Speech anxiety is not a rare phenomenon. Many people have a queasy feeling when they have to speak in front of an audience, convince with words at presentations and other important appointments. While stage fright usually subsides after the first few sentences of a speech, speech anxiety is more pronounced. The fear of giving a speech can have a negative impact both professionally and privately. People who find it difficult to overcome their speech anxiety are perceived as insecure.
However, speech anxiety has nothing to do with a lack of motivation or rhetoric. Speech anxiety is an excessively heightened fear that is comparable to other fears.
The causes of speech anxiety can be manifold. Among those affected are not only anxious people with low self-esteem, but also professional speakers with years of experience. The fear of speaking is not a fate. Getting off the anxiety merry-go-round is possible at any time. Find out how you can overcome speech anxiety and which strategies really help here.
What is speech anxiety?
Sweaty palms, a queasy feeling in the stomach, trembling and racing heart are typical symptoms of stage fright. They arise from tension and nervousness before an important speech, where every word counts.
Stage fright can be unpleasant, but it passes quickly. After the first few sentences of a speech at the latest, the excitement is gone. Speech anxiety, on the other hand, is stronger and hardly goes away on its own. Fear of speaking is a state of anxiety.
The triggers for speech anxiety often lie in childhood. Excessive criticism by parents, traumatic experiences or too high demands on oneself can increase the susceptibility to anxiety disorders.
Overcome speech anxiety to stop getting out of your own way
Speech anxiety occurs primarily when speaking in front of an audience. Presentations in a small circle, for example at a customer meeting or a team meeting, are usually no problem. However, when it comes to convincing larger groups with a brilliant speech, speech anxiety slows the person down.
Speeches and presentations are part of everyday work, just as presentations are part of school lessons or studies. Fear of speaking can therefore greatly limit career opportunities. In addition, the (unfounded) fear of speaking also has an unfavorable effect in the private sphere. Those who cannot give a speech at family celebrations such as a birthday, wedding or christening make themselves unpopular.
Fear actually has a protective function. Thus, feelings of fear are supposed to warn us of dangers. Acute fears help to eliminate the causes of danger or to mobilize the body to escape a dangerous situation.
In speech anxiety, the fearful feelings exceed the normal level. You can overcome speech anxiety if you succeed in transforming the energy of fear into a positive force.
Overcoming speech anxiety: What are the symptoms of speech anxiety?
Like any anxiety, speech anxiety varies in severity. The feelings of anxiety can occur in different situations. With speech anxiety, psychological and physical discomforts occur. Typical symptoms of speech anxiety are:
Abdominal pain, stomach cramps, diarrhea
In addition to these physical conditions, speech anxiety also has psychological factors that affect well-being. These include the constant circling of thoughts typical of anxiety disorders.
The most common negative thoughts are:
I will embarrass myself
Everyone will laugh at me
My voice sounds terrible
Actually I can not talk at all
My clothes (hairstyle or figure) are not beautiful
Why is everyone looking at me funny?
My presentation is not good enough
Often, those affected get so worked up about their fears that they use all kinds of excuses or apologies to cancel the speech. This reaction, described as avoidance behavior, prevents them from dealing with their fear. However, overcoming speech anxiety is only possible if fears are consciously perceived and the causes are sought.
Difference stage fright and speech anxiety
The two terms stage fright and speech anxiety are usually used interchangeably. However, there are differences between the two. Stage fright is a psychovegetative reaction. There is no underlying physical cause for these discomforts. Rather, psychological pressures such as stress or worry lead to physical reactions.
Stage fright is considered a social evaluation anxiety. Criticism and negative assessments by the audience are feared. Especially people with low self-confidence are afraid of embarrassing themselves in public. Unlike public speaking anxiety, stage fright does not require treatment because it is merely a temporary condition.
Speech anxiety is an anxiety disorder. It is one of the most common fears and is classified in the group of social fears. In psychology, people are considered social subjects. How we perceive ourselves depends on our personality and life experience. The presence of other people can change the way we look at ourselves.
We begin to compare ourselves with others. It is important to us how we appear to the outside world and what other people think of us. If we discover (supposed) deficits, we feel weak and insecure. With a low self-esteem, the risk of developing fears such as speech anxiety increases.
Overcoming speech anxiety: transforming strong feelings of fear
Although the fear of failing during a presentation does not usually materialize, the feelings of anxiety are so strong that public speaking is foregone.
The strongest form of speech anxiety is logophobia. Social phobias are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the ICD-10 code F40.1. This form of Anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive, persistent fear of certain situations. Logophobia is an extreme fear that makes giving presentations in front of an audience impossible.
People suffering from this disorder often develop pathological ideas. Logophobia is treated individually with psychological therapies. Overcoming speech anxiety is also possible without therapeutic support.
8 Tips for Overcoming Speech Anxiety
Overcoming fear of speaking can be learned just as much as giving speeches. The fear of speaking quickly fades when you rise to the challenge. The following tips will help you overcome your fear of speaking:
A positive mindset helps in every situation in life. Overcoming speech anxiety is easier when negative thoughts are deliberately blocked out. Therefore, the following applies: give yourself courage and do not evaluate your own achievements too critically. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Instead of saying, "I can't do that," it's more helpful to think, "I can do this because I'm well prepared and have mastered my lines!"
Good preparation is essential for any public speech. Take enough time to reread a speech, correct any mistakes and add important information. Practice speaking in front of a mirror and look at yourself. Do you come across as confident? People with positive charisma are perceived as more competent than shy people.
Overcome speech anxiety: Learn to speak freely
Practice speaking as often as you can. This will build your speaking skills and give you more routine. Picture your audience. Think about where your fears come from and how you can overcome your fear of speaking in this situation. Ask a friend/colleague/mother or your partner to listen to you speak. Read stories aloud to yourself. This will help you learn to speak freely.
Self-confidence is important on the job. If you want to overcome speech anxiety, work on your self-confidence. Remember situations that you have successfully mastered. Allow yourself to make mistakes. One mispronounced word is no reason to feel the whole speech is flawed.
Be sure to speak loudly and clearly so that everyone in the audience understands what you have to say. Your posture determines whether you are perceived as confident or anxious. Stand up straight and tall. Use your hands to illustrate what you are saying.
Relaxation methods such as yoga or autogenic training can be helpful in overcoming speech anxiety. Use the time before a speech to meditate and focus on yourself. Fear subsides if you don't pay attention to it. Overcoming speech anxiety works faster if you practice regularly.
Can I learn to speak in front of an audience?
Not everyone is a talented speaker or an ambitious speaker. Nevertheless, we can all learn to speak in front of an audience. Free speech needs to be practiced. A quote from the Roman politician and most famous orator in Rome, Marcus Tullius Cicero, is, "You only learn to speak by speaking!" Learn from famous speakers by listening to their speeches. Pay attention to every detail.
When giving speeches, a concept is necessary. Choose simple, easy-to-understand words for your presentations, lectures and speeches. Avoid foreign words if possible and use technical terms only when speaking to a professional audience. Although verbal talent and repartee are advantageous, these skills are not decisive for the success of a speech.
Breathe calmly while you speak. Breathing shallowly and quickly increases your own tension. Begin your speech by consciously taking a breath. Smile at your audience. Concentrate on your text. Overcoming speech anxiety takes a little time, but it's worth it!
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