At the Podium with Ease

Coming to Grips with Glossophobia

Glossophobia - commonly known as stage fright or the fear of public speaking - can hamper a person's efforts to get ahead and be successful. Do you have glossophobia? If so, what can you do to overcome this nagging social anxiety?

As you walk to the front of the room, your heart begins to pound heavily in your chest. The walls and ceiling seem to be closing in around you. Where there was air only moments before, you can hardly breathe as your pulse quickens and a river of sweat flows down the small of your back. Could you be having a heart attack? If you’re not at the dentist office or watching Silence of the Lambs, chances are it has nothing to do with your de facto cardio muscle. In fact, you are most likely suffering from one of the world’s most common fears…the big, the bad, the bold, glossophobia. Otherwise known as the fear of public speaking, glossophobia (glosso means tongue and phobia means fear in Greek) is believed to be the single most common phobia, affecting as much as 75 percent of all people - including entrepreneurs.

What is glossophobia?

Although it might sound like a hip new dance move, glossophobia is far from fun. This widespread issue is actually considered a social anxiety disorder (SAD). According to the Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association, a social anxiety is an experience of fear, apprehension or worry regarding social situations and being evaluated by others. Everyone varies in how they experience anxiety in this way. Situations that trigger a response also vary from person to person. Anxieties about public speaking or presenting in front of a group are very common SADs.

So, do you have glossophobia?

Let’s find out. A person living with glossophobia will have extreme anxiety immediately before, days ahead or even just thinking about having to verbally communicate in front of a group of people. It’s called stage fright, even though some individuals are able to dance or perform in public without any onset of an attack. Speaking is what seems to get the best of them. So if you find yourself hyperventilating and overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of standing at a podium, you could very well have glossophobia. Other symptoms include avoiding events where the attention might shift directly to you or an onset of panic or nausea in such circumstances. You might even find yourself stuttering or completely unable to speak. And no, sign language and mime are not viable alternatives. It’s important to determine whether or not you have this phobia, get to the heart of the matter and implement solutions to overcome your fear once and for all. To work towards a solution, you need to find out why you have stage fright. Read on.

What causes glossophobia?

Because people have various reasons why they dread speaking in public, there are many possible causes of glossophobia. It can be as simple as the fear of presenting poorly to something more complex like a single traumatic event. For instance, maybe you spoke in front of a classroom of kids as a child and they laughed at the way you were dressed. Or maybe you had a presentation not go as well as expected. These circumstances may have created an ongoing apprehension about public speaking – causing you to avoid the podium or stage at all costs. Over time this can lead to a severe case of glossophobia. On the flip side, glossophobia may also have no specific cause, as some people fear anything unpleasant – which includes speaking in front of an audience.

How do you overcome glossophobia?

Fear is a normal, natural and important part of human nature, working as a built-in defense mechanism. It is the emotion that alerts us to dangerous and precarious situations, and helps us to protect ourselves. For that reason, you should never feel ashamed or less of a man or woman for having occasional bouts of fear. You can actually make fear work for you. When fear sets in, so does adrenalin. Adrenalin can be used as energy to overcome glossophobia. It is definitely mind over matter and here’s how it works. First, admit that you have a problem. Don’t make excuses or apologize for your nervousness or fear. Next, tap the energy that comes from your fear of public speaking. Always be aware of your breathing. Never allow it to become too rapid or too shallow. You’ll want to adopt a positive outlook and always exude confidence. Remember that you have something very worthwhile to say and that your audience is interested. They are not there to judge or condemn you. And finally, establish some type of warm-up routine before a speaking engagement. You might try a few simple exercise movements such as shoulder shrugs and curls. Or opt for meditation. There are some great books out there on the topic.

When should you call in the pros?

Having a fixated and obsessed fear of speaking can significantly and adversely affect a person’s life. That’s why you should seek treatment if you believe that you have a severe case of glossophobia, one that you can’t overcome on your own. Professional treatments for glossophobia include hypnotherapy, prescribed

Whether you are able to conquer it on your own or with the help of a specialist, once under control you can put glossophobia in perspective and eventually out of your life for good. Just imagine how great it will feel to stand at the podium with ease! Good luck!