Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself – But That’ll Do



I can identify with Sara Palin’s low-tech crib notes. For a high school French final, I copied conjugated verbs on my upper thigh all the way to the panty line. The guy next to me failed, but I passed.

Unfortunately, this technique doesn't help most of us when forced to speak in public. At such times, the problem isn’t remembering the point, it’s voicing it. Pushing the point up the throat, convincing it to take that leap of faith off the tongue.

Public figures, teachers, preachers, and other blow hards can do it, just because they’re always doing it. Face the same fear often enough, it goes from frightening to downright boring.

But for those who speak to a large audience only on rare occasions, the body tends to betray the spirit. An invisible hand grabs and strangles the throat, and another invisible hand shakes the brain up and down like a snow globe.

I thought about this recently, while comfortably in the audience during a public hearing, watching one or two speakers make rather a hash of things. I felt a patronizing sympathy. As one who has done her fair share of public speaking , I chose to identify with the times I amused and charmed -- when I had been saying essentially the same thing to a similar group of people day after day, week after week.

But buried deep among my many, many humiliations, were the times I made a speech when woefully out of practice. When the words I had to say were perfectly fine, but I couldn’t find the breath to say them. And then my body would whisper, “I’ll save you!” sending a series of adrenaline torpedos. And then we'd bomb.

You’d think the body and mind would prop each other up in time of need, because really, when it comes down to it, all they’ve got is each other. But usually they’re at cross purposes; each with an opposing agenda. That’s the major reason I’m not my own best friend. We have so little in common.

47 comments:

  1. EaT & REeat, cuz
    Jesus Is coming on
    Tuesday?!

    In that case, thanks! I butter start eating as much as I can before that last day arrives. Otherwise, have no fear.

    A nice, comforting post for a rainy day, KB.

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  3. I have a mountain of fears, but public speaking is not one of them. Out of my way -- let me talk. It's my turn. Listen to me!

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  4. Love that line about being your own best friend.

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  5. Now I'm wondering if my body is "I am" and my mind is "you are" or the reverse.

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  6. I'm starting a new Facebook group:

    Writing Verb Conjugations Up To Your Panty Line = Fail For The Guy Sitting Next To You

    I have to say that it's one thing to speak publicly, it's another to generate sound bites - and pass yourself off as an elected official, you feel me Rush/Sarah/Glenn???

    wv eshershk
    God bless you!

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  7. I'm off to join Paula's Facebook group.

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  8. The last time I spoke in front of a large group, the idiot within took charge and made a fool of me.
    Public speaking now is talking with my wife as we walk down the street.

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  9. It's good to have a leg up in French.

    GG

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  10. As Banjo pointed out I'd like to talk about myself here.

    Once I presented two short "mini sessions" with another person. We worked out who would say what etc. We had some basic notes. Well the first session went well. So well that I got cocky and for the second, I didn't really look at my notes, I was on a roll!! Well I did my part and most of hers. The look on her face was priceless. I've been flying by the seat of my pants ever since I grew out of my childhood shyness. It's hit or miss. Russian Roulette of the mouth. Once I get started, the brain pretty much concedes defeat and let's my mouth run amok. The difference is I have enough sense to know I can't for one minute lead this country. Unfortunately Ms. Palin is still in fantasyland. This women wants to be the President of the US of A and is writing notes on her hand? For the LOVE! Would somebody tell her to STFU?

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  11. I've pretty much sworn off Facebook but I'm reconsidering my position.

    A gem KB.

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  12. That would be the best Facebook group ever.

    My body and mind never cooperate for public speaking. On many levels. Usually it's when my tummy decides to make. itself. known. or I develop hiccups. Ick.

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  13. This is hilarious! My brain always lets me down when I try to speak in public. I'm OK for a few minutes and then I lose it and fade out with hmmm, OK, hmmmm, maybe, well, er, better get going, goodbye and, er, thanks for all the fish. I've gone one better than starting a Facebook group, I've posted this on my Facebook page, but don't get too excited, I don't have many friends.

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  14. The mind/body schism. I know it well. Never go into the lions den unprepared. Your audience can turn into your enemy.

    Well done.

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  15. I,m off.....,again!

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  16. This is so, so funny and so, so smart and I'm still freaked out. There are actually people out there--apparently lots of them--who can vote--who think Palin ought to be president. I cannot come up with the words to express how terrifying that is to me. It's bad enough that the woman's an anti-constitutional extremist. But the fact that she's a low IQ idiot makes her dangerous.

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  17. I can't say what I was going to say. This is really funny but Palin terrifies the freaking sh*t out of me.

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  18. Woops. Guess my comment posted anyway. Need sleep.

