This, That and Other Stuff

Bob Neuman

Ever experience dry mouth, stomach cramps, a fast heart rate, shaky hands, blushing and trembling legs and a croaky voice?

If you are a man you may be thinking, “Only when next to a good looking blonde.” Could be another reason called glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. The extent of the malady can stretch from mild to incapacitating. These folks would rather eat glass or leap off a bridge than speak before a group of people.

Can you ever forget when a teacher assigned oral reports and how it felt standing before the class to deliver?

The apprehension may begin days before the event and conjure up forgetting the words, fainting, throwing up or even dropping dead. Thankfully, most of these things never occur.

Once my father at a funeral was asked to deliver a prayer for the family; he became so flustered that he completed the prayer for the meal before he realized his mistake.

Were you ever reluctant in school to answer the teacher’s questions even though you knew the answers for fear of ridicule? Does a hostile or accepting audience make a difference to your comfort?

Here are the comments of one tormented man. “I am 43 years old and get a pit in my stomach when I know I must speak in front of my colleagues. I become tongued-tide, blush, and my voice quivers. Sometimes I’m fine. Sometimes I am at a loss for words. I wish I could express myself to groups of people without having any pangs of anxiety. It’s frustrating and weights on my mind days before I have to speak in front of the group.”

A friend of my wife once was to sing a solo in high school. She bought a new dress and the day came with her looking splendid. “I stood before the group unable to open my mouth. I finally sat down without singing a note.”

Then there is the opposite. You followers of Andy Griffith may recall when Goober grew a beard and fancied it made him extra intelligent to the point of his being obnoxious, windy and driving the town citizens bonkers.

In adult Sunday school, we shuddered whenever a certain man was asked to open with a prayer. He would drone on and on, thanking God for every possible favor including the paint on the wall. Suddenly, my wife was poking me. I had fallen asleep during one of his elongated prayers.

At some point in a funeral, there may be an invitation to say a few words about the deceased. It seems to attract some who end up with long dissertations and talking about themselves. Obviously, they never heard of glossophobia. A captive audience energizes them.

Some are enamored by their own voice and demand attention, seizing every opportunity to hold forth. They are authorities on every topic, and having valid information is not a requirement.

Do you relate to either the passive or the bombastic speakers? Do you recall instances when you were called to speak and found it difficult? Can you remember how you felt?

Most of us would prefer to walk barefoot on nails than to risk a chance of humiliation before an audience.