Understanding and Breaking Down the Fear of Public Speaking
Communicating your ideas publicly is an essential part of many aspects of life. Weather your doing a school presentation, or presenting your ideas to your fellow co-workers, public speaking is an important aspect that many people are afraid of. Public speaking can lead to many good things such as growing your business, or advance in your job, however some people are afraid and never get to experience those great rewards due to their fear. Studies show that at least seventy-five percent of the population has some level of anxiety when it comes to public speaking, however if this issue begins negatively affecting your job, or school grades, then you possibly may be suffering from a phobia. Glossophobia is the anxiety or fear of speaking publicly. The phobia may be different for the people who suffer from it, some may feel anxious when speaking in a room full of strangers, and others may experience it when speaking in front of their close friends and family. Of course, there are some who feel this way no matter what the circumstances are when it comes to speaking publicly.
Surprisingly many people with glossophobia do not suffer from other social phobias, such as meeting new people or demonstrating tasks in front of others. Some are even able to sing and dance on a stage in front of a room full of strangers, provided they don’t have to talk. Some may not even know they have this phobia until they go up to present or speak, and others may realize they suffer from this the second they hear about their project or presentation. They may avoid getting called on in class or picked for the job presentation. Some symptoms of glossophobia are nausea, sweating, difficulting breathing, and high blood pressure. However those are just a few of the symptoms there are several others that many people suffer from. One of the many negative aspects of having this phobia is the fact that the vast majority of jobs today include presenting in front of clients, or participation in meetings. Not being able to perform these tasks may lead to consequences which could include losing your job. People who suffer from this condition have a higher risk for developing conditions such as anxiety disorders or depression. This is due to the fact they may feel isolated and constantly feeling nervous or dreading their upcoming presentation or meeting. The same goes for the people who already suffer from these conditions such as anxiety, they may feel anxious in different situations and others are more prone to being anxious during public speaking. Some people may even experience “anxiety sensitivity”, which is a fear of fear. Anxiety sensitivity basically means that in addition to being worried about public speaking, they also worry about their ability to perform their speech, presentation, etc.
Along with worrying about their speech itself, they will worry that they will be overwhelmingly anxious in front of their audience, and be perceived as a shaky speaker. Another aspect of glossophobia is the thought process of the speaker. Some have negative views about one self, they may feel as though they are boring or not good at speaking to others. They may feel insecure and anxious about how this presentation or speech will affect their image or credibility. There is also a distinct difference between performance orientation and communication orientation. Performance orientation is when the speaker feels as though they are being judged on how well of a presenter they are. They also feel as though public speaking requires special skills. In contrast, communication orientation focuses more on presenting their ideas, their main objective is to get through to the audience. They also feel as though when the mood shifts from being heard and understood to being evaluated the anxiety gets worse.
While there are people who by nature tend to be more anxious about public speaking, there are situations that tend to make us more nervous than usual. One of those situations may be the lack of experience, like many things experience builds confidence, and when you haven’t spoken in front of people in the past much before you tend to be more nervous when you have a presentation or speech. There’s also the degree of evaluation that can make a person anxious. For instance if you are speaking in front of a group of people who have evaluation forms ready to fill out, you tend to be a lot more nervous. Also if you are sharing new ideas you may worry about how your audience will receive them. Another situation may be speaking in front of people with higher positions than you. And finally new audiences, speaking in front of new audiences is scary, and especially to people of experience of your topic. Another factor that contributes to glossophobia is how skilled a person doesn’t believe they are in this area. While many people believe they are naturally good speakers, there is always room for improvement. It’s important to work or speaking in front of others, to build your confidence. Comparing oneself to others is something people who suffer from this phobia tend to do. They tend to compare everything from the speech itself, to deliverance, to appearance. It’s important to not overthink and compare. Now the big question is, can glossophobia be treated and possibly cured? And the answer to that is yes! There are many ways people can treat this phobia. If the issue of speaking publicly is interfering with a person’s life they should try consulting their doctor, and try and find a treatment plan for them. One very common treatment plan is cognitive behavioral therapy, working with a therapist can help them find the root of their anxiety. The therapist can also help them reshape any negative thoughts they may have on public speaking. However if therapy doesn’t help treat their phobia their doctor can prescribe one of many medications that treat anxiety disorders.
A combination of methods can really help those suffering from glossophobia. Another strategy is to take a workshop or public speaking class. Toastmasters International is an organization designed to train people in public speaking. There are even organizations made specifically for people who suffer from glossophobia. There are a few things a person suffering from glossophobia should do prior to their speech or presentation to help them feel more comfortable and less anxious. The first step is to know the material, they should know what to say and have an outline of the key points. They should give special focus to the introduction since this is likely when they will be most nervous. The second step is for them to script their presentation. They should rehearse it until they have it down and then throw the script away. The third step is to practice often, they should practice until they are comfortable with what they are going to say. Their confidence will increase as they realize they know what they are going to say. The fourth step is to record their presentation or speech. This way they can take notes and change things is needed, they also may be pleasantly surprised to see how well they’ve come along with memorizing their speech. The last step is to work audience questions into their presentation or speech. They should write down some questions they may be asked and be prepared to answer them. When appropriate they should plan to involve their audience by asking questions. Once they’ve arrived to their speaking location they should take time to get familiar with the space. Also if they are using equipment such as a computer, they should make sure everything is set up and working.
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