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  19. I had the same thought as Paula, but was nowhere near creative enough to come up with the Facebook idea!

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  20. HuffPo has a timely article about the anger - and limitations - of Sarah Palin. She's no Ronald Reagan.

    Has anyone seen this post on Miss Julies's blog - GMTA:

    http://sydney-eye.blogspot.com/2010/02/true-romantic.html

    wv quiver
    I quiver with delight
    at the sight
    of Sarah's obvious
    limitations.

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  21. Mind where you conjugate.

    I'd like to see Margaret and Virg duke it out on stage.

    Paula, looks like you've got a winner here.

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  22. The Margaret AND The Virg?? I'm calling both my bookies.

    wv driverex

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  23. The advantage of wearing school uniforms is that we (the girls) had to wear knee socks. Lots of answers could be written under the socks, on our legs. All it took was an itchy shin to find an answer. But then, I was 11 years old, trying to pass s 5th grade multiple choice test - I wasn't trying to pass myself off as a candiate for anything!

    Like Virginia, I can get on a roll when speaking publicly. We call it diarrhea of the mouth. I just run on and on...

    That moniker is hard to swallow.

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  24. On top of which, P, can you imagine four years of that voice?

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  25. Well, look, you know I love the Prez, but he does "uh" a lot.

    Does it surprise you, Karin, that Goody-Two-Shoes here never cheated on a test? I had to show my thighs to the boy at the next desk the guileless way. No subtlety.

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  26. Well said. Don't you often feel like you are two people. I know I do.

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  27. I've really enjoyed reading all the comments here. I share Petrea's fears about Sarah, but what I find even more frightening is the sell-out crowds she attracts. Who are these people?

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  28. I speak to various groups of public fairly regularly, and I always do better when I wear high heels. It makes me much more coherent.

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  29. Bayside, after sleep I'm less afraid of Palin and it's easier to see the humor in her dim-wittedness. But I wonder the same thing you do about her fans.

    Quid: I'll bet you practice, too.

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  30. That's why you're squared, B, I suppose.

    Bayside, you and P can worry about the issues, I'm still terribly worried about the voice. Arncha just a little?

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  31. OK, I held off as long as I could, "You betcha!"

    BL, it's surprising the people I know that like her. I think she represents a really deep resentment for the Democratic Party, the people that believe that even terrorists deserve a constitutionally valid trial. I think Palinites would be happy with martial law, I really do.

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  32. Paula: I think you're right. Something I heard her say the other day seemed to confirm that.

    Sarah P is someone, if she were in your PTA, you'd do anything to avoid having to work with her.

    Cheating on tests: When I was in the second grade, Sally W. (not her real name), sitting across the aisle from me, lifted up her skirt. I was always uneasy with that, but thanks to this discussion, I realize she was just showing me the answers to the pop quiz

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  33. Mr. Earl, I'll show you my answers anyday. The question remains.....will you show me yours??? Why didn't I think of that in high school? I might have had a date or two. Quel dommage.

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  34. V: Do you want the long version or the abridged. I'm sure you know the joke...

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  35. Margaret and I are kindred spirits. Don't mess with us!

    AND ONE MORE THING. If you think I long for France..let Ms. Palin be elected. I'll be there in a heartbeat and won't I be smilin'!! :)

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  36. Mr. E,
    Don't make me blush, darlin'
    V

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  37. Look out, France, there's going to be an exodus. Save me a room.

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  38. "Mind where you conjugate."

    Aw, do I hafta??

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  39. Except for sympathy toward the Bimbo Who Bit America, this is absolutely Hiker Hall of Fame. A personal and touching take on some big ticket items--the problem of public speaking; desensitization in general; the mind-body disconnect. Can there be humans out there who haven't felt all of this many, many times? (Even teachers, by the way).

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  40. Great post . . . want to be a guest speaker for my Public Speaking class??

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  41. Thanks Banjo, nice alliteration. Bec, you teach or take? I'll guest, but only if it's a third-grade class. And yes Amy, ya hafta.

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  42. The only thing to fear is Sarah Palin and her followers.

    And Banjo, I agree. I taught third grade for 20 years and the first day of school struck fear in my heart right up to the very last year.

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  43. I'd like to join Paula's group as an observer-I have nothing left to lose.
    As for leaving the country, I'd have been gone already if I could pull it off. (Austrailia. They speak English.) The proverbial rat leaving the sinking ship.

    Now, do I post this, or delete all but the first sentence...?

    What the hey!!

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  44. I used to write my cheat notes on my eraser. Don't make me make a speech in public. I won't do it.

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  45. Oups!
    "I’m not my own best friend. We have "so little in common.

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