Defeating Speaking Fear – New Landscape

Defeating speaking fear through a new landscape.

Speaking anxiety? I’m always looking for new or different ways that fearful clients can find a workaround for theirs. And I found one in an article about procrastination byTimothy Pychyl in Psychology Today. It’s about your goals and what stops you. And it ties well into defeating speaking fear through a new landscape.

In the article, he talks about the wave of negativity that can overwhelm us when we sit down to a difficult task; and how learning to cope with this wave of mixed emotions is crucial in order to succeed with our goals.

Pychyl’s way of dealing with the negativity involves choosing to stand in a different space in his mind. He talks about the other places within him that are as real as his fears.

I sometimes use a similar idea with clients around public speaking fear, and am always interested in different perspectives that can help. Fear may overtake you: it’s an instinct, and you may not be able to stop it coming up. But you can also play with choosing these ideas:

  • Once the fear’s shown up, let it move through you. If you stay with it, the wave will pass.
  • See if you find another positive emotion to sit alongside the fear, and hold its hand. Fear doesn’t need to sit alone.
  • And maybe you can even begin from a different place in your mind – so that less fear feels the need to arise in the first place.

Coming back to Pychyl and how he deals with negativity and fear…he writes:

My own personal mantra for these situations is one given to me by Parker Palmer in his excellent book The Courage to Teach. “I can have fear, but I need not be fear” (1998; p. 57). He writes,

A great wood with a path through drifts of bluebells
Bluebell Wood – Rob Wiltshire

“Each time I walk into a classroom, I can choose the place within myself from which my teaching will come, just as I can choose the place within my students toward which my teaching will be aimed. I need not teach from a fearful place: I can teach from my curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty, places that are as real within me as are my fears. I can have fear, but I need not be fear – if I am willing to stand somewhere else in my inner landscape” (p. 57).

Try turning the dial down 10%

I love the sentence “I can have fear, but I need not be fear”: it’s sometimes a difficult one to grasp – and the idea behind it isn’t always easy to achieve. But if you move even 10% in this direction it’s going to help to dial down some of the loss of control you may feel if you’re afraid of speaking.

It allows a moment of space for us to see more light in what can be a dark situation.

It also gives our brain a greater sense of control – which it’s al always looking for and trying to achieve. Any sense of control is going to make us feel better in the moment about our speaking skills.  I’ve written about the importance of a sense of control here.

The quote talks about teaching from “curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty, places that are as real within me as are my fears.” Which can also apply to speaking, don’t you agree?

“I can have fear, but I need not be fear.”

This also relates to what I might tell workshop participants who say to me:  “I’m a hopeless/awful speaker!” – when you tell yourself this, you label yourself as a person. Rather than seeing your public speaking as simply being one facet of your ability, not who you are.

Look I totally get that this may not always help – but if the ideas in this article make you even faintly curious, I encourage you to think about them and see if you can feel any shift in your system.

In many of my workshops we play with this, and then move on to shifting perspective through various practical exercises: which also relates beautifully to Pychyl’s idea of learning to stand somewhere else in your “inner landscape.”

Can you imagine moving to stand somewhere else in your inner landscape when you need to? Why not test out defeating speaking fear through a new landscape?


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Comments (2)

  • Gail S Reply

    I agree. The context we have when we are doing anything, including public speaking has an enormous effect on our experience and level of success. The landscape you are speaking of is like the context.

    I have heard it said for example that Olympic athletes who compete in a spirit of serving something larger than their own personal concerns, like their national honor, tend to perform much better.

    One of my favorite tips for overcoming fear of public speaking is to focus on the valuable message you have to share with others rather than your own fears and concerns.

    at 5:05 am
    • Sarah Denholm Reply

      Thanks Gail, and you clarify my point beautifully when you talk about context. And I totally agree with your tip about focusing on your valuable message when you speak, it’s a great help to take the focus off yourself and your self-consciousness. Have you read Benjamin Zander’s book, the Art of Possibility? (He’s an orchestral conductor.) He devotes a whole chapter to “being a contribution” – and I see this idea work over and over again with my clients, and in my own life too!

      at 3:38 pm

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