December 11, 2008

I wish someone had told me to suck it up



A client was telling me how she managed to make it all the way through school without ever having to give a presentation. She spoke once in sixth grade and another time to give a Spanish report. Other than that, she was able to avoid public speaking throughout her entire school career (she graduated from college just a couple of years ago).

A school counselor even said to her, "Wow, you really have some issues with public speaking." Ya think?

My client has spent the last fifteen years creating a paralyzing fear of public speaking in her mind.

Yesterday she said to me, "I wish someone had just said along the way 'Suck it up'."

Public speaking and communication skills are skills you are going to need and use every day for the rest of your life. I would argue that you will use these skills more often than most of what you learned in school, with the exception of reading and writing. So how irresponsible is it that students can get through school without even basic public speaking requirements?

A lot of classes require oral reports, but rarely teach how to give them properly. Students write a report, then stand up in front of class and read directly from the paper. No instruction on how to actually create or deliver a presentation is given.

Some schools focus on communication skills during their "life skills" program, but a lot of students never learn these skills, much less the nitty gritty of conflict resolution or negotiation or the kinds of things we need to do on a regular basis in the real world.

Lucky for my client, she is motivated. She knows she needs to get over her fears. She's willing to do what it takes so the fear doesn't control her and stunt her career growth, as it has threatened to do. Her desire and need to learn public speaking is finally outweighing her fear.

How many other people out there are saying, "I hate public speaking," but not taking the steps to fix the problem?

How many other people out there are turning down high-paying, highly desired jobs that require public speaking (as two of my clients have done)?

How many other people are letting this anxiety take over their life instead of doing what it takes to demystify it once and for all?

Maybe no one ever told you to "suck it up." So you didn't have to. And you have spent the last 20 years building up public speaking into a big, horrifying monster. You can change that. You just have to want to. It's never too late to start over.

8 comments. Please add yours! :

Ms. Lucy said...

In my son's high school speech classes are mandatory at every grade level. In his first year of high school he learned to quickly get over his fears of public speaking and literally had to 'suck it up'. He's graduating this year, and he's now amazing in front of an audience. He's even participated in drama events and is looking into pursuing a career that will involve public speaking. Just goes to show that when yo arenè't offered the choice, you just do what you have to do. In this case it worked wonderfully. Thanks,
Lucy

Lisa Braithwaite said...

That's so great to hear, Ms. Lucy. Somewhere out there, kids are learning to communicate!

Tracee said...

At lunch today a friend and I discussed our past histories of depression and anxiety.

What on earth were we so ainxty about?

Maybe we were getting an adrenaline rush from anxiety and fear and it became addictive?

Gotta channel that - get our adrenaline rush from something else like public speaking.

Let's join Toastmasters! Then we can feel all anxious and depressed and in the end we'll have something productive come out of it.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Great insight, Tracee. Your body feels the same adrenaline rush when it's scared and when it's excited. You decide what's bad adrenaline and what's good adrenaline! Not saying it's easy, but it can be done! Turn that anxiety into something productive -- great idea!

Joshua U said...

Unlike your client, I've been fortunate enough to have "sucked it up" 7 or so months ago at age 23. The everyday confidence boost is amazing.

It's scary but such an important life skill. It's a LIFE skill, not something just for public speakers.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Exactly, Joshua. This is a skill everyone needs and uses regularly. Congratulations on taking the leap!

David Portney said...

When we're young, what our peers think matters greatly. There's the understatement of the week, eh? It's easy to look back and wish someone would have said "suck it up" but back then our forming personalities would not have really done well with that. I had to "suck it up" in grade school and I was amazed to discover, inadvertently, that our kneecaps do not articulate with any other bones - my kneecaps developed a brand new dance. But for sure people let career and business opportunities pass them by due to fear of public speaking - now that I somewhat ironically teach public speaking trainings despite early childhood public speaking trauma, many of my students have reported exactly that - raises & promotions going to others.

You're right, Lisa, it's never too late because even though we can't change the actual events from the past, we can most assuredly change our relationship in the present with those past events and empower ourselves in the present and future. Public speaking is not only not really all that hard (or scary) I warn my students that they will have a new problem - addiction to public speaking! - they laugh, but that's exactly what happens!

Keep up the good work!
David

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comments, David. Of course, no one wants to be told to "suck it up," and there are more gentle ways to approach getting over our fears!

You're so right about falling in love with public speaking. I find that once my clients reduce their anxiety and reframe it as a positive thing, they can't be stopped!

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