kind of public speaking. Why this qualifies so is because the lecturer is speaking to a set audience, mostly students, on a defined topic in a defined space, which here could be the classroom. If the lecturer had a fear of lecturing to the students, then, this anxiety would be called public speaking anxiety.
So, this is a bare definition of public speaking anxiety. Further, let us get down to the etymology of the common phrase used to describe public speaking anxiety. The word for public speaking anxiety is glossophobia. This phrase is derived from the Greek words, “glossa”, which means language, and phobia, whose meaning most of are familiar with.
How do I know if I have social anxiety?
So, how do you (or I) know if we have social anxiety? Simple: if we have public speaking anxiety, we are suffering from a kind of social anxiety, because psychologists consider this so. In fact, their relationship with each other is so close that many people use these two words interchangeably, which is what I too, am doing through most of this blog. People suffering from social anxiety are prone to their own unique signs, which I will explain in the next paragraph.
However, we need to draw a distinction here. The social anxiety we are talking about is something that affects people who are otherwise normal in every other sense. When social anxiety or fear of public speaking affects people who are diagnosed with speech issues, this does not make them candidates for social anxiety or glossophobia. Their case is quite different.
What are the signs of speech anxiety?
Well, it is important to note that what we classify as signs of anxiety can happen to most people once in a way, on specific occasions, such as while meeting strangers, giving a presentation for which we could be unprepared, facing tough situations at work, etc. But what is different about people with this disorder is that they exhibit these signs in their day-to-day interactions with people. With such people, it is a mental condition that can affect their daily routines.
These are some of the telltale physical sigs and symptoms of speech anxiety or fear of public speaking, each of which is quite self-explanatory. However, I want to go a little beyond just listing these. I will set out to suggest which of the tips I have suggested in the beginning works best for each of these:
The feeling of “butterflies in the stomach”: This is a fairly common trait not only among people who are nervous about public speaking, but also among top notch performers! Can you ever believe if I told you that some of history’s greatest names suffered from stage fear, but, like great men, overcame it? This “illustrious” list includes Warren Buffett, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Joel Osteen! So, relax and stay inspired.
So, take heart, because, after all, only the first few moments can be like this. It will sort of iron out with time. To overcome this, the tip I would suggest is the one on getting used to the ambience. It is just like the darkness we experience when entering a cinema, to which we get adjusted after a little time.
Sweating: The medical world says that we sweat during anxiety because the brain perceives a certain degree of anxiety and releases the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn stimulate the eccrine and apocrine glands, the sweaty glands. So, the way to address this problem is simple: apply the tip on deep breathing/meditation, because this calms the mind and works wonders.
Dry mouth: This again is related to the condition where the brain, when nervous, sends out a variety of signals to show that it is going through a tense situation. Dehydration is the direct physical cause of a dry mouth, so drink lots of water. And yes, meditiation is a readily available tip to overcome dry mouth when you are going through anxiety.
Shaking: Shaking is one of the most conspicuous signs of anxiety, especially public speaking. This requires you to cultivate the right frame of mind if you want to overcome it, because like sweating, this can also settle down after a few moments.
Quickened heartbeat: Another very identifiable symptom of anxiety; quickened heartbeat is something you can overcome with deep breathing. Let me assure you, it works wonders.
Difficulty in finding one’s voice: The main reason we get a difficulty in finding our voice is that when we are nervous, we are eager to show that we are not, as a result of which we end up exacerbating just what we wanted to suppress! Nothing to worry, because I have mentioned the tip on using some body gestures in helping to soothe the nerves. Just try them out.
What are your greatest fears of public speaking?
According to Forbes magazine, there are as many as seven greatest fears of public speaking:
Doubting whether one can summon all the talents and confidence at the precise time of facing the audience can rattle even gifted speakers
The audience: This is another fear of public speaking, and quite rightly so. This is all the truer if the audience consists of heavyweights
Surprises: We all love surprises, but certainly not of the kind an unexpected question or intervention at a public speech!
Nervousness: This trait is pretty common amongst most people, and hence needs no elaboration
What if the ppt fails? What if I fumble with the app that I am using for the speech? These anxieties are quite understandable fears of technology that can impede public speaking
Forgetting: How will I manage if I forget important points of my presentation or speech? This question can bug most people who are required to give a public speech
Time: How do I pack my speech and finish within the stipulated time? Am I going to cover all the points or will I miss out important ones?
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