Unleash Your Inner Verbal Communication Warrior

Jane Wells Schooley

It started in tenth grade.  I was an awkward-feeling kid… really tall and self-conscious. I didn’t like standing out. I hated it when I thought everyone was looking at me.  Then it happened. Sister Susan called on me in my parochial school music class to sing unaccompanied and solo in front of the whole class. I did not have a good singing voice. Kids laughed and I was humiliated. For years I dreaded speaking in public. Now all that has changed.  What is your story?

As a business and leadership performance coach, I hear my powerful and fascinating clients share   similar stories of how their fear of public speaking started AND continues.   They experience glossophobia almost every time they present. Glossophobia comes from the Greek words glōssa meaning tongue and phobos meaning dread or fear. They are not alone. Three out of four individuals suffer from speech anxiety.  

In fact, it is the number one fear amongst all people globally. It can affect your self-esteem, your career and your bottom line. For example, some research has shown a small but significant effect of communication apprehension on the performance of salespersons. Other research has indicated that a leader’s credibility, ability to associate with people who can help their career and their perceived status is affected by communication apprehension.

What can you do about glossophobia?

• Burying your head in the sand and ignoring the issue can work for a while until a “Sister Susan” in your career calls you out. It can be a career-changer.  For example, your team needs its leader to speak out on a key issue; you are paralyzed when you need to be mobilized.

• Making a commitment to face the fear is a proactive choice. Hiring a speech coach, taking a speech course at a community college, participating regularly in a club through the international organization Toastmasters, practicing your presentations on your own & getting feedback from peers or getting help from a professional psychologist is another approach.

I did it; you can too. As fate would have it, the shy and awkward 10th grader in me was forced to step aside to allow my inner warrior leader to emerge from within.  With a B.A. in English in hand, I asked my then-academic mentor for guidance on my next degree. “Speech communication,” he offered. The rest is history.

I completed by M.A. in speech communication, joined the Penn State faculty and still had glossophobia except in my classroom. In the early days as an elected leader in the National Organization for Women, I remember starting a presentation before a government body on an issue of importance to my group. I can still feel the pain of starting my presentation and having to excuse myself from the lectern to go in the hall and have a good cry…only minutes later to return and finish.

My speaking experiences all made me stronger and prepared me for my national NOW vice presidency, testimony before Congress, my Congressional race and my business leadership roles. Years later and hundreds of dynamic speeches and presentations under my belt, I am still committed to sharpening the saw. I participate in Toastmasters and I am in a master class on presentations through the National Speakers Association.

Tell me your story. How can I support you to unleash your inner warrior communicator?

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