Fear of Public Speaking Hardwired
Speech Anxiety Worse for Some, but Most Can Overcome It
WebMD News Archive
Sensitizers vs. Habituaters continued...
Habituaters are usually low-trait anxiety people. People with high-trait
anxiety, Witt says, tend to be "sensitizers."
"Sensitizers are those who really focus on the unpleasant indicators:
'Oh my gosh, I have to make this speech. Oh my Lord, my hands are trembling.'
And they focus on these things instead of taking a deep breath or becoming more
focused. They are really into the experience but react in negative ways,
whereas habituaters are really into the experience and react in a more
Even when their speech is over, sensitizers don't relax. In fact, they
become even more anxious.
Witt's study appears in the March issue of Southern Communication
You Can Speak in Public
Here's the bad news. You cannot change your traits. They are part of your
personality. If you are a person with high-trait anxiety, there's no simple way
to become a low-trait-anxiety person.
The good news is that we can learn to win with the cards we are dealt.
High-trait anxiety is a challenge. It need not be a disability.
Witt doesn't try to motivate people. Instead, he teaches public speaking
Visualize. Picture yourself in the classroom or in the
meeting room, standing up, taking your notes to the lectern, and so on.
Visualize a successful outcome.
Practice. Practice going through your presentation, over
and over again. But do it with someone who is supportive, so that you learn to
succeed rather than to fail.
Sensitizers focus on the little things. "Through
visualization they can get all that negative stuff out, so when the real day
comes, they can get that out of their system and focus on real issues,"
During your speech, deal with symptoms as they occur:
- Dry mouth? Take a little sip of water.
- Knees knocking? Shift your weight and flex your knees.
- Hands trembling? Put them together.
- Voice is quivering? "Pause, take a deep breath or two, and smile. It is
amazing what a smile will do," Witt say.
- Sweating? "Forget it, nobody sees that anyway," Witt says.
"Those symptoms that distract us are treatable," Witt says. "It
doesn't take a PhD to figure this out, but so many people don't -- because as
sensitizers, they become so focused on their symptoms and their embarrassment
in front of other people."