Speech Fright: Reporter Reinforces Common Misconception

Donna Vickroy writes about her battle with speech fright in a recent online article for the Chicago Tribune. The piece underscores just how intrusive performance anxiety can be when Vickroy is confronted with giving a eulogy at her aunt’s funeral. It also reinforces a common misconception about nervousness being the source of excitement.

Back in the B.C. days

The most interesting part of Vickroy’s article is a curious observation by speaker and coach Jerilyn Willin about the roots of speech fright.

We have a picture of ourselves that we want other people to have as well. A lot of people don’t have that fear when addressing a group if they’re seated. . . . I have no proof of this, but I think it’s some evolutionary thing about being exposed in the moment. Like with hostile tribes back in the B.C. days.

Common misconception

Willin goes on to make a common¬†assertion about speech fright, “You don’t ever want the nerves to go away. That’s what helps you bring passion to your voice.”

I’ve tackled this idea in a recent post you can find here. In a nutshell, people who believe that anxiety equals excitement are confusing two states that have the same autonomic symptoms. We can tremble with both excitement and fear. It doesn’t mean they’re the same thing or even closely related.

Plus, there are times that excitement is not appropriate when we speak, perform, or compete, like when giving a eulogy at a funeral.


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