Public speaking is one of the most dreaded tasks we all encounter at one point in our life. Regardless if you are in school, college or work, Public Speaking is a task we all have to undergo. Fear of speaking in public ranks second among the most common phobias (spiders is number one). To put things in perspective, people are more scared of speaking in public than death, marriage or bankruptcy. This feeling is common among most of us. Everyone shares the anxious feeling when there is a perception of being evaluated.
While anxiety is a common emotion, it can become a problem when it affects our functioning. In the case of public speaking, we start feeling anxious even before we start talking in front of people. In other words, we brace for impact before the impact. So why does this happen? Cognitively, anxiety serves as a reinforcer to a negative experience. In our minds, we start to associate displeasure with speaking in public. (A friend of mine commented that since childhood, while in school, the punishment was to go the chalk board and write. It could be that we might associate being in front of people as punishment as well). Any time we feel vulnerable, our first reaction is to retreat. The retreat is initiated by generating thoughts regarding our performance.
We start thinking of multiple fallacies that we need to reject by critical thinking The most common irrational thought is that everything will go wrong like forgetting the material or how people will judge you. This is known as the fallacy of catastrophe. This fallacy triggers our sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. That is why when we are nervous we may have sweaty palms or tremble. Another irrational thought is the fallacy of approval.