Personality Development is essentially improving your ability to speak powerfully. However, more than half the population is “introverted” or unable to speak strongly. They’re terrified of speaking in public. The following is a case study to help you understand that it’s possible to move from being fearful, to fearless.
But before tackling the fear of public speaking, it is wise to address the hesitation we feel to even entertain the possibility of becoming a strong, confident speaker. “Is it possible?” we ask ourselves. “I’ve always been this way, maybe it won’t work for me,” our skeptical mind warns us. Then we feel that it may have something to do with our general introversion or extreme shyness. As a case study, notice the following list of concerns expressed by an individual called Mr. G:
- I was very shy, and avoided all the company in my childhood, literally running back home as soon as the school got over.
- I would call myself a coward. I was haunted by the fear of thieves and snakes.
- I was afraid of the dark, as I would imagine ghosts coming from one direction. I slept with the lights on.
- It was scary to think of even speaking to someone. I was afraid people might make fun of me.
- I was always tongue-tied, and couldn’t utter anything in public, even in the company of people I knew well.
- After failing multiple times in speaking in front of people, I tried to write down what I wanted to say and thought of reading it out.
- Even this strategy of reading out what I had written didn’t work, because as soon as I got up to speak, the words refused to come out. Someone else had to read it for me.
- Another time, when I stood up to speak, my vision became blurred, and I started trembling. It was a failure. I was ashamed of myself and sad at my incapability of voicing my thoughts.
- On one occasion, having invited friends for dinner, I stood up to make a speech. I spent time preparing something and made sure it was short and humorous. But I could not go beyond the first sentence. My memory failed me, and in attempting something humorous, I made a fool of myself. Finally, I said, “thank you for coming” and sat down.
Now imagine that Mr. G has revolutionary ideas that he wants to spread to everyone. He has grand plans for addressing large crowds, by speaking to thousands of people present before he live on Television, everywhere. What seems laughable or unrealistic was eventually achieved by Mr. G or Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The aforementioned list is an actual admission of the extent of his fears in real life. In fact, there is an interesting account of how he notched up his first case as a lawyer, just when he got up to defend his client. Gandhi lost his nerve, become blank, and left the courtroom in shame, without waiting to see what the verdict was.
Gandhi is the quintessential example of an introverted, shy, fearful, goes-blank-in-front-of-the-spotlight guy who over the course of several years, transformed into a representative of the voice of an entire nation. This is not an uncommon theme among great speakers, and there is absolutely no doubt that great speakers are made, not born.
The moment he decided to fight for what he believed in with all his might, he put the fears and hesitations on the side and did whatever he had to. To his credit, he made the best use of his shyness, by becoming more succinct in his words – both written and spoken. However, even towards the end, Gandhi accepts some of his struggles in his autobiography:
- I never completely overcame shyness.
- It was impossible for me to speak impromptu.
- I hesitated whenever I had to face strange audiences and avoided making a speech whenever I could.
- Even today I do not think I could or would even be inclined to keep a meeting of friends engaged in idle talk.
Thus, there was a lot that Gandhi overcame, owing to his need to fight for his principles or something greater than himself. Not fighting for what (to him) seemed right, put him in a morally objectionable position. He needed to fight through this. It was almost like someone who is left with no option and must go all-in… like flipping a switch. Gandhi decided that it would be harder to live with himself if he didn’t flip the switch.