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      This article describes how fear of public speaking can affect mental health and performance in business and provides tips for combating this fear. Having the opportunity to speak in front of an audience, whether it's three or three hundred people, to greet new people, or to present to new clients can fill us with dread. Research from the United States shows that fear of public speaking (or "glossophobia") is one of the biggest fears people face, surpassing even fear of heights, fear of spiders, and fear of death itself.

      glossophobia - fear of speaking in public

      Fear of speaking in public

      Simply being in the spotlight exposes us to the possibility of being evaluated, criticized, or even rejected. Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, has shown that the distress of rejection activates the same part of the brain, called the anterior cingulate cortex, that responds to physical pain. Another study led by Edward E. Smith, director of cognitive neuroscience at Columbia University, demonstrated that the feeling of rejection is one of the most painful emotions and can be sustained longer than fear. Therefore, we can say that fear and anxiety before socializing or public speaking can be caused not only by the fear of public speaking itself, but also by the perceived reactions of others towards us. We may fear our own ability to express ourselves, fearing we will embarrass ourselves. Accepting our fear helps us take steps to address it. The fear we feel is generally proportional to the desire to do well and be well seen. This anxiety can generate complex psychophysiological reactions that we can perceive as putting our lives in danger:

      • Heartbeats
      • dry mouth
      • trembling hands
      • trembling voice
      • cold, sweaty palms
      • stomach cramps.

      Fear is not only a normal reaction to public speaking, it can also boost our performance.

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      glossophobia-Transforming fear

      Transform fear

      Most people who are afraid of giving a presentation or speaking in public apply the same or similar solution, namely trying to keep control over their fear, which ironically causes them to lose control, somewhat. as if they were having panic attacks. Faced with the feared situation, our strategy of imagining the worst can allow people to overcome their problem and mobilize their resources. Attempting to maintain control of the situation by avoiding public speaking and trying to avoid thinking about what might happen increases our fear. But trying not to think about something is also the best way to think about it even more.

      In such cases, we must therefore impose on ourselves a daily space and time, precisely planned, with a beginning and an end, in which we voluntarily concentrate all our worst fantasies. This will gradually help us contain and overcome our fears and anxiety when we are asked to speak or perform in public. Another important strategy on presentation day is to give yourself the opportunity to choose between two options. The first is to declare your weakness and make your fear public, while the second, which now seems less frightening and easier to implement, is to continue speaking in public. This mental trick can allow our minds, when faced with two options, one less frightening than the other, to choose the less frightening one and continue talking.

      In the rare cases where we declare our secret, the same result is obtained. People report that soon after their secret "confession", all their tension dissipates and they express themselves remarkably well and in a relaxed manner. Unfortunately, the habitual attempt to control one's tension leads to a loss of control. When human beings let go of control and declare their weaknesses, they become stronger. This strategy allows our weakness to become a strength. Refusing to accept our own limitations makes our weakness unmanageable, leading to negative results. A person who declares their fragility to others appears strong because they demonstrate their courageous side.

      The worst of fantasies

      There is a Latin expression that is also used in medicine: "similia similibus curantur", which means "like is cured by like." This adage also applies to issues related to fear. Fear itself can be overcome by and through fear. One technique we use in my clinic to combat fear is something called "worst fantasy," which involves asking the patient to literally conjure up their ghosts and touch them to make them disappear. This simple but very effective paradoxical procedure immediately blocks the patient's usual solution of trying to prevent the fear from occurring. Furthermore, this procedure transforms something uncontrollable into a prescribed, self-induced and therefore controlled form of behavior.

      The ritual reiteration of this process, at a specific time and space of the day, gradually brings the unwanted sensation to saturation and self-satisfaction. It involves taking an alarm clock and setting it for 30 minutes, after which you imagine your speech or conversation with other people, bringing up all your fears, worries, thoughts and images, and allowing them , or even forcing them, to come forward during the half hour that passes. After this period, you stop and return to everyday life. The effect can be very spectacular.

      Find tips to combat fear and anxiety

      Find tips to combat fear and anxiety

      Deep breathing

      Emotions as strong as anxiety and fear trigger a very specific "fight, freeze, or flight" response in your body: Your muscles contract, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure increases, and your breathing increases. becomes superficial. While this physical reaction can be useful for escaping danger, it is hardly useful during the presentation (because you can neither run away from your audience nor fight with them). However, because your breathing rate is directly linked to your emotional response, the quickest and easiest way to gain control of your emotions and regain your confidence is to breathe deeply. Whether you're speaking to potential clients or presenting to your team, remember to breathe deeply and regularly before and during your speech.

      Focus on the outside

       Paul L. Witt, assistant professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University, believes that many people perform worse than they could because they focus too much on their physical symptoms (butterflies, trembling hands , sweaty palms) and on their embarrassment, instead of focusing on their breathing and speech. This problem could be avoided by focusing on the message you want to convey to your audience rather than how you feel or look.

      Visualization

      Visualization, or “mental rehearsal,” is commonly used by many elite athletes as part of their training for competition. Besides athletics, research has shown that visualization helps improve performance in areas such as communication, public speaking, and education. To ensure that your presentation goes smoothly, apart from preparing and rehearsing your speech, take 10 to 15 minutes a day to relax, close your eyes and visualize the room in which you are speaking, the people present in the auditorium and you delivering your speech confidently, smiling and moving around the stage.

      Focus on facts, not fears

      Instead of focusing on your fears (for example, if your mind is blank or the audience is bored), focus your thoughts on positive facts such as: "I have rehearsed my speech many times," “I am an expert on this topic” and “I have notes with important points to structure my speech.” By focusing on the positive facts and what you can offer, you move away from irrational scenarios about what could go wrong.

      References

      •  Gibson, P. (2022) The principle of persuasion. Communication Strategies, to Persuade, Influence and Change. Strategic Science Books.
      •  Jackson, D., Watzlawick, P, Bavelas, J. (1967). The pragmatics of human communication. Norton Books. NY.

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      A team of more than
      50 trainers in France
      and abroad

      of our students satisfied with
      their training year at LACT *

      International partnerships

      The quality certification was issued under
      the following category of actions: Training action

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