Communication & Alignment

Is Glossophobia Hurting Your Bottom Line?

Are you a Glossophobic?

If you don’t know what that means, ask yourself if you would prefer to walk on hot coals instead of speak to a group?

Many surveys have revealed that above the fear of death and disease is the fear of standing in front of a crowd. Millions of people are terrified of the spotlight, whether it’s speaking to a large crowd with a microphone or at a dinner table of four.

I recently attended a convention for public speakers and actually learned that there is a word for being afraid to speak to a group. It’s called glossophobia, which comes from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and phobos, which means fear or dread. If you have anxiety prior to, (or simply at the thought of) having to verbally communicate with any group then you may just be a glossophobic.

Just what you need, another label, huh?

How come some people can’t wait to get up in front of a crowd and others would prefer to walk on hot coals rather instead of speak?

My experience as a performance coach, trainer and speaker has shown me that even one uncomfortable past experience of being rejected, shamed or scolded when you have spoken out can make you a glossophobic.

One client told me when he was invited to speak at his company banquet, he broke out in a cold sweat. When we went deeper into his body memory it reminded him of when he was humiliated by an uncle who told him, “Don’t choose sales or speaking as a career,” when the boy spoke up at a large family gathering.

The incident infected the boy with a viral belief that held: “If I speak up, I’ll get criticized!” This thought got absorbed into his subjective reality and became defining for him. As an adult he had tremendous difficulty whenever required to present his ideas to a committee or group.

Another client traced her fear of public speaking back to the first time she stood up in grammar school :her blouse was unbuttoned and the entire class laughed at her. The simple act of standing in front of people triggers that fear and shame and activates her viral belief: “I’m terrified of getting up in front of people because they may laugh at me.”

If you are afraid but want to speak publicly and believe it might help you socially or in your career, I suggest looking at this head on and join your local toastmasters, rotary club or take an acting class. Over time with a supportive audience, you can replace your past negative experiences with new positive ones.

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About the Author: Steve Sisgold

Steve Sisgold has spent the past two decades delivering inspirational entertaining presentations, teaching thousands of people the skills, principles and innovative success strategies that enabled him to own and direct a successful Advertisi…

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  1. I’ve always felt so lucky in this case.  I love public speaking – unlike anyone else in my immediate or extended family.  Everyone else dreads it.

    • Steve Sisgold Vistage Speaker

      August 19, 2011 at 2:07 am

      Thank you Valerie,

      You are blessed to be the one of your family to love public speaking. I love the energy it brings up in me and how it serves others connecting with them through speaking.

  2. Richard I. Garber

    August 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm


    Joining Toastmasters International is a very useful self-help way to overcome fear of public speaking. About ten percent of U.S. adults have a phobia-level fear of public speaking, and they may need more than just Toastmasters.

    However, I think that glossophobia just is a pseudo-tecnical buzzword that doesn’t add any value beyond the plain-English phrases “speech anxiety” or “public speaking anxiety”:


    • Steve Sisgold Vistage Speaker

      August 19, 2011 at 2:03 am

      HI Richard,

      Thank you. Of course toastmasters is not the only fix; its just a suggestion to go out and get support. Thanks for taking the time to give your view on the word glossophobia as well. I like learning new words, and sometimes for sure they add no value.

      What I enjoy most is helping folks express their message or communication to others and changing behaviors that don’t work for them anymore.. Beliefs can keep us stuck in the same behaviors and reactions to to things, whether its looking for the half full or half empty in every situation.

      Keep reading and commenting. Appreciate that.

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