Is This Belief About Speaking True?
For many years, you may have heard about a magical list that claims public speaking is our number one fear.
I’ve always questioned this because THE List is nowhere to be found.
I’ve recently researched the topic of fear. As you know, if you find the information on the Internet, it must be true, right?
There are several sources that list top fears. None of them have the same top fear.
Recently, a more credible source shined a light on this subject. He’s Ed Tate, CSP, 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking. Ed is known for doing his research and knowing his topic. During a breakout session, he told us, “Public speaking isn’t the number one fear.”
The energy in the room shifted. The audience was surprised to hear such blasphemy about a widely accepted belief.
He continued, “The number one fear is…
“The number two fear is…
“Walking into a room full of strangers.”
His statements make sense. It’s been said that if you speak outside of your home, you’re engaged in public speaking. This is obviously an over-simplification of the topic, but there is truth to it.
If you think about public speaking, unless you’re physically unable to, many times you have stood before groups of people – be it two, or two hundred – and spoken. You’ve shared your opinion, your beliefs, or a story or two.
You’ve also been embarrassed at some point in your life.
Most likely, you’ve also had at least one experience in which you entered a room where you didn’t know one person. You probably felt some level of intimidation.
Public speaking is the perfect vehicle to combine these two fears. You might say a word, or an entire sentence, that causes people to laugh at you. These people might be strangers.
Considering these factors, doesn’t it make sense that pubic speaking isn’t our number one fear? It’s merely a vehicle that might lead to two of our greatest fears – embarrassment and being in a room full of strangers.
I understand that not everyone is afraid of embarrassment. A select few thrive on it. The same is true for meeting strangers. A minority of people love those situations.
For most, though, these two fears are strong enough that public speaking creates a potential for a negative experience.
How do you manage these fears?
Two ideas to keep in mind:
One, remember that the people before you – whether strangers or friends – are not looking for perfection. They want you to be authentic. Occasional mistakes and missteps are part of communication. Be yourself and accept that occasional errors will occur.
Two, keep in mind that every person you’ve ever met was a stranger at one time. For the rest of your life, when you meet someone new, there is a possibility you could say or do something that causes embarrassment.
This is where public speaking is a huge benefit!
Which would you rather experience:
Risk doing or saying something embarrassing 50 times (meeting 50 individuals, one-at-a-time), or,
Embarrass yourself once in front of 50 people. If you’re going to make the mistake, do it once in front of a group and be done with it!
Alright, maybe you’re not sold on that concept. The point is, don’t take public speaking so seriously. It isn’t not our greatest fear. It is an activity that could create a situation where you feel uncomfortable.
Most importantly, it’s not life or death….
It only feels that way!
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