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Whether you cite half or 60-70% or 3 out of 4, thats a lot of people that fear public

speaking. Yes the statistics are a little muddy because very many studies and polls
o!er up varying numbers on the web, but they continually fall in this range. So if the
statistics are correct, the Fear of Speaking, a phobia properly identied as
Glossophobia, also termed Speech Anxiety & sweaty palms, a!ects most of us. Well
however you identify it, the implications are devastating. Isnt it interesting,
That the very rst act most of us take after were born, is to let out a loud scream, or
some such thing. Then as we advance into our childhood, most of us can hardly keep a
secret. We want to tell everybody everything. Immediately and constantly. Oh sure,
some children are quiet, reserved, shy, and keep to themselves. But if you think about
it, that doesnt describe most kids. No,
Blabbermouth is a more apt description. How often have we heard in schools: Jack,
Jill, Hey you! Stop Talking! or more persuasively, Or Ill send you to the O"ce! The
dreaded O"ce where doom waits is enough to quiet most of us for a bit. Speaking is
so ubiquitous, weve developed all sorts of phrases and even posted signs to curb or
control it.
Shut Up! Dont Speak Out of Turn. Button your lip! Hush. Shut your Face! Put a Sock in
it. Stop Talking! And it includes more genteel requests like: No Talking during the
Performance, Please Be considerate of others, Please Be quiet. These and so many
more institutionalized requests and admonitions all in an attempt to encourage people
generally, and children specically, to stop talking.
So what happens as we move into our teen years? Some behavioral change occurs
because its at about that time that many teens cease participating in public
discussions. Why exactly? Well exactly, there isnt one denitive reason. Each person
has their own personal reason which results in a decision to not speak up in public
forums. Its one thing not to raise your hand if you dont know the answer, but its
something quite di!erent not to raise your hand if you do.
A pattern of behavior begins to emerge which is continually reinforced, on into
adulthood. This pattern all too frequently identied as Glossophobia. And we can
generally imagine, Phobias arent inexpensive to overcome. In fact, depending on the
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Overcome Fear of Speaking : Why?
Tom Dolan
treatment sought, the cost can be quite high. But I want to discuss another far more
expensive, often overlooked cost with far reaching insidious and damaging e!ects.
We live in challenging times unlike any time I can remember in and out of America but
you know that too. What I want to point out again is that roughly two-thirds of our
population do not participate in public conversations searching for workable solutions.
Its not because they cant. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees
they can. No, its because they su!er with a self-claimed Fear of Speaking. Now let me
be clear on this point...
Not one time ever in America did anyone ever tell me that they were afraid to open their
mouth and speak words in a public place. Ive asked. According to my informal poll,
speaking in public is quite alright with everyone Ive asked. So most people, 60-70%,
must see a substantive di!erence between speaking in public and Public Speaking.
There is a quantiable gap, and how to bridge the gap is worth a look.
Well, telling people to be condent and speak-up doesnt suddenly bring about that
result. Advice just doesnt work that way. Nor does asking the question Why dont you
participate in public events produce an insightful answer. Usually I get an answer of
sorts, but the real reason is o!ered only after Trust is established. Typically the answers
are something like,
I dont like my voice. People will think Im stupid. Im embarrassed, Im overweight. My
hair is too curly. I dont have anything to say, Im not very smart. I dont want everybody
looking at me. I get nervous and forget what I want to say. My opinion doesnt matter.
This could go on ad innitum. The point is ...well actually there are three.
One is that often the person will not know the reason why. I generally take that as an
unwillingness to tell me. But in fact, the person actually may not be able to uncover the
reason for their resistance. Two, the person actually can pinpoint the reason or cause,
and this can become a springboard for behavior modication through Coaching. And
three, actually it doesnt matter to me if the person does or doesnt know the reason(s)
they decided not to participate in Public Speaking.
Knowing or not knowing the reason need not be the determining factor in a person
releasing or overcoming, their Fear of Speaking in public forums. As a rst step to
address this fear, I provide a secure environment and begin to build Trust. Encouraging
the person to stretch, sometimes literally. Adding challenges to be overcome and Skills
to be mastered can produce a dramatic, lasting turn-around in a relatively brief time.
But, this method is not for everyone. Some people require a di!erent approach.
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Search the web and youll nd many suggestions o!ered to control the Individual and
their Fear of Speaking. They include Beta-blockers, Hypnosis, Positive Thinking, NLP,
Psychotherapy, Relaxation Exercises, Cannabis, Individual Counseling, Physical
Fitness Exercises, Books, CDs, and participation in Speaking Groups. These methods
must work for some as they are regularly prescribed and embraced as a xative.
Well however a person decides to overcome their Fear of Speaking is cause for
celebration by the rest of us. And let me tell you why.
All those challenges facing everyone, everywhere, and too the Planet, really are real.
Currently all these issues are being addressed by the other one-third of the population
that dont admit to the Fear of Speaking. So essentially, the majority who dont Speak
have delegated their opinions to be delivered by the minority who do Speak. Hows
that working out for you? Frankly, I dont think their results are all that great. I think We
can do better. And to accomplish that,
We need people to overcome their embarrassment of speaking, to get past it, to learn
to manage it, or to participate in spite of it. We need you to help nd a way forward. We
want to hear your suggestions, your creative solutions, your roadmaps to a new
destination, and lots of bits-n-pieces of your ideas. The world deserves no less.
Participate, Speak your mind, give us a piece of the Puzzle. We may not like everything
you say, but we might really need to hear it, and well celebrate you for saying it.
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Tom j Dolan, the Author, is a media professional and the producer of
Performance of Speaking an educational & informative website devoted
to Training & Coaching Speakers who want to contribute to the global
conversations shaping the future of our Communities, Regions, and