The Life and Times of a Public Speaking Trainer Part 4
There was a debating club at school which I wanted to join. The obvious problem is that I didn’t have the confidence to speak in front of people and so it was a catch-22 situation – I wanted to be a debater but my inhibitions were the very thing stopping me. The situation I was in was also very peculiar. I had so much confidence when it came to playing sports (might I add I used to beat my opponents at school with considerable ease) but put me to speak in front of people and I would be a total flop.
I believe in God and, since the age of eleven, I used to supplicate to Him daily to give me the ability to speak with confidence. Ten years passed and yet I did not improve in the slightest. Herein I was taught my greatest lesson – you can call upon God or whoever you believe or don’t believe in, but if you are not prepared to put the effort in, then you can say a great goodbye to your ambitions. Needless to say, removing the fear and anxiety of public speaking and having the control over your nerves requires some effort.
In the previous chapter, I gave two scenarios involving our friend Eliza. The main reason for this was to highlight the difference between fear and anxiety.
In scenario 1, there is no threat to Eliza directly. She is walking in a dark alley and her mind conjures up the idea that there might be a potential threat. The threat is undefined and doesn’t exist physically but psychologically speaking, Eliza’s mind has created a number of possible scenarios. Therefore, her mind then starts to react to these possible scenarios and so it triggers the hormones which make the adrenaline levels higher and the heart beat faster and so on.
In scenario 1, the threat is undefined and we can question whether there actually is a threat.
On the other hand, in scenario 2, we see there is a real threat – the tiger in the dark alley. The mind doesn’t need to conjure up any possible scenarios because, from the information, it is receiving, there is only one threat. The tiger is the threat and so the mind responds by triggering the hormones, a similar response as seen in scenario 1.
Scenario 1 is about anxiety. Scenario 2 is about fear.
The reason I have put these scenarios is for us to think about whether we have the anxiety of public speaking or the fear of public speaking? The strategies we undertake to remove fear and anxiety are slightly different and so it would be beneficial to understand, if you are averse to public speaking, whether you have a fear or anxiety of public speaking.
In scenarios 1 and 2, we saw fear as a defined threat and anxiety as an undefined “threat”. So when speaking in public, do we see a threat and hence we fear? Is the audience going to do something to us in which case we are fearful? Or are we creating the definition of a “threat” in our mind and so we have anxiety?
Most of us, when we speak in public, will be speaking to a generally receptive audience. Unless the audience is hostile and you are about to say something controversial, then there is no need to fear that the audience will antagonise you in any way.
Once we have defined whether we have the fear or anxiety of public speaking, we will look at measures one can take that can totally eradicate the fear and anxiety of public speaking.