It may be tempting to borrow from an advertising slogan and say “just do it” but this would be too simple. Not only that, telling someone who is afraid of speaking in public to just get up there and start talking usually doesn’t work. There is much more to this thing called glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.
This interesting word comes from two Greek words – “glossa” and “phobos,” which mean “tongue” and “fear.” Someone who has the fear of speaking in public or talking with people they don’t know in a social setting will usually avoid public gatherings and may even stay away from gatherings where they may have to speak to a group of people in a social setting.
How Do I Know?
People who have a real fear of public speaking might feel physically ill when confronted with the idea. They may experience an increase in heart rate and may begin to perspire more than normal. Some people with true glossophobia also feel their muscles tightening and feel “stiff” all over. Dry mouth is often a good indication that the person is suffering from glossophobia.
But there are some steps you can take to get rid of the fear of public speaking. Some companies and individuals even sell “courses” that propose to take you through several steps or levels on the way to curing glossophobia. These may work well for some people but might be a waste of time and money for others. Keep in mind that some of the methods for preventing panic attacks may work for this malady as well.
Some instances of glossophobia may be headed off during childhood if parents show their children they can be comfortable in public settings. Self-confidence and relaxation in these situations will go a long way toward preventing fear of public speaking later. For adults who already suffer from this fear, it may be necessary to seek verbal therapy or even hypnosis as part of a therapy program. Hypnotherapy can work for some but results often depend heavily on how much experience the therapist has. There are prescription medicines that may help with this fear, many of which are used to deal with excess anxiety and panic.
Perhaps the best method for getting at the root cause of glossophobia is the self-help program. The basis of this plan is a change in mental status – the way you view yourself overall and in public. Combine basic training in social skills with gradual introduction to public events and you may have some success. Start by attending speaking events as a member of the audience. Watch the speaker closely and consider that you can do this as well.
Gradually expose yourself to small social groups while accompanied by a good friend. Try speaking to someone you don’t know but do it one or two sentences at a time. You can gradually work up to speaking alone but don’t rush it. Ask a close friend or family member to help you. This individual can act as an audience of one while you practice speaking for just 30 seconds or a minute as if you were in a public place. A combination of social-skills training, practicing in private and changing your view of being in public should work wonders for you.