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Why are people afraid of public speaking?

  • 09-10-2020 7:36pm
    Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,483 ✭✭✭

    Don't know if this is the right forum to post this but here goes. So one of the biggest fears humans in all cultures have is the fear of death and public speaking.

    But why? I would admit that I have this as well and have used benzos to calm me.

    It's not like you're giving a speech in front of a gun or something, it's just a bunch of people. Why do people fear it so much?

    Am I right in saying people who don't mind being the centre of attention love public speaking?


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 9,617 Mod ✭✭✭✭Manach

    This is a cross-cultural and historical fear that goes back ages. For instance during the Classical period, Romans and Greeks had various methods as well as schools that were tailored to overcoming this. Given that to become an effective citizen was to speak in public so as to influence public debates, this type of rhetoric training was much sought after.

  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,355 ✭✭✭bo0li5eumx12kp

    I used to be fine at this as a kid, but about 14 my nerves used to start acting up terribly whilst reading in class etc.

    It's weird cause, before that I was even part of the public speaking group and did speech and drama recitals as a kid.

    Then just, BAM!!
    Nerves got me - probably self awareness started to kick in or something.


    From what I've seen, with adequate preparation and on a topic of familiarity, I've seen most people handle this easily.

    It's an interesting topic though - definitely related to nerves.

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,785 ✭✭✭✭silverharp

    Its a area that is trainable , one mechanism is to reduce your overall fear of embarrassment. I came across this thought experiment a while back and I think its useful. The idea is how would you feel if you had to carry around a large priceless painting for a day in a city ? you would have to be careful yada yada so your anxiety would be high. The counter filter is being asked to carry around a potato, your anxiety would be low. So the mental frame is to see yourself as not being important now and then or when you need to, erm be the potato!

    A belief in gender identity involves a level of faith as there is nothing tangible to prove its existence which, as something divorced from the physical body, is similar to the idea of a soul. - Colette Colfer

  • Registered Users Posts: 249 ✭✭SixtaWalthers

    They could be cultural differences, but I am feeling almost all societies of the world are losing their patience to listen to the public perspectives. Even every new generation is getting more impatient.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,344 ✭✭✭Thoie

    Pure speculation, as I've never given it any thought before reading your question, but I wonder if the experience of having many pairs of eyes staring at you, with no-one except you making a sound, gives the sensation of being prey?

    The limbic system (?) kicks in with the prey sensation, raising your heartbeat, making you sweat, forget what you were saying, etc. So the next time you have to speak in public, you have the memory of being stressed and sweaty as well as the overall fear, so it's self-perpetuating.

    Many people who'd feel nervous at standing up and speaking in front of 10 people in a meeting, would have no difficulty speaking to those same 10 people if everyone was sitting around having dinner and drinks. The difference is that you're more exposed (standing up) at the meeting, and all the focus is on you. At dinner, people are looking from you to their plate and at other things while you're speaking - they're not just sitting there silently staring at you.

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  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,355 ✭✭✭bo0li5eumx12kp

    A far gone form of this is also stuttering/stammering disorders.

    These have been treated with drugs which influence neural signalling, which kind of confirms it's indeed a neural/nervous-system issue.

    As to the previous poster, would one confine that response exclusively to the limbic system?

    Brain regions seems to interact synergistically in many respects, additionally to cascade or transduce physiological responses outside the CNS - gut-brain axis, diarrhea and GI issues relative "nervousness" etc.

    So I think the real relation between public speaking fear is, nervous system response - and determining and understanding that, it's actual electrical activity etc, i.e. what influences/determines that.


    It's bizarre I always see such a direct correlation between
    - ElectroMagnetism and
    - Excitaory Motion (E-motion).

    I think as far as neurons/nerves go, they're essentially one and the same.
    Emotion (feeling) dictates CNS electrical activity.

    So what dictates/influences emotion is I believe, kind of key to all of these questions.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8 Gorgonzaga

    When we talk to someone one on one or even in a small group, we can read faces, body language and gauge their reactions, how their perceiving us and so on. In a large crowd, that's not really possible. That's why in speech classes they tell you to find a positive and responsive member of the audience to go back to when you feel uneasy.