Standing up in front of an audience to deliver a speech, be it at a family function, as part of a work presentation or school class project, is something we all have experience of. The shared experience of nerves beforehand, the doubting thoughts racing through our minds, the sweating, the muscle tension. And in the twenty-first century, there is almost no way to navigate day-to-day life without having the responsibility to stand up publicly and talk come around at least a few times. Therein lies the issue.
Communicating ideas clearly and presenting them in a public forum is an essential aspect of success across several areas of life. Being a good public speaker can help to advance a career, grow a business, and form strong collaborations. It can help promote ideas and move people to action on issues that affect them directly, and even society at large. But in order to do any of these things well, it will require a fair amount of standing in front of an audience and talking. But what happens when fear stands between you and the audience?
Fear of public speaking can prevent you from taking risks to share your ideas, to speak about your work or your passions, and to present your solutions to problems that affect many people. As a result, it can affect how much you grow personally and professionally, and limit how much impact you can have. Twin this with any negative public speaking experiences which may happen when you try to put yourself out there, it will only make it less likely that you will speak in public in the future. Fear will make things worse and will control and inhibit your potential.
At this point, it is important to recognise that a phobia of public speaking is frequently but incorrectly cited as people’s biggest fear. It is experienced to varying levels at different times in life by many people - fear of public speaking is very common, with approximately 25% of people report experiencing it. But to claim that you are glossophobic in a casual throwaway comment is undermining the significance of it to those who suffer from such fear.
From a professional standpoint, the vast majority of careers involve some level of public speaking, from participating in meetings to giving presentations to clients. For someone whose phobia is severe, they may find themselves unable to perform, or they may never be asked to deliver such a speech. That is when we recognise that career progression can be an issue. Of course, that is on the basis that the interview went well, despite that being an anxiety-inducing experience as well.
Then there is the personal perspective, which sadly can also be greatly impacted by the likelihood of speaking in front of people. Putting ourselves out there to meet friends or potential partners always comes back to talking to people. And since one of the most common coping strategies has been to avoid the thing which causes us distress and anxiety, sufferers often become more insular. Understandably, people who have social phobias such as glossophobia have a higher than normal risk of developing conditions such as depression or other anxiety disorders. This is likely due to the feelings of isolation that can develop over time.
There can be no doubt that those who suffer from glossophobia are experiencing a challenge to life that many of us don’t truly appreciate. The choices available, the pathways for personal and professional progression, the connection to groups of friends and family, all potentially limited. Recognising this, and then talking about it openly is crucial. Then ensuring that those with the phobia are supported to access help in the best possible way for them, so that they aren’t crippled by what some of us simply brush off as stage fright, that is what we should be doing.
The team at oVRcome are working on a programme to support those with glossophobia, including a free test; both coming soon. In the meantime, why not read more about the subject to learn about how it affects us. Liam Tracey's article, Are you Glossophobic? takes a look at some of the key indicators which someone who has the phobia may demonstrate.