Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking…


What is wrong with me? It’s okay, that’s a rhetorical question so you don’t have to provide answers in your comments below. Although you are more than welcome to if you’ve a spare half hour, I can peruse your list of faults at a later date for another blog, perhaps. I sure do need the blog-fodder. But really, what’s wrong with me? I’m a sensible, for-the-most-part-educated, adult with an acceptable command of the English language, but I‘ve always been vaguely uncomfortable when speaking to people. Face-to-face, anyway. I suppose it’s all going to boil down to some inferiority complex (doesn’t it always?), but I just want to explore the minutiae of why I have such an issue with…well…talking.

The technological age couldn’t come fast enough for me. I am lucky enough to be living in a time where I’ve been able to successfully disguise my actual persona behind the wonders of text messages and emails. Man, can you image a life without texts and emails? I can’t. I’d have to go live under a rock if you took those away from me. I’m frikkin’ awesome on cyberspace. No really, I am the cat’s pyjamas. The dog’s b*llocks. I’m the shizzle. I challenge anyone to write a better email than me. No need for spontaneity; everything can be prepped, pre-planned, edited and revised. I can converse at my leisure because nothing can be accidentally said without due thought until you press the ‘send’ button. My husband despairs of me sometimes; the countless texts that go back and forward just to make an ordinary arrangement. ‘Just bloody ring them!’ he’ll growl. Ring them? What, actually SPEAK to them? Why would I do that when I can hide behind the written word? D’uh! But physical, in the flesh, no gadgets required life – that poses the problem for me. My daughter, who is a keen Vlogger, insists that I ought to start one, but she doesn’t understand how monumental a mistake that would be for me…

You see, I’m awkward in real life. I have this vaguely grating cockney accent, veneered over with a decent vocabulary (but said vocabulary also lets me down when I am nervous and the only words in my armoury are ‘right’ and ‘yeah’ and ‘um’ and ‘err’). What’s more, if I don’t know you or I’m uncomfortable in what I’m talking about, that voice comes out as a strangulated, nasal whine. I’m alright over the phone; there I can hide behind the cloak of distance and invisibility. It’s when life gets ‘corporal’ that things go awry. If I were to start a vlog (and I have thought about it, people really do tend to respond to visuals better than words), you’d be sorely disappointed. Really, if I’ve in any way managed to build up an image of esteem in your eyes, that would be speedily demolished by the diffident and uncomfortable person that is me.

I’ve said on a number of occasions that I work in healthcare, it’s a subject that I don’t really like to talk about here because that’s another me – a me you don’t need to know. But my job (obviously) demands that I have contact with patients. And I’ve learned over the last 20 years to compensate for my failings. Put me in a uniform talking about a subject that I’m familiar with to a singular client, then I’m good-to-go. I could win a BAFTA. It’s when you take me out of my comfort zone that the problems start. I was once asked to speak in front of a room-full of strangers (a patient focus group, if you will), and explain my role in my place of work. Well, you’d have thought I’d been asked to sing at the opening ceremony of the Olympics (in fact, I honestly would far rather have done that. I have a decent singing voice and I’d rather sing a recited tune than talk ad-lib). I put in weeks of preparation into what should have been a five minute spiel. I wrote out exactly what I intended to say, made cue-cards so the speech didn’t look forced or, well, scripted. After the ordeal was over, my colleagues assured me of how well I’d spoken and how informative my talk was. But I’m quite certain they were trying to make me feel better. I’m almost positive I came across as some kind of simpleton. I forgot everything I was supposed to say, my accent was at its MOST pronounced (I sounded like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) and my throat seemed to be swelling up so that words were coming out in fits and starts. Seriously, I hope never to be asked to do that again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a gibbering wreck on social occasions. I can talk to friends, talk to clients, converse in shops and even direct strangers or tell someone the time in the street – all the things that you other grown-ups can do. But don’t push me beyond my rehearsed limits and expect me to function adequately. Of course, you and I know what the problem is; I’m insecure just like everybody else. Perhaps I’m ashamed of my background or my accent or my limited education or my appearance, perhaps all of those things rolled into one. Am I confident and happy within my own skin? No, not entirely – but I’m getting better at faking it.

Anyway, tell me about your experiences or your inferiorities. Are you super-confident and at ease with yourself? Or are you a little bit of an introvert like me? Seriously, do tell. But put it down there in the comments, or send me an email or text it to me. And if you’re dead set on telling me in person, alright, but I’ll need a couple of weeks to prep and psyche myself up for your visit.

PS: I was joking in that last line. I’m not that bad. Well, y’know, err….um…yeah…right…

‘Couldn’t you just email it to me..?’

