Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 2:09 pm | Fair 70º


Louise Palanker: Public Speaking Fears, Talking Hurt, Feeling Left Out

Question from Ezra

I need some advice regarding my public speaking class. I’m enrolled in a college speech class, and every time I walk into the room, whether I am going to speak in front of the class that day or not, I feel like I am going to pass out. It is an unhealthy amount of anxiety and stress, and I do not want it to affect my academic performance in the course.

How do I cope with this? Thanks in advance.


There are a few things you can do. First of all, please know that everyone in that class is afraid of public speaking. All humans fear being judged by others. We are, after all, communal creatures and for the sake of our very survival we require the physical and emotional support and acceptance of one another. So, the idea of being this nakedly assessed is especially terrifying.

We may all react differently to the fear of public speaking so it may appear to you that others in your class are faring better than you, but don’t be fooled. You may feel like you are about to pass out. The kid in front of you may be nauseous. The kid behind you may be talking excessively to ensure his body’s ability to continue producing saliva.

Since we know that everyone in your class is equally desperate for acceptance and approval, focus your attention on being a source of comfort to others. Get out of your own head. Smile, chat, compliment. Be what you need.

When it comes to public speaking (and anything important, really), preparation is your friend. Put a lot of time, attention, effort and practice into each of your presentations. Say your speech out loud over and over again as you stand in front of the mirror or walk around your home. Let those words come out of your mouth repeatedly as you practice and practice what you are about to say. Your tongue should be completely familiar with the pattern of forming these words.

Memorize your speech if you can. You WILL be scared. When you are up in front of that room, you will lose 50 IQ points so your job in advance of your speech is to commit as much as you can to rote, muscle memory so that no matter the level of fear, that speech will come out of you.

As you talk, look out over people’s heads at the back of the room. In your first few speeches, your job is to get your words out of your head. That’s it. You will work on being a better performer as you grow more comfortable with being up there.

This is one of the most important classes you will ever take in your life. Public speaking is our No. 1 fear. It ranks ahead of death. Maybe because dead people are rarely asked to speak. You will be required to speak publicly throughout your life. At events, meetings, seminars, weddings, funerals, celebrations, etc. Once you complete this class you will face each of these speaking situations WITHOUT feeling like you are about to pass out. You may even grow to enjoy it.

Here is more from Amy Wolff. How awkward would it be if she was horrible at public speaking?! But she’s not. She’s fantastic!

(The Oregonian video)

                                                                 •        •        •

Question from Anya

There’s this boy I’ve been liking on and off for almost a year now. We know, like, almost everything about each other and we can read each other pretty well. We tried the talking stage a couple times but it never works. He always thinks I’m just playing around and not serious, but I am actually serious.

We always fall apart. Not for any specific reason. But then we always find each other again and, when we do, we talk all the time. He now says he wouldn’t try the talking stage with me again because he doesn’t trust me. I kind of don’t blame him because the things I say around him make it seem like I’m not loyal. But I honestly believe that if we were together I wouldn’t do anything that doesn’t better our relationship. But he doesn’t believe it or doesn’t want to get hurt.

I still like him and I sort of want to be more than friends, but I don’t know what to do based on the fact that he doesn’t trust me. Should I keep talking to him every day, or should I just stop because I know we’re never going to be anything?


He has told you that he doesn’t wish to date you because he is concerned about getting hurt. That’s his choice. If being his friend and not dating him but still talking every day is hurting you, then you can tell him that you need to step away. We all have a right to protect ourselves and to ask for what we need.

But, before you do step away, ask him what he would need to see from you in order for him to feel that he can trust you. If the talking stage is supposed to be sort of like a relationship preview or a job interview or an audition, then treat it that way. Show him what he would be able to expect.

Allow the “talking” period to help both of you to figure out who the other person is and who you would each be within a committed relationship. I am guessing that in the course of your conversations he has felt hurt or discarded or jealous. Why would he want to be in a romantic relationship that causes him to feel this way?

Now you may be thinking that talking is not dating. Maybe not but it seems that if you would like it to become dating, you need to give the other person a preview that helps them feel safe and confident. If he sees you flirting with other people or telling him who else you think is cute, then he may just be shying away from dating a girl who is not completely interested in him alone.

Instead, show him how safe and connected with you he could feel within a committed relationship. Tell him how you feel about remaining just friends. See what he has to say and make your next move accordingly.

                                                                 •        •        •

Question from Nicole

I’ve felt so lonely lately. All my friends are in relationships and I’m always a third wheel. There’s a big dance coming up at my school and I really want someone to ask me. I have someone in mind, but I don’t think he’s interested in me. Do you have any tips for how to get someone to ask me?


You can’t really ever “get” someone to do something they are not inclined to do. You can show someone who you are or tell someone that you are interested and available. The next choice must be his. If you think he’s not interested then convince yourself that you have nothing to lose and be brave. Just ask him if he’s going. See what he says and take it from there.

Once you have eliminated him as a possibility you can move on to another option. Remember that people in relationships are not necessarily happier than you. Many of them are figuring out how to get the heck out of an unhappy relationship.

Life is challenging for all of us. If you are not dating someone right now, that’s because you currently have something else to do or learn or discover about yourself.

                                                                 •        •        •

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 also hosts a weekly video podcast called Things I Found Online, and 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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