A quick Google search on “fear of public speaking” will net you somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 million results. In .42 seconds, by the way.
There are more articles, posts, memes and stories about the fear of public speaking than you can click a mouse at.
Did you know that there’s a psychological term for the fear of public speaking? It’s called Glossophobia.
Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. The word glossophobia comes from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread.
Psychologists say that the fear of public speaking is the number one fear we humans face. This fear ranks above the fear of death, fear of spiders and fear of heights. They also say that unless our phobia is addressed, it will get worse, not better.
Are you asking the RIGHT questions?
Why is this fear of public speaking so pervasive?
What’s behind it?
What are we afraid of?
Can you die from public speaking?
If not then why am I so scared?
Those are all good questions, but are they the right questions? Are those the questions that can help us through the dark and scary journey called speaking in public? I’m no psychologist but I have been intimately involved with this issue for many years.
As someone who is intently interested in the art and practice of public speaking I bump up against this “fear” thing quite often. I find it in myself and I find it in others.
The questions I asked above tend to focus on the negative. Personally I have never had much success focusing on the negative. Instead, why don’t we focus on the positive? Seems reasonable; right?
WHY Start with WHY?
There is a great book called “Start with Why,” by Simon Sinek. Sinek researched about why people do what they do. There’s a lot of great information in his writing about different chemicals that are produced in the brain when we do certain things or feel certain ways. It’s very interesting. Our brain is such an amazing machine.
I highly recommend picking up the book… or watch his TED Talk on YouTube. This might answer some of your questions and it will definitely give you a new framework from which you can attack this “fear of public speaking” issue.
WHY do you Speak?
If you are reading this article, you may fall into one or more of several different categories. Where are you on this continuum.
I am deathly afraid of speaking in public and I’m ok with that.
I am afraid of speaking in public and I want to change that.
I have never spoken in public but I want to learn how to communicate better.
I have spoken in public but I’d like to get better.
Speaking in public is a skill that would probably help me now or in the future.
I’m a pro… I’m good to go. I’m off to the gym now. Bye!
If you are #1 or #6, I’m not sure that this article will help you much, but thanks for reading this far. Oh and if there’s even the slightest chance that you are lying to yourself… Stick around and finish the article.
If you fall somewhere between 1 and 6, I have a message for you.
Message = WHY?
Public speaking for the sake of public speaking will never be a good enough reason for you to step out of your comfort zone. And you and I will never accomplish anything great inside of our comfort zone. You MUST have a WHY that is bigger than your fear.
If you are someone who is interested in improving your communication skills, there must be a reason. Your reason is your WHY. Without a solid heart-felt reason you, like thousands before you will cut and run when faced with the reality that is “public speaking.”
BUT! If you have a reason, a WHY that is bigger than your fear, you will stand strong. You will take tiny steps outside of your comfort zone. You will experience small but meaningful wins that make you feel like a winner. Your steps outside of that evil comfort zone will get bigger and you will WIN!
What is your WHY?
Why do you want to increase your communication skills? Is it so that you can win more customers? Is it so that you can achieve a leadership promotion at work? Is it so that you can more clearly and confidently articulate the passions of your heart?
I implore you… reach down deep inside of yourself. Listen to that “still small voice”, it is still there and it is calling you to make OneBoldMove. If you can’t hear it, turn off the television. There, can you hear it now? Listen and respond.
The WHY is personal for each and every one of us. The key is to find YOURS, etch it on your very soul, set a course to doggedly pursue it and then… begin. Begin today.
Frank Gustafson is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, writer and leadership enthusiast. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Speaker and Leadership Trainer. Frank currently serves as President for 2ChangeU Toastmasters in Plano, Texas. You can learn more about Frank at www.OneBoldMove.com