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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 8:11 pm | Fog/Mist 51º


Louise Palanker: Public Speaking Anxiety, Snooping, Boyfriend Smokes and Drinks

Question from Lindsey

I get so nervous when I have to do presentations. It’s been getting worse lately. A few days ago I had an English presentation and it went so terrible. I was moving around a lot, didn’t look up at the audience, my heart was racing so fast, and my cheeks were twitching so much and, this has never happened to me, it even made it hard for me to speak.

I couldn’t control it. I really had the urge to run out of the classroom. I don’t understand why this happens to me. I try to tell myself I’m gonna do fine but it doesn’t work. I feel like everyone is secretly judging me and pointing out all my flaws, which I know may sound stupid but I can’t seem to get that out of my head.

I’m moving onto junior year, which will have more presentations, and I really want to know how I can become better and be more confident and learn to control my nervousness.


I have a few tips for you. But first some information:

Public speaking is the No. 1 human fear. It ranks ahead of death.

So, when you are listening to others speak, be aware of this and give them your very best and kindest attention.

On to speaking tips, hints and exercises.

First, join any public speaking club at your school. Run toward your fear. Exposure builds muscle and calluses. Is there a debate team? Join it. Mock Trial? Join.

I teach stand-up comedy to teens here in Santa Barbara at the Jewish Community Center. I don’t expect them to become comedians. I know that they will never again fear public speaking.

Next, prepare your speech and practice it at home, out loud, 10 times louder than you will actually need to be speaking. Scream your speech!

This gets you really used to speaking those words, out loud, with power and confidence.

Now, give your speech in front of your family. Do it 10 times louder than necessary. Warn them in advance. Then SCREAM YOUR SPEECH!

Have your speech completely memorized. Reading just complicates this exercise. Memorize every word. Learn it well. Like your prayers or the Pledge of Allegiance. Look out over the heads of the class. Look at the back wall. People in the front will think you are looking at people in the back. People in the back will think you are looking at people to your left or to your right.

Deliver your speech. Just say the words. I heard this from the late film director Garry Marshall. He said, “No one has ever literally died of embarrassment.” He may not have been taking into account that death may be less frightening to most people, but I think you get his point. You will survive your speech.

Practice makes everything more familiar. So, really practice. BE PREPARED. You will get used to public speaking and you will get good at public speaking. It’s just a matter of your deciding to do it.

(Toastmasters video)

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Question from Jason

I just want an opinion of yours: I feel bothered if my own girlfriend, friend or anyone takes my personal items without consent and goes through them. I know I have nothing to hide and tell the truth all the time, but I recently had my girlfriend literally snatch my phone from me. With no suspicion she just wanted to go through it.

Is that something girls normally do? Because when people do that, I feel like my anxiety and eagerness to get it back increases. I can imagine how suspicious it looks, but it just bothers me if someone takes something that’s mine. I’m so unsure and it makes me feel totally crappy for being like that. I just want to know your opinion.


You are well within your rights to feel violated when someone snatches a personal possession. Whether you are hiding something is hardly the point. The phone is yours. You may have something embarrassing on there. You may have a diary or a poem or the photo of your dad’s toenail fungus that you sent to his doctor. The point being it’s your phone. It’s your property.

Relationships center around trust and communication. This situation involves both. Talk to your girlfriend about what you are willing to share with her and what you would like to keep to yourself. You would not expect your girlfriend to walk into your home and go through your room. Why should you have to be comfortable with her grabbing your phone and scrolling through it? If she trusts you, why does she feel compelled to do that? You would never take hers.

We all have different comfort levels when it comes to our own things and personal space. I don’t like it when someone sits at my desk. I have nothing to hide. I just like to know that things will be the way I left them. I guess you can call it territorial. It’s probably a somewhat primal feeling. It may be rooted in OCD or a need for control over my surroundings or a safety issue. I don’t know, but I don’t need to apologize for it. I just need to be clear and kind with people about my preferences and, in turn, respect theirs.

Talk to your girlfriend. Be clear and kind. Communication and trust must cultivate shared expectations. Within relationships, there is a lot of overlap when it comes to homes and phones and assorted belongings. If you are away from your phone and you receive a text, your girlfriend may see it. If she is in your room and your mom calls you away, your girlfriend may read a note on your desk.

All of these casual encounters with your personal belongings will happen. What you specifically would like to avoid is her expectation that she can — at will — confiscate and sort through your personal items. It is perfectly acceptable for you to manage that expectation.

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Question from Gretta

I will do my best to explain this. So I have a boyfriend and we just barely started a relationship on the 11th. I really do like him but there’s just one problem. He smokes and drinks. And that is something I don’t know what to do about. I don’t want to be that pushy girlfriend that says, “oh you can’t do this or this.” But I also don’t want him to do those things. I’m just stuck on like what to do.


I am so sorry but I don’t see this working out. You two have a serious inconsistency in basic lifestyle choices. People who use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes tend to want to be around others who are doing the same. Those who are choosing not to use these substances serve as a constant reminder of bad choices.

This boy will try to talk you into using. You will try to talk him out of using. This is a clash that is unsustainable. You can ask him once if he is willing to stop. I suspect that he will say no or he will say yes and still use. You can then have a conversation about goals and choices and decide how best to proceed.

You may like so much about each other. But this will prevent you from ever fully bonding. Don’t sacrifice your values for him. If this is going to work out he needs to come down your road.

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Got a question for Weezy? Email her at [email protected] and it may be answered in a subsequent column.

Louise Palanker is a co-founder of Premiere Radio Networks, the author of a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel called Journals, a comedian, a filmmaker (click here to view her documentary, Family Band: The Cowsills Story), a teacher and a mentor. She has a teen social network/IOS app and weekly video podcast called Journals Network, built around a philosophy of cyber kindness. She also teaches a free stand-up comedy class for teens at the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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