Fear of rejection is why most people hate public speaking and why so many other people don’t bother to prepare their remarks in advance.
Think about these two philosophies of communication. Ancient wise man, Publilius Syrus (catchy name, I know!), wrote: Speech is the mirror of the soul, as a man speaks, so he is. Writing roughly 2,000 years later, James Carey, dean of Columbia University’s School of Journalism writes that we create ourselves in conversation. Our communication, writing and speaking, reflect and shape our very selves. It’s not something to take lightly.
Everyone experiences fear at some point, more often than we would like. This insight can help you become less fearful inside, and therefore communicate more effectively on the outside. Like with all efforts to improve ourselves, or to grow, the first step is to see some aspect of the real problem, in this case, fear.
One main fear is that of rejection. We can get so focused on how we will be perceived that we sometimes choke, or get so nervous that we forget half of what we want to say. Moving that focus to the other person, your audience, can help you not to worry so much. Contrary to what you may assume, most other people are not out to get you; they’re far too wrapped up in their own dramas.
If you truly feel negative vibes from the other, your audience, it is most likely 1) something totally not related to you or your message, or 2) they may have misunderstood something you said in the past. This is a time for clarification, without defensiveness. If you can remember that the other person has problems and worries that have nothing to do with you, that this person is struggling, you can relax a bit, and gain effectiveness in the process.
If your voice shakes during the first minute, that’s perfectly normal. The fact that you feel nervous actually can energize your speech. Once you get rolling, the nerves go back to normal. Forcing yourself to breathe in and out slowly (count to 7 or 8 as you inhale and exhale) before you begin also helps your body to prepare.
You are not going to convince everyone to accept your perspective on things. You may only convince a few people, but that’s fine. Some accept, some don’t, there are always other people who may have an acute need for your message. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by the non job offer, the non sale, the non contribution. Keep it friendly and move on. The outcome is for the best.
Seeing your audience as a person, or group of people who are stressed out, needy, struggling, or otherwise human-in-every-way should help diminish the fear factor in your message. Ask yourself what does this audience need from me in this presentation?
Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. Direct your focus to the other and realize that you’re playing a minor role in their masterpiece theater.