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Public Speaking for Shy People

I can easily understand why any shy person would dread having to give a speech. It’s a lot of pressure, all eyes are on you and you must perform a really challenging task.

I began my study of speech precisely because I felt that way when I was younger. But it’s important to remember that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being shy! Yes, it will absolutely hold you back in some instances. But you can learn to speak effectively despite being a shy person. In fact, this trait can even serve as an asset in speech.

Susan Cain’s popular ted talk Thepower of introverts and her book Quiet shed much light on this subject, though more broadly. And I see time and time again how different personality types handle public speaking. I’ve seen many students give incredible speeches despite seeming quite shy. It’s possible that shyness can even drive some people to put more effort into their speeches. It may cause a person to care more about the assignment.

I don’t reckon shyness ever goes away entirely. But with an adequate skill set it need not be a hindrance. Plus, once you learn all the tricks of the trade in public speaking, you will feel emboldened in your public speaking capabilities. 

An important addition to this discussion is that you don’t always need to be the loudest voice in the room. Sometimes it’s just better to be cautious with your words. After all, communication is irreversible.

If you say the wrong thing then you may end up causing more harm than good. Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, tells us “Those who know, do not speak. Those who speak, do not know.” Similarly, if more dramatic, the Judeo-Christian book of proverbs states “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” I think we can learn a lot by listening and watching sometimes rather than by talking too much.

I really feel for people that are terrified to give a speech because I strongly identify with that feeling. It's why I studied communication in the first place and went on to become a teacher. I find that I agree with Susan Cain’s redeeming portrayal of introverts. It’s been my experience and I also witness this in the classroom with students.

You can learn to speak effectively despite being fearful of the spotlight. It may even motivate you to do your best. In the end, you may that find it’s not always a good thing to be the loudest voice in the room. 

Society may often discount shy people. But when such individuals do speak, others may just tend to listen more closely.