February 19, 2009

Tough Love Thursday: Drop the drama

"I HATE public speaking."

"I SUCK at public speaking."

"&#@$* public speaking!"

These are some of the comments I read on the Web every day. Stated with such vehemence and anger!

Once again, I'd like to remind you: You are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can you ever learn to enjoy public speaking if you constantly say you hate it? How can you ever improve at public speaking if you constantly say you suck at it?

You're human. You feel nervous. We all do. And you're normal. Some are more afraid than others, but as I mentioned in this post and this post, very few people actually have public speaking phobia or social anxiety.

So get out of your own way. Get over the drama and make a plan. You can't avoid public speaking forever, so why not make an effort to figure out how not to hate it and how not to suck at it?

Your life will be so much easier when you stop resisting, accept the discomfort, challenge yourself, and get past the hurdles you have created for yourself.

What actions have you taken to change the way you think about public speaking?

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7 comments. Please add yours! :

Richard I. Garber said...

Very few people actually have public speaking phobia or social anxiety? Nope! As far as I know the most recent estimate for the lifetime prevalence of public speaking/performance phobia in the U.S. population is 10.7%. (For just public speaking fear the lifetime prevalence is about twice that, 21.2%). If you multiply the estimated U.S. population (305.5 million) by 10.7%, then you get 32.7 million people with public speaking phobia. That’s a lot, not very few! 10.7% is a few percent lower than the percentage of people over 65 or of black people, but I don’t think you would refer to there being very few people in either of those groups.

The numbers of 10.7% and 21.2% come from a paper on “Social Fears and Social Phobia in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication” that was published in 2008. You can find them in Table 1 of that paper by A.M. Ruscio (The 10.7% is in column 3, and the 21.2% is in column 1) which has its full text posted on PubMed.

You can read it here: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=17976249

I mentioned it previously in a post on my Joyful Public Speaking blog on November 2, 2008:

Richard Garber

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Richard, you can see in this blog post where I got my statistics from:
http://tinyurl.com/64kaey. Unfortunately, the page from OSU seems to be missing, but the stats came from their research.

Also, articles sited in this post refer to flexible definitions of "shyness," "phobia," and "anxiety."

Again: why focus on the negative. How does that help anyone improve? We could throw stats at each other all day. I just don't believe in dwelling on fear and anxiety. And as a person who has dealt with more than my share of panic and anxiety in my life, I speak from experience.

Richard I. Garber said...


The starting point for overcoming fear is reality. For those who, unlike you, have suffered from a fear or phobia of public speaking it demeans them to be told that they are a tiny minority of the “very few” when they actually are part of a huge group of over 64 million people.

You will find some of that huge group at meetings of Toastmasters International (and POWERtalk International) where they learn to get over their fear by practicing in a supportive environment.


Anonymous said...

Interesting conversation. When people can stand up and face their fears, they will find out thath they aren't as bad as they imagine. Whether there are 60 million or 6 billion who hold these fears is irrelevant to this blog. I feel what Lisa is saying is that people hold themselves back and people like you step up and hold them as helpless.
People are not helpless!

Richard I. Garber said...


I never said that people were helpless. What I did think was that Lisa made a thoughtless offhand remark that could mislead some into thinking they were a tiny helpless minority when they are not.

If you were to actually look at my blog you would find that the title is Joyful Public Speaking and the subtitle is From Fear to Joy.


Unknown said...


I am clear on what you're saying. But by saying that people are part of a larger group allows them to feel that there's no need to step out of their comfort zones. It seems as though you're attacking this blogger because you have a difference of opinion. I feel it would be more beneficial for you to show the value you have to other blog readers by presenting information that is not demeaning or criticizing of the blogger. The point that is being made in this blog is that people hold themselves back, nothing more nothing less. I get that that is what you are pushing to accomplish with your website as well. I wish you the best in your endeavors. If you have something constructive to share that would be more enjoyable than seeing the criticism portrayed here.

Nick Smith.
NTS motivations.com

Lisa Braithwaite said...

This is exactly the point I'm trying to make, Nick: "...that people hold themselves back, nothing more nothing less." Thank you for helping to clarify my message.

More posts focusing on this theme:

Beliefs that hold you back

Are you holding yourself back?

What's blocking your path? Part 1

What's blocking your path? Part 2

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