Picture this: It’s mid-afternoon, and your professor’s monotonous yet somewhat soothing voice lulls you closer to the edge of sleep. In the midst of your struggle to stay awake, he poses a question to the class. You’ve got the answer. You know the answer. But as you begin to raise your hand, a tiny voice at the back of your head goes: What if it’s the wrong answer? What if the class laughs at me because I got it wrong? You hesitate, troubled…
And just like that, the moment is gone as another student seizes the opportunity. He says the same thing that you had in mind, and the professor looks impressed. “Good job,” he praises, inexplicably making you feel somewhat disappointed. That could’ve been me, you think.
The Fear: What Is It?
Glossophobia, the fear of speaking up, is more common than many would imagine. It manifests itself within every single one of us, frequently highlighting our failures and inadequacies in our heads. For some, dealing with and overcoming it isn’t an issue as it functions as nothing more than a minor annoyance.
For others however, the fear of speaking up can consume their consciousness and as a result, directly affect the choices they make and actions they take in their daily lives. In severe cases, being placed in situations where they are forced to speak up can cause intense anxiety which can manifest itself in physical symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, breathlessness, and choking,. Worse still, they may find themselves actively avoiding having to speak at all, a sign of the crippling levels of fear held within them.
Consequence of Feeding the Fear
I have personally experienced what happens when this fear is allowed to take control over your conscious mind. By letting the fear control us, we often under-perform, which is of pertinent concern especially given school activities invariably involve class participation, presentations, and project discussions.
During one of the most insecure periods of my life, I let my subconscious fears rule me. I found myself first shying away from conversations and even actively avoiding any forms of contact with anyone. The thought of having to express myself was utterly terrifying! I stayed safely hidden in my room whenever possible, and absented myself from social situations. It was only a timely intervention by family and close friends that had eventually helped me to subdue the demons that I had cultivated.
Reining the Fear In
Looking back, the most important lesson I learned from my experience with this fear is how the dissatisfaction we feel from unresolved thoughts builds up and feeds into the fears residing at the back of our minds. Ideally, we should hope that we are able to speak our minds to the fullest extent; speaking up and expressing our thoughts often helps with our confidence, acting as a reassuring mechanism that signals to us that nothing bad happened to us as a result.
However, the reality is that there are many situations where speaking up can be difficult, or worse, counterproductive. Situations that involve conflicting opinions for instance may result in unnecessary conflict or tension. What, then, should we do? On one hand, we should not leave our thoughts unresolved. Yet on the other, direct confrontation may end disastrously. What I do in these situations is to wait until everyone’s moods and tempers die down before bringing up my opinions and calmly resolving any disagreements with the parties involved. This helps me to learn how better to deal with conflicting opinions, and gives me more confidence that I can handle similar situations in the future.
Moving On: The Conclusion
The key to coping with Glossophobia is to constantly push ourselves towards speaking our minds. Everyone feels the same fear. The only difference is in how we deal with adversity. Coping with the fear involves a healthy mindset and consistent effort. One thing to note is that the fear doesn’t go away overnight. It takes time to overcome the fear and to manage it effectively. You won’t go straight from being an almost non-existent class participator to being graded A+ for class participation. Long term effort can, and will, help anyone improve their confidence and ability to face challenges in their daily lives.