Halloween Meets the Fear of Public Speaking
Imagine getting this event invitation:
"Come to our Halloween party. Dress as your worst fear."
I received just such an event invitation a number of years ago. Delighted, I set my mind to the task of what I would wear.
"Worst fear. Let's see. I'll bet people will come as ghosts, werewolves, monsters, and such. But I'm not really scared of those things... what am I really afraid of?"
After a number of days of deep thought, I had my answer.
I went as Madame Butterfly.
However, when I got to the party, a gal dressed as a spider and a guy with a lightning bolt driven through his brain wanted to know if I was afraid of tall Japanese ladies.
I explained that the operatic heroine Madame Butterfly
represented my fear of being abandoned and treated as a social outcast.
Perhaps this was too deep for my newly-found party compatriots, because they exchanged puzzled looks and walked away. But a fellow in a three-piece suit seemed to understand.
"Fear of success?" I questioned, looking at his get-up.
"Hey, I hadn't thought of that, but maybe," he admitted. "I was thinking about how much I fear the idea of becoming a corporate slave, locked in an office, and looking + acting + talking like an android for the rest of my life."
It seems that the fellow in the suit and I went a little too deep for a Halloween party, but at least our costumes were conversation starters. And they got us thinking about what we were really afraid of.
Perhaps the greatest gift of the "greatest fear" theme of Halloween was to get me thinking about my real fears. I embodied my fear. I literally wore it out of the house! I discussed my fear frankly in a public setting with strangers and friends, and poked fun at it.Halloween can be a wonderful gift for facing fear.
Well, I don't know what became of my three-piece suit friend, but dressing up as Madame Butterfly weirdly helped me get over the fear of being a social outcast.
People often cite that public speaking is the greatest fear
, but it's not. It's a myth. Hey, I didn't see anyone at the party dressed up as a public speaker -- you know, the ones on the circuit with the creepy Botox, amazing dental work, and buttoned-down business garb.
We all might be creeped out by these kinds of public speakers, but no one's really scared of public speaking itself. Not really.They're scared of what happens as a result of public speaking.
Like me, they might be scared of being a social outcast or ostracized for something they say (or how they say it.) They might be afraid (like my buttoned-down party pal) of sounding unnatural and inhuman.
Those are some of the real fears behind the myth of the fear of public speaking. The oft-parroted "fear of public speaking" myth prevents folks from addressing their real fears.
So it's Halloween.
Face your real fears. If you're an adult, you're not really afraid of zombies, monsters, ghosts, or public speaking. They're all just illusions.
What are you really afraid of? And how will you face it?
Two Tips for Curing the "Trailing So..."
Americans find the word "whatever" annoying.
They find it way more annoying than the phrase "you know" and "it is what it is."
This factoid comes courtesy of USA Today
, as quoted in a recent Marist Poll
As for me, I have trouble with another pervasive verbal tic.
I call it "The Trailing So."
You might hear "The Trailing So..." in interviews and Q&A sessions. Someone asks a question. The subject answers, but instead of ending the sentence in a period, he or she ends with "so..."
You can actually hear the ellipses after the trailing so! For example:
Question: "How did it feel to come back to Michigan after living in Hawaii?"
Answer: "Hawaii is great - beautiful weather. I like the change of seasons in Michigan, though. So..."
The "trailing so" signals a weak answer, or that the interviewee is too bored to complete the thought to a satisfying conclusion. It's often a sign that the mouth has started chattering before the brain has had time to think through the answer!How to cure the trailing so.
The first step to finding a cure for the trailing so is to become aware of it. If you find yourself ending a sentence in a trailing so, there are two common situations for why you might have let this verbal tic slip.1. Habitual Offender.
If you find that you're a repeat "trailing so" offender, it's likely that you have become accustomed to hearing it, and unconsciously let this sloppy habit slip into your vernacular. You'll do well to take a moment or two to think through your answer to completion before activating your voice. Taking these silent moments can make you look more thoughtful and reflective. It sure beats babbling around in circles while you try to figure out how you're going to end your statement!2. Bored or Tired.
Let's say you're giving an answer, and find to your horror, that you've ended with a trailing so. This is so unlike you, and you're mortified! You may have done so because you lost interest in your own idea halfway through your statement. Or you may simply be exhausted. At this point, snap awake and firmly state this phrase "Let me summarize!" After you say, "Let me summarize" - quickly and strongly finish your statement as quickly as possible.
For example, "Hawaii is great - beautiful weather. I like the change of seasons in Michigan, though. So...Let me summarize! I'm enjoying the difference!"
The best cure, of course, is to be aware of the trailing so -- and to avoid it by thinking through your statement before speaking.
What's your cure for pervasive verbal tics you find annoying?