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 Fear of Public Speaking: Included in the Jonathan Marshall Interview

  • Kofi Annan and how empathy will save mankind
  • How to overcome the fear of public speaking
  • Persuading people in the workplace
  • Persuading people to work on themselves
  • Yoga Laughter


Introduction:  (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. But it is tricky to climb inside the heads of our audience to understand how they think and feel. I therefore sought out expert advice and I got to interview an individual called Jonathan Marshall. He’s a psychologist and a psychotherapist. An individual that knows a thing or two about how our brains work. He was 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 do we begin understanding how people’s minds work?


Andrew: “Thank you very much for taking this time to speak to me today.

“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. I was talking to individual who’s starting a FinTech company, he has a very quantitative background and he said salespeople who know the customers are often the most successful people. I think he had just seen the film The Founder with that story about the starting of McDonalds. Sales people are able to interpret the needs and wants of other people. 

In one of your blogs you talk about speaking to Kofi Annan the former Secretary General of the United Nations and you asked him about the threats to mankind. He said to you the one thing which we need to build to stop mankind being threatened is empathy. I agree. How do you build that sense of empathy?

Saving the World

Say you’re talking to someone who’s in their early twenties and they 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.

What I’ll often work on is what’s going on right now. So let’s say we were working together I’d say what are you feeling right now? You’re like ‘nothing’. I’m like well, can you feel the pressure of your seat against the chair right? ‘Yeah’.Sso 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. There’s something internal that has meant that I don’t want to feel my emotions. Something bad happened, bad motions locked up in there. I don’t want to go there and so I help them work through whatever resistance there may be, whatever bruising it could. You know, neglectful parents is 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! How could how could that be so such caused such an effect?

Knowing Oneself

“Nevertheless we’ve stored it, we’ve encoded it in our minds. The first thing is often becoming more sensitive to oneself, I’ll then sometimes work with them to become sensitive to me. 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. Sometimes 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?’ You think you’re a draconian manager but here are five of your direct reports all describing you as a softy. And so really trying to get very specific so I don’t use any kind of big theory or overarching formula, 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. Then move rapidly for example, I think you are thinking X and in actual fact you’re thinking Y. 

Males Vs Females

Jonathan Marshall: “And the modeling’s is part of that. For example, I think especially this is where being a guy can be an advantage because I think a lot of men know maybe three emotions. Anger, jealousy maybe one other. 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!’

“The way you say that, it makes me feel kind of inadequate. Often I have them go: ‘hmm okay, maybe I’m also allowed to feel vulnerable or weak, at least with this guy.’

“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.

“Whenever I ask a big group of people a question I recognize that because 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 and proclaim any issue.

“When I speak to people about their fear of public speaking, multiple people 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. 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?

Jonathan Marshall: “The fear of public speaking by the way is rated as evoking more anxiety than death. 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 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. 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 well being 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. 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, pain can come to the surface. 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.


Fear of Public Speaking: Jonathan Marshall Elite Coach Podcast #AndrewTollinton

by Andrew Tollinton