The public speaking problem
Speaking about our thoughts and views around people we don’t know can cause anxiety for many of us. For some, it can be extremely difficult, and for a few, they’ll completely lose the ability to speak.
And the problems associated with public speaking doesn’t only happen when your in a group of people. You’d be surprised at the number of people who sufferer the same amount of anxiety when using the telephone.
Social Anxiety, or Social Phobia is the most commonly reported anxiety disorder. It’s so common, that most people don’t even see it as a disorder any more!
This article will help you find ways to lower the anxiety and start building a catalogue of successes.
The range of symptoms caused by Social Anxiety range from “I felt uncomfortable and like I had butterflies in my stomach”, to being completely paralyzed, sweating and shaking with the fear. I’ve even seen people ‘pass out’ because the anxiety was too much.
Although the answer I mention in this post will help anyone suffering from Social Anxiety, you’ll probably see faster results if you’re not in the second example above 🙂 (but I’d love you to prove me wrong 😉 )
You just need to take the chance and have a go. Be willing to push your boundaries a little and expand your comfort zone.
How it went for me
I used to have debilitating Social Anxiety. If I ever had to speak to someone I didn’t know, my hands would shake, I’d begin to sweat and I’d struggle to get any words to exit my mouth.
I felt as though everyone was judging everything I said. That they’d know I had no clue what I was doing.
Then, shortly after a medical issue in the late 90’s, the company I was working for added an extra role to my position and I discovered something extraordinary.
My job, now included standing in front of 30 adult students in a classroom, teaching them for eight hours, twice a week!
Me! A person who was too afraid to even answer the telephone, in case it was someone I didn’t know, was now involved in public speaking twice, every week!
I was in a position where I had two choices…..
1. I could suck it up and do my best, or
2. I could find myself another job.
Well, the job market wasn’t at it’s best and I really enjoyed the other aspects of the job. So, I decided to take option one.
Surprisingly, within eight weeks, I was enjoying this part of my role as much as the other parts.
You see, I believe that many times, we simply talk ourselves out of doing what’s hard. We come up with excuses like, “It won’t matter if I say nothing. Someone else will ask the same question eventually”. Or, “Things will be fine. They don’t need to have my input to make the right decision”. Or, “I’ll only muck it up, so why bother?”, etc.
We’re all capable of so much more. We just never give ourselves credit. We’re constantly looking for ‘an out’, so we don’t have to push through hardships.
But, pushing through is what makes us stronger.
No doubt you’ve heard the expression “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”? This is so true with things like Social Anxiety. We just have to be willing to push.
Now, if you wanted, there’s nothing stopping you from from taking a dramatic leap, just like I had to. But, it’s probably better to take things slow 🙂
Start small to begin with. Maybe try to share some small talk with the supermarket cashier, or share pleasantries with the owner of the local convenience store?
There’s lots of ways you can expand your comfort zone. And, if you start to feel uncomfortable, you can always make your excuses and leave.
The trick, using Nike’s words, is to just do it. What doesn’t change, stays the same. If you don’t make the effort to change how you feel about your abilities, no one is going to change them for you.
There are two main things I’ve learned about overcoming the fear of speaking in public.
- That my (or anyone’s) opinion is exactly that. An opinion can’t possibly be right or wrong, it can only be the same, or different to someone else’s. So, my opinion is as valid as anybody’s.
- To be able to teach, you only have to know a small amount more that the person you’re teaching.
Once we’re able to get past the roadblock of thinking we can’t, we very quickly learn that we can.
As soon as we realize that the FEAR we feel is actually,
Appearing to be
we can make the changes necessary.
Give it a try and let me know how you got on 🙂 . If you’re not quite ready to take this type of action yet, a couple years ago I wrote a short e-book about dealing with Social Anxiety. Why not give that a read and try something in there?