Many people feel anxious or scared when they have to speak in front of a group, and this is called glossophobia. Fear of public speaking is a commonality that stands in the way of progress for so many people. Not only does it stop an individual from advancing in their career or personal life, but it also harms their creative and problem-solving skills which could affect people around them.
There are a few theories on why humans might have evolved to develop this fear. In this blog post, we’ll explore a few of those reasons and offer some tips on how to overcome your fear of public speaking.
Four Contributing Factors for Why We Fear Public Speaking
Researchers have found that the phobia of public speaking is more correlated to the speaker’s psychological and physical state before and during the speech than it is to the delivery itself. They have proposed that there are four factors contributing to why we fear public speaking:
Becoming more confident and competent in public speaking go hand-in-hand–the better you get, the more confidence you’ll have. And because confidence is key to warding off fear, enhancing your skillset should be a priority. When people know they lack the skills to give a great speech, it can trigger feelings of anxiety.
We all go through that phase where we question our abilities and worry that we’ll make a fool of ourselves in front of others, but it’s important to remember that everyone starts somewhere. Just like with any skill, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it will become. And as your skills improve, your confidence will grow along with it.
Some researchers believe that there are people who feel anxious more frequently in different situations, which may make them more inclined to experience anxiety when speaking in public. It can be extremely frustrating for people who have anxiety and fear when public speaking to feel like they will never improve.
Though most people experience stress only during public speaking, the physical manifestations of fear are the same regardless of when they happen. When we feel fear, our hearts race, our palms sweat, and we might even feel like we’re going to vomit. All of these reactions are caused by the fight-or-flight response, which is a natural response to perceived fear or danger.
There are particular scenarios that trigger increased anxiety when speaking in public.
If there is an assessment or example of evaluation, the fear accompanying it will more than likely be stronger. For example, if you have to speak in front of a group that has the forms ready to evaluate you, then it makes sense that you would feel naturally anxious.
The level of anxiousness also goes up when the consequences of poor performance are high. If a lot is riding on the success of your speech–like a job interview or an important presentation–then it’s only natural to feel more pressure and fear.
It can be incredibly frustrating when we listen to the negative self-talk going on in our heads. For a lot of people, this is viewed entirely negatively – I am not good enough / I don’t do well when speaking in front of groups. Not only can negative self-views make us feel anxious, but they can also increase our fear of public speaking.
Worse still, the very idea of being misunderstood or not heard at all fills us with anxiety. Or, for some of us, it may be an internalized narrative about our lack of skill to deliver a talk to a group. The voices in our heads can be overwhelming, but we must remember that they don’t always hold the truth.
How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to conquer your fear of public speaking.
1. Understand Your Triggers
The first step is to understand your anxiety. What situation makes you the most anxious? Is it when you’re speaking in front of a large group or when you’re giving a presentation at work? Once you know what situations make you the most anxious, you can begin to work on them.
When we’re anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. This can lead to a feeling of lightheadedness or panic. Taking deep, slow breaths can help to calm your nerves and ease the tension you’re feeling.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it will become. And as your skills improve, your confidence will grow along with it. If you can, find opportunities to practice speaking in front of others you’re comfortable with. This could be family, friends, classmates, or even co-workers. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
4. Visualize Success
Visualizing yourself succeeding can help to ease your anxiety. See yourself delivering a great speech or presentation and receiving positive feedback from your audience. This exercise can help to boost your confidence in yourself and your abilities.
These are just some helpful tips to get you started on conquering your fear of public speaking. Just remember that everyone experiences anxiety and stress at some point in their lives. With practice, patience, and time, you will be able to overcome your fear and become a confident public speaker.
No matter how much we try to avoid it, there will always be situations in life that trigger our fear of public speaking. That’s why it’s important to understand our triggers and somehow work around them. After all, the more we expose ourselves to our fears, the less power they have over us.