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Arlin Cuncic

Public Speaking: When You Have Nothing to Lose

By July 17, 2011

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"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." - Steve Jobs

In a roundabout way, Steve Jobs is talking about the feeling of having nothing to lose. When you have nothing lose you, you are not afraid. You are not worried about taking risks because it doesn't matter what happens. I think that is what Peter Kendal means in a recent local news article, when he says he is no longer afraid of public speaking.

As a 12-year old, he forgot his lines during a poetry recital. Expecting the worst, he told the audience what had happened, apologized and stepped away. To his surprise, the audience applauded in sympathy.

As a result, he realized that even in the worst circumstance, as long as he remained calm and polite, the audience was on his side. In fact, in most cases, the audience is relieved that it is you and not them on stage.

His advice? Don't be afraid. Prepare for the worst, and then let go of your fears. Even if the worst happens, it is not the end of the world.

People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) don't necessarily fear forgetting lines during a performance. It may be more subtle than that. They may shake, have trouble catching their breath while they speak, or feel like their heart is beating out of their chest. The fear is that the audience will notice these symptoms.

The problem is that they think they do have something to lose. A lot, in fact. They fear losing the respect of their audience. They fear losing friends because of their strange behavior. They try to think their way out of the fear and it just makes it worse.

These are not problems that you can think your way out of on your own. If you suffer with severe public speaking phobia and it is affecting your life, treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can make a difference.

What do you think? Are you at the point where you believe you have nothing to lose? If not, what do you fear most?

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