Introduction: Fear of Public Speaking (10 Minute Transcript Extract)
When we think about our pitch for the very first time where should our starting point be? Should it be our solution? Should it be us the people that are pitching?
The answer is it should be you our audience we should begin with knowing our audience how they think and then shaping our pitch accordingly. The thing is it’s quite tricky to climb inside the heads of our audience to understand how they think and feel so I sought out experts advice and I got to interview an individual called Jonathan Marshall he’s a psychologist and a psychotherapist and individual that knows a thing or two about how our brains work he either taught is an officer in the military and one one of the founders of a company that went on to be called Yahoo Mail.
I begin my interview by asking Jonathan how then do we begin understanding how people’s minds work?
Andrew: “Welcome thank you thank you very much for taking this time to speak to me today it’s very kind of you and I see from the background there that you are a sporty man and I see a bike it’s just a mountain bike.
Jonathan: “It’s a mountain but in fact I’m embarrassed to say there are two. Yes those are the sources of injuries.
Andrew: “One of the questions I have for you is around empathy because particularly people like myself one of the things I realized is not everyone thinks like me. The sooner I realized that actually a lot earlier in my life and I probably would have been much better off. But I was talking to individual who’s starting a fin tech company with of very quantitative background and he said actually the salespeople who know the customers the most that’s why they often the most successful people I think he had just seen the film the founder with that story about the starting of McDonalds. So they’re able to interpret the needs and wants of other people and in one of your blog’s you talk about speaking to Kofi Annan the former Secretary General of the United Nations and you asked him about the threats to mankind it’s getting pretty big now but I will come back to the point and he said to you to the thing which we need to build to stop mankind being threatened is empathy. So which I was a very thing and profound and I agree how then do you build that sense of empathy say you’re taken to someone who’s in their early twenties never or in at any age but never really had that front facing role how do they quickly get to know the audience and resonate with them build trust and build up that sense of empathy how would you suggest people do that?
Jonathan Marshall: “If you can’t feel your emotions it’s very hard to feel somebody else’s emotions and so what I’ll often work on is sounds really rudimentary and perhaps not useful is what’s going on right now so let’s say we were working together I’d say what are you feeling right now and you’re like nothing I’m like well can you feel the pressure of your seat against the chair right yeah so get really even to the very concrete and then getting more and more subtle where people may become more familiar with their emotions.
“Often you’ll find where people have a real lack of empathy is they may be carrying trauma and there’s something internal that has meant that I don’t want to feel my emotions you know something bad happened well there are bad motions locked up in there I don’t want to go there and so by helping them work through whatever resistance there may be whatever bruising it could. You know neglectful parents a traumatic experience and it’s sometimes stuff which as a child who might feel was terribly painful. But as an adult we look back and go come on that’s not a big deal like how could how could that be so such caused such an effect.
“Nevertheless we’ve stored it we’ve encoded it in our minds as things that wore us off from ourselves. So the first thing is often becoming more sensitive to oneself I’ll then sometimes work with them to become sensitive to me and so I’ll describe what I’m feeling and they might go ‘oh really feel that’ and then sometimes I ask them ‘what do you what do you think I’m feeling?’
“So we’re practicing, they’re practicing you know we go sometimes I’ll do with people so I’ll interview their peers their superiors or subordinates. I’ll show them the reports ‘did you know that people felt this way about you is any of this a surprise?’ What can you do to you think you’re a draconian manager but here are five of your direct reports all describing you as a softy how did you know? And so really trying to get very specific so I don’t use any kind of big theory or overarching formula it’ getting very concrete and very specific as soon as possible.
Andrew: “So you begin with one’s own feelings to think about one’s own feelings and recognize those and then move rapidly for example I think you are thinking X and in actual fact I’m thinking Y. I will start to recognize and attune myself that by other people is not perhaps accurate.
Jonathan Marshall: “And the modeling’s is part of that so for example and I think especially this is where being a guy can be an advantage because I think a lot of men you know kind allow maybe three emotions. Anger, jealousy maybe one other. You know where we’re very you know in terms of monetary and social power we definitely have advantages but when it comes to emotional expression and experience we are definitely way behind women. So in showing that I am able to describe what I’m feeling including feelings of vulnerability: ‘oh why should I feel a bit intimidated right now’ and the client might go ‘what you’re intimidated?! You’re the doctor, you’re the one I’m paying!’
Jonathan Marshall: “The way you say that it makes me feel kind of inadequate or am I gonna do a good job and they may kind of go I knew you were you know I’m your softie and I get that sometimes but more often I have them go: ‘hmm okay maybe I’m also allowed to feel vulnerable or weak at least with this guy.’
Jonathan Marshall: “And that can help unpack some of the blockages that a person has.
Fear of Public Speaking
Andrew: “Right okay so exposing you own vulnerabilities helps the other person feel more human. They can reveal their own. OK on that point of vulnerabilities whenever I ask a big group of people a question I recognize that because of there are other people around them I’m not going to necessarily get an honest answer; say several hundred people. In the moment I ask a question of them only a few people typically will raise their hands in this and proclaim any issue.
“When I ask about fears particularly in the world of pitching and trying to persuade other people it’s kind of like it’s a form of public speaking. When I speak to people about their fear of public speaking, multiple people of have different reasons about why they might fear it.
“For me it was just a matter of building a skill so I can become good at pitching but for some people when I speak to them particularly after the event they’ll approach me and they’ll speak to me one-on-one and they’ll say ‘actually a lot changes for me; I have real issues and it’s holding me back in my job or whatever’. Those people who seem to have a more deep rooted challenge with public speaking do you ever come across people that have that kind of fear and if so what do you say to them is what is the kind of thing that they can do?
Jonathan Marshall: “The fear of public speaking by the way is rated as more evokes more anxiety than death in surveys of things that cause anxiety public speaking is right up there. For me it very much depends I tailor the work I do to specific individuals.
“For example, one client I had a long time ago suddenly out of the blue developed an extremely debilitating fear of public speaking. He was a suddenly terrified of it having not had a problem for all his career. There he was in his and this late 20s, early 30s, I haven’t done a lot of public speaking and it was absolutely debilitating and causing him difficulty to hold his bladder. It was really bad news for him.
“Part of what I do is I work a lot with trance tanks and we used some hypnosis and what became quite quickly apparent was that this new experience had been triggered by an event that happened a long time before in a hostile union negotiation.
“There he was in a room alone with multiple very aggressive union representatives that regarded him as the ambassador of the evil corporate world. So he was facing a lot of aggression he was afraid for his physical wellbeing and somehow that just got trapped inside him he went on like a machine.
“He continued to work on for a couple of years and then suddenly kaboom this anxiety exploded and that’s not as uncommon as it seems sometimes. When people get the opportunity to relax into what’s really going on inside these bubbles of anxiety or pain can come to the surface and actually it was one of my my first experiences treating public speaking through hypnosis and we had about five sessions together and then it was the I think I was relocating so we couldn’t continue our work.
“I got an email from him about two months later and he said I just want to let you know I am almost recovered.