This, That and Other Stuff – April 2015

Bob Neuman

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

If a man, you may be thinking, “Only when I meet a good looking babe.” Actually, you may have glossophobia, the fear of public speaking.

The anxiety may begin days before the event and conjure up many things that could occur like fainting, forgetting the words, throwing up, or dropping dead. Gratefully, most of these never happen.

Once my father was nervous when asked to pray at a funeral. He was nearly finished with the meal prayer before he realized his mistake.

Because of ridicule, students have been known to refuse answering questions even though knowing they could reply correctly.

One tormented man stated, “I get a pit in my stomach when I know I must speak in front of my colleagues. Blush, my voice quivers and I become tongue-tied. I am at a loss for words. I wish I could express myself to groups without pangs of anxiety. It weighs on my mind days before I must speak.” Sound familiar?

Another adult said, “Speaking before a group terrifies me. Not only does my voice quiver, but I tremble and have facial spasms and trouble breathing.”

When new church attendees are handed a mic to state their name and where they are from, results sometimes are catastrophic. Some hunker down and refuse. Others stand and forget their lines. Some seniors have been known to mumble into the wrong end of the mic and some put it to their ear.

A friend once told of her experience of singing a solo in high school. She looked splendid in her new dress she had saved to purchase and had practiced numerous times. But she stood before her audience unable to open her mouth and suddenly sat down without singing a note.

There is an opposite, however. We have all been captives to those who are enamored by their own voices and demand attention, seizing any opportunity to hold forth. These are authorities on any topic. Having valid information about the subject is not a requirement. They may torture individuals or groups. We tend to duck around corners or look for an escape route when these know-it-alls approach.

Asked to pray, a certain man in Sunday school would drone on for an eternity blessing everything but the paint on the wall. I realized I had dozed off only when I felt my wife’s elbow in my rib. Ever been there?

What do we do to rid ourselves of glossophobia? Never speak in public would do it. Some turn to certain drugs (alcohol is probably not a good idea).

Anxiety can be reduced by believing in and knowing the topic well. A smaller group helps. Others find that focusing on friendly, attentive people in the audience works. Promoting questions to involve the audience may be productive.

What really disturbs me, though, are people who duck around corners when I approach. Oh well, they are probably just needing a restroom.