Why are we so afraid of Public Speaking?

Understanding the roots of this fear can help us conquer it.

Public Speaking is a performance of giving a speech to a live audience. Its purpose is to persuade, inform and entertain. Additionally, there are different methods, structures, and rules according to the speaking situation. Being capable of speaking confidently in public can help to advance your career, grow your business and form strong collaborations. It can help you promote ideas and influence others as well. To excel in doing any of these, it will require a fair amount of presenting yourself in front of an audience and delivering a pitch, a notion, or a body of work. But at times, the only thing that stands between that success is fear. 

Glossophobia — a really geeky and unique term for the fear of public speaking. It appears when you are performing or is expected to perform a presentation or a speech in front of other people. Nevertheless, the fear of public speaking is common. Studies have shown approximately 25 percent of people report experiencing it.

While some people experience a debilitating form of glossophobia, even the mildest form of glossophobia can have drastic effects. This fear of public speaking can prevent you from taking a leap of faith to pitch your ideas and to speak about your. Hence, it will affect your growth personally and professionally. You would also have no idea of how much impact you have towards others.

Why are we so afraid of public speaking?

Fear of public speaking is not about the quality of a speech but it is really about how the speaker feels, thinks or act when speaking in public. There are many factors on why people are afraid when having to speak in public. The theories exploring fear of public speaking is identified as four contributing factors:

1. Physiology

Fear and anxiety sparks the nerves in our nervous system, therefore it will send a sort of threatening signal to our brain. When our brain processes this signal, our bodies will begin to detect the threat, and will they prepare for combat. This spark will lead to the emotional experience of fear, and it will interfere with our ability to perform comfortably in front of audiences. Eventually, this fear will prevent people from pursuing opportunities for public speaking.

Some researchers suggest that there are people who generally experience higher anxiety across different situations, and are therefore more sensitive in to feeling scared about speaking in public as well. People who have a tendency to feel anxious find it more of a struggle to overcome their anxiety and fear of public speaking and will often opt to avoid it. But for some other people, this anxiety appears when it comes to public speaking situations. Although, the physiological signs of fear they experience when needed to perform in public are similar.

Moreover, some people go through what researchers call anxiety sensitivity. It is also known as the fear of fear. Anxiety sensitivity means that a person is not only being worried about public speaking. But they are also worried about their anxiety of public speaking. They are scared of how their anxiety will affect their ability to perform in these challenging situations. So, along with worrying about whether they can succeed their objectives with their speech, people that experience high anxiety sensitivity tend to worry that they will be overwhelmingly anxious in front of the audience, and that they will come across as a shaky speaker.

2. Thoughts

Another factor includes people’s beliefs about public speaking and about themselves as speakers. This fear often arises when people overthink of presenting their ideas in front of others. By viewing the speaking event as a potential threat to their reputation, image, and chance to reach an audience. Negative thoughts of a person as a speaker for not being good enough, not interesting enough can also augment the anxiety the fear of speaking in public.

Some theories set the bar between a performance orientation and a communication orientation. Performance orientation means you see public speaking as something that needs specially trained skills. You see the role of the audience as judges who evaluate and critique your standards. In contrast, communication orientation means that the main focus is on purely expressing your ideas, presenting information, or telling your story.

For people with a communication orientation, the main objective is for them to connect with their audience the same way they connect with other people during their everyday conversations. Lets think about this in reverse: View any conversation that you have with another person as a form of “public” speaking. If you do, you will have enough proof that you can express yourself clearly and communicate effectively. You would take have the same concept about public speaking events. Only then,it mainly focuses on sharing ideas and information. However, when your focus drifts from being heard and understood to being judged, your anxiety will tend to be higher.

3. Situations

 While there are people who naturally are more anxious, or most who don’t think they are good at public speaking. There are some situations that are likely to make most of us even more scared when presenting in a public space.

  • Lack of experience

As with anything else, experience builds confidence. When you are not used to having a lot of limelight on the stage under your belt, you are more likely to experience the fear of public speaking.

  • Degree of evaluation

Whether it is real or just an imagination of an evaluation aspect to the situation, the fear is even worse. If you were to speak in front of a group of people who are ready to evaluate you. You may feel more anxious than before.

  • Status difference.

If you’re about to speak in front of a group of people with higher statuses, for instance, your manager. You may feel fear shivering down your spine.

  • New ideas.

If you are sharing new ideas that are not yet shared in public, you may worry more about how people react to those ideas. When your public appearance involves you presenting something, you might feel uncomfortable stating your position. Taking questions and dealing with the audience who tries to throw curveballs at you shakes you up.

  • New audiences. 

You may not already have experience in public speaking or presenting to familiar audiences. For example, you are used to speaking in front of professionals in your work of line. You might even the best of the best speakers in your area of expertise. With that said, however, fear may arise, when the targeted audiences shift. You might be a little shaky when you are standing in front of an audience you are not used to.

4. Skills

Last but not least, another factor that contributes to the fear of public speaking is how skilled you are in this area. There are many people who consider themselves naturally good speakers. But there is always room for growth. For the people who work hard to perfect their skills, instead of relying on their natural talent, are the speakers who stand out the most. There are many different ways to enhancing this particular skill set and increasing competence in public speaking. Augmented competence leads to increased confidence, an effective antidote to fear. Nonetheless, confidence alone will not translate into effective public speaking.

The many benefits of sharing information and thoughts in public definitely outweigh the need to protect ourselves from the deadly fear of having to speak in front of others.

We hope this article helped you solve why are we afraid about public speaking. If you’re interested in enhancing your communication skill, visit this page for more information.

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