In this day and age, it seems like almost everyone is afraid of speaking in public. Whether this means a presentation, speech, or just asking a question in a relatively large group, many people dread stepping outside of their comfort zone and putting themselves in a position where they can potentially feel exposed.
There are dozens of tips and videos that claim to help you become a better, more confident public speaker, but do they really help, or are you just born with or without the anxiety of public speaking? One theory, according to QuantifiedCommunications.com, and Noah Zandan, is that we, as a human species have learned to fear speaking out in public. Some of the main reasons that can attribute to this fear come from our ancestors who lived during the ice age and dinosaur era. For instance, Zandan claims that, back in prehistoric times, if say, a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex were to come invade a group of our ancestors, we, as humans would be more comfortable, and feel as if we could take on the predator if we were able to stick together in a group. Therefore, the general theory is that, by speaking out in public, we are alienating ourselves and essentially making ourselves more vulnerable and susceptible to things such as abandonment and dissapproval.
Another theory, according to Zandan, from his blog on QuantifiedCommunications.com, tells us that, when we put ourselves in an instance where we are speaking in front of large audiences, or really anything that involves stepping outside of our comfort zones and speaking in public, that we become increasingly sensitive to certain emotions. One emotion that Zandan claims we are particularly responsive to is anger. One example backing up this theory is a study psychologist Matthias Wiesner did in 2009, where he gathered a group of participants, showed the participants certain images, and then recorded what type of response the images elicited from the participants. To conduct his study, Wiesner divided his participants into two groups; the first group was told they would have to give a speech, and then they were shown the images, and the second group was simply shown the images, with no mention of any type of public speaking. The response Wiesner found, was that, after being told they would have to give a speech, the first group became increasingly nervous when shown the images that contained anger in them, whereas the second group simply viewed the angry images as no different than the ones that were happy or sad. This study has helped to develop the theory that when we speak in public we are more apt to notice and become sensitive to individuals who are angry, simply because we are feeling very judged and as if we are not good enough.
But fear not, my fellow students, because these theories are only that, theories. Aside from that, they are only two of hundreds of theories out there which claim to have the answer as to why we feel nervous and anxious when faced with public speaking. Overall though, I wouldn’t worry too much about public speaking, after all, it’s not as if your speech will end the world if you don’t present it correctly.
Sources: Zandan, N. (2016). Why Do We Fear Public Speaking? Retrieved September 14, 2016, from http://www.quantifiedcommunications.com/blog/why-do-we-fear-public-speaking/
Picture: H. (2016). 27 Useful Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking | Brian Tracy. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://www.briantracy.com/blog/public-speaking/27-useful-tips-to-overcome-your-fear-of-public-speaking/