Public Speaking phobia? Most people have experienced it to lesser or greater degree but it’s difficult to imagine that it might be considered a phobia. After all, we live in a fast paced, career centred world driven by ambitious, successful and confident individuals. The statistics speak for themselves. It is said that up to 75% of people could be suffering from this phobia or “GLASSOPHOBIA”, a word taken from the Greek words ‘glassa’ meaning tongue or language and ‘phobos’ the personification of fear.

Surely simply standing up in front of our fellow human beings shouldn’t be ranked high up with phobias like, Fear of Death (Necrophobia), Fear of spiders (Arachnophobia) and Fear of Heights (Acrophobia). Studies indicate that more people would opt to parachute out of a moving aeroplane at about 760 m above ground than to speak in public.

It seems “Glassophobia” is indeed a hidden monster! A ‘monster’ that doesn’t confine itself to those public presentations. It is as likely to affect anyone needing to communicate effectively in stressful situations, under pressure, both in the professional and social arenas.
The receptionist might encounter an unpleasant, difficult customer, the sales consultant might face the same monster battling to close a sale or the manager might as easily face this monster as he or she battles to communicate with a variety of stake holders, vital to the business’ success.

Understanding the ingredients to effective communication in stressful professional or social situations is integral. ‘A first impression is a lasting impression!’ This cliché might not be true and as we get to know the person we often change our minds. Unfortunately, in business we have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression. Judgment is based on various verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. Non-verbal communication includes: Our posture, the way we walk, how we hold our head, facial expression, eye contact, what we are wearing, the car we drive etc. Verbal communication includes: The tone, volume, pace and pitch of our speech, and the content of what we have to say. Often a first impression is formed before a person opens his mouth to speak. Remember, it is not WHAT we say, but HOW we say it! The actual words we say, what we say account for 7 %, the tone of our voice or how we say it for 38 %, and our body language for 55 % of the communication process.

We must face the monster, ‘Glassophobia’ before we can beat it. Past negative experiences are the most likely the culprits. Many of us are filled with self-doubt no matter how successful we become. We may fear being judged, ridiculed and embarrassed. When this monster attacks we feel threatened. Our brain releases adrenaline and steroids to protect us. This is most commonly referred to as the ‘flight or fight’ moment. Our blood pressure and heart rate rise causing the blood flow to our muscles. Considering the interconnectivity between our mind, body and voice, every part of our body experiences symptoms of “Glassophobia.” These might include, a fast heartbeat, nausea, shortness of breath, hyperventilating, tense muscles, a tight jaw, a thick tongue, uncontrolled trembling, sweating, a higher vocal pitch or a faster pace speech. Our vocal volume might become too loud or too soft depending on the individual.

When we meet the monster, “Glassophobia” we either fight the monster or flee from the situation. This might occur in any stressful situation. We might need to present to a large or small audience of people, one difficult customer, colleagues in the meeting room at work or in an emotional social situation. While ‘Glassophobia’ might not be termed a disease, it does affect a large percentage of our world’s population. If left unchecked, anxiety disorders like this can get worse and affect our ability to function in ordinary life.

Yes, we can BEAT ‘Glassophobia’! Discover the root of your phobia. Remove those negative patterns. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, and this is our right. Know your strengths and develop them. Become your chosen subject field’s ‘subject matter expert’. This will help you move closer to achieving your goal. Stop believing your audience will always be critical. Begin by liking and not fearing your audience. Energy is a powerful. The energy we feel for an audience, whether it be fear or love, will without doubt be transferred to them. Be interested in your subject, prepare well and be very sure that you are passionate about your subject. Understand your audience and listen to their needs. It doesn’t matter whether you are speaking to a crowd of people or just one angry customer.

There are stress management techniques. While your mind is stressed, it is almost impossible to focus on the job at hand. Medications might be available and help in the short term, but they will never be a long-term solution to this phobia. Developing correct breathing techniques for communication will help you to relax your body and mind while developing your vocal technique, helping your voice become stronger, more resonant and the tone more assertive.

For more information contact Communicate! to find out our various Communication Skills courses including: Public Speaking, Customer Excellence, Tele-Personality courses, Call Centre Training, Assertive Techniques, Conflict Management and Women’s Empowerment.