Brotherly Wisdom...Or My Latest Parent Fail

Well, it's happened. The one thing I hoped would not be passed down from me to the kids has reared its ugly head - the paralyzing fear of public speaking.

My son had escaped, so I thought it might have skipped a generation or better yet been wiped completely out of the gene pool, but it appears I was mistaken.

Today the daughter came home with her own debilitating account of a book report gone horribly wrong. She told me about the insects tromping through her stomach and her shaking hands made all the more noticeable by the paper she was holding like a life raft. Just hearing about her experience made my palms sweat.

That's when I realized I couldn't help her. She sat there looking at me with those big blue eyes, pleading for some kind of magical cosmic wisdom on how to beat this and I had nothing. Nada. A big goose egg. Sure, I could have told her to imagine the audience naked in their underwear, but I knew from experience that was nearly impossible with all of your energy focused on not vomiting.

My outgoing brother who grew up to be a salesman once told me to pretend I was in the shower.

"Wait," I said, "Why am I in the shower?"

"Because the shower is relaxing, stupid."

I'd had my doubts, but I'd tried it. It had made things worse. Now
I was the naked one, standing barefoot as my upchucked breakfast pooled around my feet.

Somehow I managed to make it to graduation by telling myself I would never have to do it again unless I wanted to. So far, that's worked pretty well for me, but my elementary student still has years of torture ahead of her.

Have you overcome your fear of public speaking or found any strategies that at least keep you from passing out? If so, my daughter would love to hear them, because she sure isn't getting any help from yours truly.


alexia said...

Ugghh, I get all sick when I have to speak in a crowd, too.

Rogue Mutt said...

There's probably some expert advice on the Internet.

Monica B.W. said...

Oh no! I'm just like you! I get so nervous speaking in front of people! Sorry I can't help :P

erica and christy said...

I can't help, either. I'm the type that needs to learn to shut up, already.

The good news is, if she made you feel all those things, you also passed down the genes for good storytelling!

Trisha said...

I really hate public speaking, and I'm not that good at it. The exception was at my bro's wedding when I delivered a short but sweet speech, and had had quite a bit of wine/champagne beforehand. :)

Alison Stevens said...

I have overcome it, but only by forcing myself to do it over and over again (teaching 100 students three days a week kind of forces the issue). I'm afraid I don't have any tricks to share (but wish I did!).

Old Kitty said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter's awful experience. I hate it that school makes kids read out at whatever cost. I hated it when I was at school. I always used to think: Why do I have to read my essays out loud when you can do this yourself, Miss Teacher?!?!?!?! I could never get the hang of public speaking and never have and never will. I've accepted that of myself. I can speak one to one or with a small group of 3 but any more and I just freeze and clam up and have panic attacks.

I'm so sorry, I'm not helping!!!! It's just I'm 41 years old now and I've seriously come to accept this one true thing of me. I don't do public speaking, full stop. I avoid any whenever necessary - I do jobs where I don't need to speak out in public! I'd like to think I'm pretty confident in everything else that I do but not with this.

Good luck and all the best for your daughter - I hope she finds the encouragement and security within herself to be happy and confident! Personally I think public speaking should not be forced out. Why schools do this, I don't know! Take care

Kari Marie said...

I used to be terrified of public speaking until college. That's when I stopped caring about what the other students thought of my speech. I had to do the dang thing for the teacher (who was grading me), so my only concern was him/her.

Speaking to one person was a lot easier than speaking to 30. I'm not sure I would have been able to do that when I was in elementary school though.

Lisa Potts said...

Thanks for all the sympathy. I feel like I'm in good company.

Vicki Tremper said...

I hate public speaking, too. I get all red and hot and my mind goes blank. In grad school I had to deliver my thesis orally to a panel of professors (they call it a defense, which just makes it sound even worse) who were then going to decide whether I got to earn my Master's or not. I was terrified. My thesis advisor reminded me that I had created this topic and researched it and therefore knew it better than any of those professors. She also said it was okay to ask someone to repeat a question or ask for clarification if I wasn't sure what they were asking. That helped a lot and I try to remind myself of that whenever I have to speak publicly.

Liz said...

The only thing that gets me through it is the knowledge of how guilty I'd feel if I found a way to skip out on it. (It happened once. When I was 8. The guilt was horrible. The public speaking is a minor embarrassment in comparison.)

Although, now I get up in front of groups of students, and it doesn't bother me at all (go figure).

Gina said...

Hi Lisa, Thanks for stopping by my blog and for participating in my contest! Be sure to check back Wednesday for the winners :)

And I HATE to speak in front of people. I hate being a spectacle, period!

Anonymous said...

I have to pace myself and slow down. My biggest problem is rushing through and finishing too early. So I have a few antecdotes on 5X7 cards to interject along the way if I need to fill some time.

Amie Kaufman said...

Ugh, poor her. I do a lot of public speaking, and although these days it's a breeze, I used to get nervous. You might try suggesting to her that instead of paying attention to the group, she just pick one person--the teacher, or a friend she has in the class, or she can even imagine you sitting there listening to her--and just focus on that one person. Then it's not public speaking, it's just her telling another person about this thing.

Madeleine said...

I used to hate reading in church. but now people say I'm the best reader. I think practice helps, the more you do it the better your chance of overcoming the anxiety. :O)

Pk Hrezo said...

LOL! That gave me a good chuckle. Oh I hate public speaking. Hate it. But I had to overcome my fear when I interviewed for a corporate trainer position and got the position teaching adults. Yikes. It was petrifying to me, but I really wanted to do the job for some of the other perks it allowed. Anyway, one of the other trainers let me in on a little trick. While speaking, press your middle finger and thumb together inconspicuously at your side. It helps relieve the tension and puts your mind on that, instead of everyone staring at you. It works, and the more nervous I get, the harder I press. It keeps your hands busy too so you're not fidgety.

Anyway, good luck to your daughter. :)

Lisa Potts said...

Great advice! I'll definitely have her try all of your suggestions and keep my fingers crossed.

erica and christy said...

i'm glad you got good advice before i got here.... i hate being in front of crowds, even when i'm not required to speak! however, i've been thrown in front of a group, on occasion, with the expectation that i will actually say something (i'm a teacher who used to run student council) and then my adrenaline takes over, i speak more quickly than anyone can make out the words, i become red-faced, etc...BUT i make it through. until they make me do it again. your kids will, too. they'll find a way to cope, even if it's just focusing on what they need to say, and not as much on who they're saying it to. good luck! christy

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