Fear of Public Speaking is Not Real
While walking in the forest with a friend, a pretty green snake slithered across our path. I let out a yelp of surprise, which caused a number of birds to shriek and flutter, as well.
"I didn't know you were afraid of snakes," teased my friend.
"I'm not," I denied, embarrassed. "I was startled."
Hand me a snake, and I wrinkle my nose. I don't particularly care for the feel of the creatures. And I don't get much of an opportunity to interact with them on a daily basis, either.
Instead of fear, my negative reaction to snakes has more to do with that one-two punch: lack of familiarity coupled with a lack of preference.
Is it really fear?
People often state that their number one fear is "speaking in public". But are people really terrorized by public speaking -- or is it simply that they prefer not
to give presentations to large groups? Or that they don't speak in front of groups on a regular basis?
Or is it because it is considered socially acceptable to live in fear?
Consider the two prerequisites that make people thoughtlessly say they're afraid of public speaking when they really aren't:1. Lack of preference:
Perhaps people don't like the "feel" of public speaking. After all, speaking to friends in a conversational manner "feels" right and natural. Speaking in front of a group can "feel" forced and unnatural. Why?2. Lack of familiarity:
Many folks don't get an opportunity to practice public speaking on a daily basis. If these folks spoke in public regularly, perhaps the creepy feeling associated with presenting would dissipate.Add some negative programming.
Now, add to this one-two punch the repeated drumming of years of socially acceptable negative storytelling. My friend instantly tagged my negative reaction to the snake as "fear" -- but it only looked that way
. Imagine all the times you may have been amazed or startled by the unfamiliar -- your eyes widen, your heart races, your knees buckle, you may even scream -- and your friends and family label this as "fear".
What about excitement? What about surprise? What of wonder? Amazement? Why call it fear? Why repeat the myth?Fake fear is easy to spread.
The physical manifestations associated with fear can be contagious! When I yelped at the snake, the birds fluttered and squawked in reaction to my outburst. Even my friend jumped a little when I screeched -- even though she didn't even see the snake
. She wasn't "scared" of me -- she reacted to my reaction!Preference is a harder story to sell.
I still don't like snakes. And I don't care for chocolate-covered Graham crackers (yuch)! But when I wrinkle my nose and say "Ewwww!!!" at the offer of a cracker, no one labels me "afraid" of crackers! Spreading the myth of the "fear of snakes" is easy. It's a popular phobia. But spreading a story about "doesn't prefer crackers" is hard. It isn't very emotional or dramatic.You are not afraid
! Most people who claim to be afraid of public speaking -- aren't really. They don't get on stage and start screaming in terror. No, they just don't like to speak in public -- so they avoid it. And when they do, they are out of practice and nervous -- and don't know to interpret or effectively use their adrenaline. They get the shakes. Their voice quivers. This gives them the perfect excuse to parrot the socially acceptable "I'm afraid of public speaking".Don't be a parrot!
So, if you claim to be afraid of public speaking, find moments in your life when you didn't show it. For example, how scared were you in first grade, when "Show and Tell" was a regular part of your curriculum? You told an engaging story to the class using props. And you probably did it often and enthusiastically. What changed from then to now? What or who convinced you that you feel "afraid"? And why did you repeat this myth as if it were the truth?Face the real truth.
Find out what convinced you that you were afraid, and bravely face it. Make it socially unacceptable to thoughtlessly parrot "fear" as a valid label for something unfamiliar, unknown, or unlikeable.