Monday, December 19, 2016

To Overcome Anxiety about Public Speaking, Talk to a Dog

Public speaking regularly shows up on lists of the things Americans fear the most, ahead of sharks and muggers. To overcome this anxiety, one business professor suggests that shy students practice speaking to dogs:
The two undergraduates were acing their presentation. Good cadence. Sharp slides. Sunny dispositions. But it was a tough crowd.

As the first slides flashed by, one audience member got up and paced the room. The other, breathing with conspicuous heaviness, rested her head sleepily on the ground. The students inflected their voices and gestured with gusto to regain their attention.

So it goes when your audience is canine — specifically Teddy, a Jack Russell terrier, and Ellie, a Bernese mountain dog. The session was part of a pilot program pairing anxiety-prone business school students at American University with amiable, if unpredictable, dogs.

According to promotional material for the program: “Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation.”
Hey, whatever works. Especially when the problem is an irrational fear, the solution may well be equally irrational.

4 comments:

David said...

Is fear of public speaking irrational? Have you ever bombed? I mean, really bombed. I have, and it's pretty painful. The fear can be managed, got past, even overcome, but there's real badness there to fear, so I would never say it's irrational.

John said...

Bombing is bad, but not as bad as being eaten by a shark or even being in a car crash. Yet people are much more afraid of public speaking than driving or swimming in the ocean.

David said...

Bombing is psychologically harrowing. In that sense, fear of bombing is indeed irrational, but not baseless. We have evolved so that many, many humans simply DO find humiliation in the presence of our fellows deeply, deeply traumatizing. That's the way we are. I am led back to your post of a few weeks ago about your own gradual education in appreciating the simple, blunt factualness of basic human irrationality, and forward to Japanese "evaporation," which seems quite unweird to me. Many humans are irreducibly about the psychological and social, rather than the rational calculation of relative pain or pleasure, profit or loss.

John said...

True.