Public Speaking phobia? Most people have experienced it to
lesser or greater degree but it’s difficult to imagine that it might be
considered a phobia. Afterall, we live in a fast paced, career centred world
driven by ambitious, successful and confident individuals.
The statistics speak for themselves. It is
said that up to 75% of people could be suffering from this phobia or “GLASSOPHOBIA”,
a word taken from the Greek words ‘glassa’ meaning tongue or language and
‘phobos’ the personification of fear.
Surely simply standing up in front of our fellow human
beings shouldn’t be ranked high up with phobias like, Fear of Death (Necrophobia), Fear of spiders (Arachnophobia) and
Fear of Heights (Acrophobia). Studies indicate that more
people would opt to parachute out of a moving aeroplane at about 760 m above
ground than to speak in public.
It seems “Glassophobia” is indeed a hidden monster! A ‘monster’ that doesn’t confine itself to
those public presentations. It is as likely to affect anyone needing to
communicate effectively in stressful situations, under pressure, both in the
professional and social arenas.
The receptionist might encounter an unpleasant, difficult
customer, the sales consultant might face the same monster battling to close a
sale or the manager might as easily face this monster as he or she battles to
communicate with a variety of stake holders, vital to the business’ success.
Understanding the ingredients to effective communication in
stressful professional or social situations is integral.
‘A first impression is a lasting impression!’ This cliché might not be
true and as we get to know the person we often change our minds. Unfortunately, in business we have less than
30 seconds to make a first impression. Judgment is based on various verbal and
non-verbal forms of communication. Non-verbal communication includes: Our
posture, the way we walk, how we hold our head, facial expression, eye contact,
what we are wearing, the car we drive etc. Verbal communication includes: The
tone, volume, pace and pitch of our speech, and the content of what we have to
say. Often a first impression is formed before a person opens his mouth to
speak. Remember, it is not WHAT we say, but HOW we
say it! The actual words we say, what we
say account for 7 %, the tone of our voice or how we say it for 38 %, and our
body language for 55 % of the communication process.
We must face the monster, ‘Glassophobia’ before we can beat
it. Past negative experiences are the most likely the culprits. Many of us are
filled with self-doubt no matter how successful we become. We may fear being judged, ridiculed and
When this monster attacks we feel threatened. Our brain
releases adrenaline and steroids to protect us. This is most commonly referred
to as the ‘flight or fight’ moment. Our blood pressure and heart rate rise causing
the blood flow to our muscles. Considering
the interconnectivity between our mind, body and voice, every part of our body
experiences symptoms of “Glassophobia.”
These might include, a fast heartbeat, nausea, shortness of breath,
hyperventilating, tense muscles, a tight jaw, a thick tongue, uncontrolled trembling,
sweating, a higher vocal pitch or a faster pace speech. Our vocal volume might
become too loud or too soft depending on the individual.
When we meet the monster, “Glassophobia” we either fight the
monster or flee from the situation. This might occur in any stressful
situation. We might need to present to a
large or small audience of people, one difficult customer, colleagues in the
meeting room at work or in an emotional social situation.
While ‘Glassophobia’ might not be termed a disease, it does affect a large percentage of our world’s
population. If left unchecked, anxiety disorders like this can get worse and
affect our ability to function in ordinary life.
Yes, we can BEAT ‘Glassophobia’! Discover the root of your
phobia. Remove those negative patterns. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes,
and this is our right. Know your
strengths and develop them. Become your chosen subject field’s ‘subject matter
expert’. This will help you move closer to achieving your goal. Stop believing
your audience will always be critical. Begin by liking and not fearing your
audience. Energy is a powerful. The energy we feel for an audience, whether it
be fear or love, will without doubt be transferred to them. Be interested in your subject, prepare well
and be very sure that you are passionate about your subject. Understand your
audience and listen to their needs. It doesn’t matter whether you are speaking
to a crowd of people or just one angry customer.
There are stress management techniques. While your mind is
stressed, it is almost impossible to focus on the job at hand. Medications might be available and help in the
short term, but they will never be a long-term solution to this phobia.
breathing techniques for communication will help you to relax your body and
mind while developing your vocal technique, helping your voice become stronger,
more resonant and the tone more assertive.
For more information contact Communicate! to find out our
various Communication Skills courses including: Public Speaking, Customer
Excellence, Tele-Personality courses, Call Centre Training, Assertive
Techniques, Conflict Management and Women’s Empowerment.
Visit our website: www.communicating.co.za
GUEST AUTHOR BIO
Rosanne Hurly Coyne has been in the communication business for nearly 30 years, following a passion to communicate as a trainer, teacher, adjudicator of public speaking events, writer and performer. After graduating in 1989 (L.T.C.L.-Trinity College, London, T.L.S.D.-UNISA, TV Arts) she performed in various Theatre-in-Education and Drama-in-Education programmes. Teaching and directing others is her special calling. She has taught students of all ages and believes firmly that it is never too late to develop the confidence to become a powerful communicator.