GREAT NECK, N.Y., Oct. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite long-held beliefs, public speaking is not the number-one fear - said to rank above even death. Instead, says performance anxiety therapist Jonathan Berent, LCSW, author of "Beyond Shyness" and "Work Makes Me Nervous," the true number-one fear is speaking in public.
Is there really a difference? Yes, and it's a critical one, Berent says. "Public speaking refers to giving a speech in front of an audience," he explains. "Speaking in public is defined as being the sole voice during any conversation, even one on one." He calls it "conversation anxiety," and it can spike in situations such as a job interview, a conference call, a sales "pitch," an interaction with an authority figure, a PTA discussion, a book club get-together with friends, networking and party small talk, and returning phone calls. Being the only one talking is the trigger.
Anxiety increases and thoughts race: "'I have to be perfect. Can they tell I'm nervous? Can they see who I really am?' It can feel like it's life or death," Berent says. During his 32-year career working with more than 10,000 social and performance anxiety sufferers, Berent says he has heard two complaints more than any other: "I don't have anything to say" and "I don't know what to say." The result of this perpetual belief can be self-censoring so severe that it can destroy careers and relationships. In the worst cases, adult "selective mutism" results, and people simply refuse to talk in conversational situations.
Berent contends that "our rapidly evolving technological society has bred an overall diminished capacity to utilize neural pathways associated with verbal communication. Therefore, situations that take an individual out of their digital comfort zone are often triggers for anxiety and panic."
The co-author of two books, Berent has just released a free e-book entitled CONVERSATION ANXIETY: Help for Those Who May Know "What to Say After You Say Hello" But Are Afraid to Say It. This 91-page book is available at http://www.socialanxiety.com, along with other valuable resources for anxiety sufferers and those who care about them. Berent is also co-author with Amy Lemley of Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Workplace Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed (Wiley, 2010) and Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties (Simon & Schuster, 1993).
SOURCE Jonathan Berent