Is the fear of public speaking passed down the generations? From father to son, mother to daughter and promoted by society?
In high school Billy “acts up” when he is with the gang. But when he tries to make an announcement about basketball during assembly (with important people listening), his knees begin tapping like old dry bones, and his tongue is. so thick he can hardly blurt out a few stumbling words.
Then this boy who once bravely raved about fire trucks takes a deep breath and sighs to himself, “I’m glad that’s over, and I hope I never have to do it again.”
Billy grows up. He marries.
And one day Billy, Junior rushed into the house yelling. Daddy, Daddy! Look! Look at the circus parade. Elephants and everything! Look, Look!”
But Billy, Senior, who once saw red fire trucks, looked up prudishly from his newspaper, and said, “Yes, yes, son. I know. Go play with your blocks. Don’t bother Daddy.”
So the vicious circle expands.
People learn to kill their spirits. They become afraid to speak. Frequently they hear, “It is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubts.”
So even when we know we have excellent ideas we may be afraid to express them. We might make a mistake. Other people are surely smarter than we. Somebody might laugh! — or think, “What a big dummy!”
We’re not going to be that kind, of dummy. So we say nothing and remain a real dummy.
People learn the fear of public speaking largely because of the stops imposed upon them by culture. “Be a good listener. Silence is golden,” are common ideas. And this is good advice. But people should speak up and out, too. We must observe rules and convention, we need stop lights, but we can’t get far without go1 signals also. We must “snap out” of this emotional straight jacket which well-meaning, but mis-undertsanding people have slapped upon us.
OK. It’s great to know the fear of public speaking is not in our genes. But what can you do about it. In my next post in my series on the fear of public speaking, I will start to look at ways to overcome the fear of public speaking.