In an old comedy bit, Jerry Seinfeld refers to a study that showed that people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. He then jokes that at a funeral, the person giving the eulogy has a tougher job than the center of attention. Some people truly feel that way. My wife is a former high school English teacher, and her experience shows that the fear of speaking publically starts young. On more than one occasion, a student was willing to take an F on an assignment rather than stand in front of the class. In business settings, such as networking events, I have seen the struggles of those who felt forced into public speaking because the jobs requires it.
We place this issue under the Performance category since public speaking requires a certain degree of public performance, even if it is within a small group. Some people may not feel that they have a real fear of public speaking; they do not have sweaty palms or panic attacks. In fact, they may even enjoy it, but many people do feel that they need to improve the execution of their speaking.
For others, it really is a situation in which they may welcome death or some other tragedy rather than deal with the overwhelming anxiety and all of its physical and emotional ramifications of public speaking. For these sufferers, this article could appropriately be included under Phobias and Fears. I will address issues with public speaking here, recognizing that there are some links between basic execution of speaking publically and the outright fear of getting up in front of a group of people.
Fear of public speaking is not something we are born with. It is a learned behavior, frozen within our Middle Minds. Often, it comes from personal traumatic experiences as children. Maybe it started when the teacher called on us to answer a question in class or to read orally in class, and our classmates laughed at our mistakes – oh, the natural cruelty found often in groups of children! It is possible the teacher offered no help or even reinforced the criticism. One of our natural desires is for approval, and such public embarrassment following a performance creates great awkwardness and guilt. Such emotions are building blocks for our undesirable future behavior. Some children unconsciously (maybe in tandem with conscious intent) never speak publically again. Most of us will continue to speak just fine to individuals or in small groups, but given a larger group or a more formal setting, we simply freeze.
Even without such frightful direct experiences, difficulties with public speaking can still set up shop in our Middle Minds. Observing fear of public speaking in our parents or siblings – important examples in a child’s life – may demonstrate a behavior that will be subconsciously adopted. Early on in my life, I developed a pleasure in public speaking, mostly in association with leadership positions in school and on the ball fields. My children were able to observe their dad enjoying the preparation and delivery of speeches, so that they too enjoy public engagements, one now working as a lawyer and the other as a teacher.
An even more subtle negative influence on our development as public speakers comes from the role everyone experiences as a listener to other’s speeches. We evaluate and criticize. We compare notes. “Susie spoke poorly.” “Josh must be embarrassed.” We see the problems of poor speaking at work or with boring teachers we sat under. One way to avoid being those teachers, colleagues, Susies, or Joshes is to simply avoid being in their positions. This idea, tied to our negative emotions, becomes locked in our Middle Minds and our behaviors.
These fears become automatic thoughts, controlling thoughts. People cannot successfully will their way out of such thoughts. Even if they do manage to force their thoughts to change, their efforts may be poor, reinforcing prior problems.
For those who are not phobic about public speaking or who do not reach a level of anxiety typical of a phobia, but who still fail perform well, continued poor performances will negatively impact any future attempt at public speaking.
Hypnotherapy provides effective and speedy results. As with all hypnotherapy, the therapist will need to briefly discuss the client’s history and characterization of the problem. With the end goal of successful speaking always in view, the hypnotherapist and the client will examine more closely those pertinent areas that will need to be addressed. Depending upon the discoverability of causes or the severity of the speaking fear, further evaluation of past issues under hypnosis may be beneficial. The control of prior fears or issues may be an element of the hypnosis segment if those base instincts must be dislodged for progress. Otherwise, the hypnosis aspect of the therapy will be future-focused. However, such work is in no way unusual, difficult, or extensive. Relief from the fear is a beautiful thing!
Every client has different needs, but every plan that a client and therapist coordinate will certainly contain some basic elements. First, the plan will include methods to generate relaxation when preparing and delivering public talks. A Middle Mind predisposition toward relaxation and techniques to create that relaxation will be objectives of the therapy.
Working hand in hand with the development of relaxation is the development of confidence. Confidence and vigor are by-products of any successful hypnotherapy, but they are a real focus for public speakers. Confidence is attractive and pleasing. It eliminates self-doubt and negative self-talk and oversees all preparation and delivery.
While important to public speaking, confidence and relaxation can work successfully only with solid preparation. If there are any hindrances to quality preparation, such as procrastination or poor focus, the therapist and the client must address those during hypnotherapy. A speaker who thoroughly understands his subject and who uses an organized approach will certainly create successful presentations.
It is one thing to give a speech. It is another thing to have something to say. Passion about the topic ties together the effective work of preparation with the need to please, impact, and persuade an audience. Hypnotherapy will help to knock down the mental barriers that sabotage the energy and passion that should naturally accompany any topic.
Persistence and practice are two important elements that any competent speaker needs.
Not every sermon preachers will preach create fire and motivate congregations, but they keep on preaching. Every speech is an opportunity to learn, improve, and perfect. Developing the habit of persistence will be a tenet of hypnotherapy for those seeking public speaking help. I have seen raw, fearful speakers in time turn into confident, engaging ones. Many with public speaking issues experience stunted skill development while avoiding the underlying issues. Recognition that catching up takes a little effort will be part of the hypnotherapy.
Soon negative thinking patterns will be a thing of the past. A group of cruel children will now be an audience of encouragement that needs to hear from you. Confidence, gained through hypnotherapy, will accompany you to the podium!