“Why Is Public Speaking So Scary?”
There are few things people dislike more than public speaking. Getting up in front of a group and talking is often rated as more terrifying than death. Even informally introducing yourself to a group can produce nervousness, fear, tension, and anxiety.
“I used to hate group ice-breaker introductions…”
“Let’s go around the circle and say your name and one interesting thing about yourself.”
I would start planning immediately. What will I say? No that’s no good, what else?
About five people before my turn, I wouldn’t be hearing a damn word they were saying. My heart starting pounding so hard in my chest that I could feel it rattling my ribs.
My turn – Ack!
“Hi, I’m Aziz. Um, one interesting thing about me is I once went one week without eating food and only drinking water.”
Whew, success right? Afraid not.
As I sat back down my mind would keep going – charged with stress, cortisol and adrenaline.
Hmm, I sounded nervous, people could see I was nervous. People think I’m weird and pathetic. That one guy looked totally bored and annoyed. I bet he doesn’t like me. What’s his problem?
Can you relate?
What’s the deal? Why are we so scared of public speaking?
After extensive personal, academic, and clinical research I realized it comes down to one primary fear:
The fear of disapproval.
“The fear of disapproval is the primary fear behind all shyness,
social anxiety, and social discomfort.”
One-on-one, we can have greater control or influence over whether someone approves of us or likes us. We can read their facial expressions, body language and voice tone. We can change what we’re saying, agree, nod, avoid touchy subjects, and be extra “nice” and do whatever else it takes to make sure they like us.
But when we’re speaking to a group, we can’t possibly say something that makes sure everyone approves of us.
In fact it’s virtually impossible to make that happen, no matter who you are. Some people may like our talk, while other people don’t even want to be there. Some will be restless and looking around the room. Some will downright dislike you – they don’t like your message or your appearance or they’re feeling jealous or insecure.
Regardless of the reasons, the end result is the same. When we speak we have 10, 20, or 100 sets of eyes all on us. That’s dozens of times the potential disapproval we’d ever face when interacting with people one on one.
“As much as we like to think we don’t care how others view us, most of us do. And so public speaking is terrifying, and we often try to avoid it.”
Other ways we deal with speaking is by over-preparing, practicing endlessly to make sure we deliver the talk absolutely perfectly. Because if it’s “perfect”, no one could possibly disapprove, right?
Preparing, practicing, and making your presentation top quality are all good strategies to improve your public speaking. They may even reduce your fear some.
“But the only way to truly overcome your fear of public speaking, the only way to master speaking and enjoy yourself while you’re doing it, is to learn to let go of needing other people’s approval.”
This is an essential skill in developing social confidence and it’s the first, and most important, part of becoming a dynamic, engaging speaker. If you’re interested in gaining a complete understanding of how to be less dependent on other’s approval, Confidence Coaching can really help in this area.
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