Awareness: The 3rd Secret to Fearless Speaking

Photo of the Eye artwork

I used to be very uncomfortable with eye-to-eye contact. It was awkward and made me feel uneasy, especially if I didn’t know the person. So speaking in front of a group was even more challenging since there were so many eyes staring back at me. Standing in front of a group and looking out at all the eyes was as terrifying as looking out at a room full of sharks.

Why People are Afraid to Look at Each Other

Many people find that they avoid looking at each other directly in the eye. Reasons for this reluctance vary, but following is a list of some of the common influences that can affect our learned behavior.

Cultural Conditioning – in most cultures looking people in the eye is rude, and in some cases it is absolutely taboo. It can signify disrespect, dominance, and a dare.

Social Norms – our social training says that we should avoid eye contact unless we are familiar or intimate with a person. Flirting is often conveyed with a coy look in the eye. But people can feel violated and intruded upon if someone is too seductive.

Family Messages – we all have come across the saying that “children should be seen and not heard,” and this is a message many people have taken with them into adulthood. Parents also exert control over children with just one stern look, and they can communicate disapproval or expectation with not much more than a glance.

Personality – people are born with a personality all of their own and perhaps even at a young age a child is more prone to shyness. A more reclusive personality or an introvert is certainly not often at ease with engaging eye to eye.

Trauma
– at any age people can be wounded by a traumatic event. From physical abuse to insensitive name-calling, wounds can run deep and cripple people in their ability to interact with others.

Letting Go of The Fear of Being Seen

When we are connected to our true self, we are no longer afraid to be seen. We are centered in our essence where our nature is as beautiful as the deep green forest, as clear as the crystal waters of a mountain stream, as expansive as the blue oceans, and as infinite as the heavens above us. Remember that this and more is your basic composition.

Letting Go of The Fear of Looking at Others

When we are connected to our true self, we are no longer afraid to look at others. We know that at everyone’s core is goodness and light. If we can but see who they truly are, then there would be nothing to fear. Others are but mere reflections of us. If we are spectacular in our nature, and if we are all one, then we will see the beauty and connection in all of our communications.

Being Open and Unafraid are The Secrets of a Good Speaker. Remember to

  • Look your listener in the eyes whenever you speak
  • Let your listener look you in your eyes whenever you speak

Doreen’s Essential Speaking Tip:

First think back about the messages you were given about making eye contact. Ask yourself, what did you learn from your parents? Were there explicit cultural rules that applied to you? How has society shaped your attitudes about looking at others or letting others look at you? Now think of yourself as magnificent and beaming with light from within. Imagine that this is what people see when they look at you. Now see that same magnificence and light beaming out from the eyes of your listeners. There is nothing to fear.

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Doreen Hamilton

About Doreen Hamilton

Doreen Hamilton, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist with over thirty years of experience, the Training Director of Speaking Circles® International, and the founder of Essential Speaking. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety caused by the fear of speaking. In addition to her authentic communication workshops and private coaching, she leads Speaking Circles in Berkeley, CA, along with teleconferences, e-courses and seminars throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.

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