Causes of the fear of public speaking
The fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia. This is one of the most common fears reported by people, with about one-fourth of all people reporting this phobia in their lives.
Now the big question is, when public speaking is really important and great, why are so many people afraid of it?
Being able to communicate your ideas to others and in public forums is a necessary part of leading a successful life for many people. You use these skills in both professional and personal situations and being able to speak well in front of others can improve your work performance, help you grow your own business, or improve your relationships and connections with other people across all facets of your life.
When you are afraid all the time about speaking in front of groups, it can limit your life and possibilities for success.
So, why are we so afraid of talking in front of others?
There are several reasons why this is such a common fear, and while there are many theories that try to explain this phobia, at least four contributing factors have been identified.
Your thoughts and beliefs
How you think and what you believe about public speaking have a great deal of influence over your fears. The first belief that often gets in the way is that you may be overestimating the stakes when it comes to your ability to communicate your ideas to others.
In very few cases, does your job, life, or personal happiness depend solely on the success of one public speech? And no, your credibility or image will not be irreparably damaged if you make a mistake during your speech. That is just not realistic.
When you believe negative thoughts about your public speaking abilities, it influences your ability to communicate effectively. Focusing on what you are communicating and its importance to the audience, instead of focusing on your communication skills and whether people will be judging you, can help you to overcome fears and move past your nervousness.
Thinking of a public speech as the same as a conversation with good friends is another way to overcome these negative thoughts about public speaking. You can view any discussion with other people as “public speaking,” so treating a presentation as something more can increase your worries. Focus on being heard and understood, and the rest will take care of itself.
When you are confronted with a potential threat, your body reacts automatically, releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that allow you to respond to this threat. This physiological response is immensely helpful when running away from a wild animal that is chasing you but less so when the threat is an audience to whom you are about to speak.
The stress response prevents you from thinking clearly, inflates your emotional response, and leaves you grappling with all sorts of symptoms and feelings that will not help you deliver a better speech. Learning to stop this physiological response to stress and fear will help you to keep your body calm and avoid this fear cycle.
One thing that can definitely contribute to a fear of speaking in public is a lack of skills in this area. When you have more practice and experience in something, you have more confidence.
So, if you are trying something for the first time or are still developing your skills, you are more likely to be nervous or afraid. Taking a class, working with a coach, or practicing your public speaking skills is the easiest and most efficient way to feel more competent and to alleviate some of your fears.
Even the most seasoned public speaker can get nervous when the situation is particularly important. There are certainly lots of situations that can make it more likely that you will be afraid of speaking in front of other people, including having little experience speaking in front of others, whether you are being evaluated on your speech, if that evaluation has stakes.
Speaking to people with more status or power than you, sharing new ideas that may be unusual or controversial, or talking to an audience that is a new demographic for you are also situations that can cause more angst.