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Why Some Are Anxious About Public Speaking?

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 28 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Speech; Presentation; Speak; Public;

“Why are some people anxious about public speaking and others not?”

It’s not an easy question to answer.

Certainly the reasons vary between individuals and can be quite complex. However, there are definitely some common threads amongst those who passionately eschew the limelight.

1. A Negative Public Speaking Experience
As children, we are often required to give oral reports. Though educators do not mean for these speeches to be gut-wrenching or cause tremendous stress, they too often do. Why? Because as youngsters we are told, “Stand up and discuss this with the class,” but we aren’t shown how. Instead, we are forced to find our own way to rise before our peers and perform well without shaking.

While this kind of “trial by fire” method of learning to publicly speak is easy for a few extroverted youths, it causes most students incredible amounts of tension. Consequently, when they finish their assignments, they vow, “Never again!” And that declaration carries straight into their adulthoods.

How to Break through This Barrier: First, remind yourself that you aren’t the same person you were a year ago, let alone twenty years ago. There’s no reason to hold onto bad memories—it’s best to allow them to fade. Approach public speaking with a renewed sense of faith and learn all you can before you stand before an audience, thus “upping” your chances of a positive result.

2. Speakers Put Too Much Pressure on Themselves
For perfectionists or those who expect themselves to do everything “right” all the time, giving a speech can be a mortifying thought. After all, what if they make a mistake? What if they don’t write their speech well enough? What if they stumble or stutter? What if…?

Chances are, the world won’t stop turning if one error makes its way into a presentation. However, for these folks, such a thought is akin to committing a sinful act.

How to Break through This Barrier: It’s important to stretch your wings, even if doing so makes you uncomfortable. If you never try anything new or allow yourself to risk being “imperfect”, you’ll never learn. Assure yourself that nothing that horrible is likely to happen if you give public speaking your best shot. Then, just do it.

3. People Don’t Want Others to Dislike Them
Most individuals don’t enjoy being disliked. Even those who can deal with general controversy or friendly debates aren’t always comfortable standing before a crowd, essentially making themselves vulnerable.

Ironically, these are the same men and women who create tensions at work or between friends because they are unwilling to ever take a stand. They become known as people who try to please everyone… thereby pleasing no one.

How to Break through This Barrier: Accept that not everyone is going to like you. The world is a big place. Some people will form opinions about you that have no basis in anything you’ve done or will ever do. Once you acknowledge that fact, you can feel more comfortable putting yourself in the position to be evaluated or judged.

4. Society Has Told Us Public Speaking Is Difficult
Lastly, many individuals are anxious about public speaking simply because they’ve been told to be anxious! Our society repeatedly reminds us to be scared of this act; therefore, we have a cultural apprehension related to presenting to an audience.

With so many cautionary public speaking statistics and “facts” bandied about, it’s tough not to expect that speech making must be incredibly difficult! And so, we avoid it.

How to Break through This Barrier: Just because the media or your friends say something is true doesn’t mean it is true for you. If the only reason you’ve avoided speaking in public is because you’ve heard it’s one of the most common human fears, you may want to re-evaluate your reasons not to try what can be an exciting, positive, and potentially lucrative field.

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