Why Do People Fear Speaking?

by Dr. Dennis Becker

“This question presupposes what to most of society is a given. Speaking to groups is a scary proposition. In fact, it is one of the most prominent fears of all humans. Each survey that is taken places it in the top three, almost every single time. It would be interesting for you to ask a few friends if they feel nervous or fearful about speaking before groups. I’m sure you’ll get mixed replies, of course. One thing you’ll notice, even from those who express little or no fear, is a caution. You will hear statements like ‘It depends on who’s in the group,’ and ‘Well, only some groups.’

It’s not uncommon to hear of career opportunities that have been passed by because they require ‘public speaking.’ It’s not only anxiety about groups. It is also common to find that the anxiety extends to certain types of individuals such as those in positions of authority, or people who are more senior, or, perhaps, people who have different cultures, etc. The fear can be triggered by many things.

So, how do we help people to control that fear? I am not using the term ‘overcome’ to describe the outcome. The very word ‘overcome’ can be too compelling. It can put too much pressure on sufferers to eliminate the fear. So, we strive to gain control over it. This is not a capitulation. It is a recognition that each person will go as far as is needed to regain control over the experience of speaking to groups.

As Speech Coaches for The Speech Improvement Company, we bring 45 years of experience to this effort. We recognize that there are two popular methods for ‘treating’ fear of speaking. They are Visualization and Cognitive Restructuring. Over the years, we have utilized each of these. However, by far we have found most positive results with the Skills approach. That is, we help clients identify and understand exactly what it is that triggers the fear. Then we introduce specific skills to fill any void in the ability to combat that trigger. This process eventually leads to the elimination of the fear inducing triggers. It has been very successful.”

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