How do I Overcome a Fear of Talking?

Tara Barnett

Overcoming a fear of talking usually involves desensitization and new attitudes about certain situations, and sometimes just learning to fake it. Even if someone cannot completely overcome the fear, most people can learn to overcome it in the sense that they do not let the fear interfere with their lives.

Many people must overcome a fear of public speaking.
Many people must overcome a fear of public speaking.

A fear of talking is usually confined to a specific kind of situation, although some people are entirely mute due to fear. Commonly, people find themselves afraid of speaking in public settings, with new people, or even on the telephone.

Overcoming a fear of talking in social settings can be one of the most difficult. This problem can arise for a number of reasons, including fear of humiliation or a speech impediment. Many people find that limiting the number of people spoken to at a time, then increasing that number gradually, can provide some relief from this problem. As most initial social interactions have very similar topics and conventions, simple practice can be enough to overcome a fear of talking in social settings.

Many people are afraid of talking on the phone. This is particularly true about making outgoing calls, as the person being called usually has less of an obligation to talk. One of the best ways to overcome a fear of talking on the phone is to write out a script beforehand and read it when speaking on the phone. If possible, outlining several answers to probable questions is also valuable. Using this strategy, one can eventually internalize a variety of scripts until talking on the phone becomes easy and natural.

A more general fear of speaking may be more difficult to overcome. If the fear is not of talking to people, but of speaking itself, then it can be harder to isolate what is causing the fear. Overall, it is rare for a fear of talking to be unrelated to the social nature of speech, and it is likely that in truly trusted company the fear can be overcome. The key is to find people who are understanding, willing to accept delays in conversation, and who have ways of thinking similar to the speaker so that comprehension is easier.

Given the social nature of speech, a fear of talking is often related to general social anxiety. A person who is afraid of speaking in public, for example, might also be afraid of dancing in public. When social anxiety is so overwhelming that a person cannot interact with other people, through language or otherwise, professional help may be required. Certain medications and many therapeutic strategies can provide relief from social anxiety and help overcome a fear of talking permanently.

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