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32 thoughts on “Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking…

  1. Haha I feel your pain Adele, I’m recording audio at the moment, and as so eloquently put by anybody (under 20), just OMG!!! I can speak in public, yep, I mean even real public speaking without my tribe to back me up, just so long as there is no camera trained on me, and no chance I will EVER have to hear it played back. Basically I don’t want to know how I look or sound. Lets stick to sound, because I don’t often let anybody direct a lens in my general direction, else I make them sign a disclaimer that it will never make it into the public hemisphere, I hate the tone of my voice. Seriously, it winds me up, aaaannnd I hate my accent. Which like yours, comes out to play and reinforces itself with gusto when I least like it to. I do try to remember this though. Those parts of me? My dulcet tones and broad midlands accent? They are part of who I am, just as yours are part of who you are, and honestly, anybody who needs to cover their ears when I speak (whether it’s because they can’t listen any longer to the stream of cr@p flowing or my accent), they are never going to connect with me. Hmmm which might explain the crowd I draw in public? 😉 I’m thinking a Vlog with just subtitles isn’t going to cut it right?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Novel-writing obviously suits you. But how will you manage the BBC Breakfast interview? Or ITV’s latest morning programme? 🙂

    We all have such insecurities. I hate the telephone at times here in Britain because sometimes I can’t understand what’s being said TO ME and I feel like an idiot. Ringing Sky and its Scottish call centre is one of my worst nightmares!

    My accent at times bothers me too, but possibly now more in the U.S. because it has become so “weirdly” Anglicised over the years. But I always wonder if I’m being “judged” in some way here in Britain too. My wife blasts me for seeming so “shy” when she knows I’m not. And I’m not. I’ve stood in front of groups of 100+ students in the States and lectured for hours about politics. But it’s all about circumstances and the people you’re communicating with, I guess.

    Bottom line: don’t worry about talking to groups of people. One thing I learned as a lecturer? Most people probably aren’t listening all that closely anyway. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

      • “Adele Archer: hermit author. We can’t get her to do an interview. No one can. She absolutely refuses.”

        It’s a brilliant strategy that’ll set you apart from everyone else out here mugging for the cameras! Your readers will be dying to hear even a word from you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I prefer email to speaking to people definitely, although strangely I absolutely love giving presentations, I’m not sure but I think it’s something of the show off in me!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. …super confident – always have been. My lady thinks too much so, as I will talk to anyone, at any time, any place and any where (wasn’t that a drink advert?) A small part of my career was teaching, so I am certainly used to talking to an audience.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can relate entirely. I was the classic introvert poster child who never outgrew it. I also hated public speaking, still do, but manage well enough when I have to. Back in grade school I’d made the senior class speech finals (mandatory) for the second year in a row, to my horror. The second year I intentionally goofed up my audition, so as not to get chosen to speak in front of the entire school. That part worked, only as a runner-up I was delegated to being co-master of ceremonies for the entire program. And the day of event, my female co-MC didn’t show. I had the improvise the entire program myself in front of the entire school. Now that’s Karma. Explains a lot now that I think about it. Loved this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Cor blimey Adele, I don’t Adam and Eve it, can’t believe my mince pies. I always imagined you with an accent like Joanna Lumley.

    You’re not alone with struggling to speak in front of strangers. Maybe you should do a vlog? Then you could indeed practise for when you’re on talks-shows plugging your next book. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love public speaking, in fact I had just come out of the final seminar in a series i had been running since September when i wrote this reply. I love the challenge of engaging a group of different characters and outlooks. The energy is what i feed on.

    Now vlogging. That i tried but could not bond with the camera. Did the camera love me darling?.. No it couldn’t give a rat’s.

    Give me a room of warm souls and I’ll dance all day.

    We all have our strengths, be happy with that.

    (writing is different though. I become my character and share my story)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I imagine a lot of stuff, so delivering speeches with 50,000 people watching ain’t strange to me. In reality, I can’t even pull up good phone conversations. Most of the time my vocabulary is restrained to hmmm.. True.. Ummm.. Dunno.. Bye. (And to myself – phew..)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I feel ya, Adele. No of us are exactly what we appear to be to others. None of us have that much control because we’re not perfect. And then there’s the matter of how we all tend to perceive and interpret things about each other in ways that are again in keeping with our imperfect nature.

    As a kid, I was like so many others – extremely outgoing and so rambunctious that even the Tasmanian Devil stepped back around the corner every time he saw me coming. Then, after my family relocated to a new neighborhood when I was twelve (due to circumstances I won’t talk about now), everything flipped backwards and I became extremely shy and introverted. This lasted for years and became a chronic issue. At one point, I practically had to be dragged out of the house and forced to make a new friend (yeah, I was really, really weird). It wasn’t until I stumbled into my twenties that all that really began to change again.

    For years after, I went back and forth this way from one extreme to another as I struggled to find my path – shy with some people at times and far too outspoken at others (nothing like I am today, right?). In time, however, I’ve grown more self-aware and self-confident – both less self-deprecating and less egotistical (imagine going through life being both of these at the same time. Heck, imagine the horror of those who had to endure it!).

    It takes more than time though to grow into something more than what we are at any given time. Gradually, I grew to appreciate more and more that one of the other ingredients to this recipe is constantly challenging myself to overcome my obstacles by continually pushing myself “out of my comfort zones” and into situations that required me to face my fears head on. Really, I’ve discovered this part is literally the only way that works – well, certainly for me.

    The first time I went to a white elephant party was when a guy (Bill) I roomed with in Minnesota a few years ago invited me to his sister and family’s house. I’d never met them. I barely KNEW him. I was black. They were all white (which in Minnesota is pretty much the norm). It was an intimate, holiday affair where in even heard the tradition was to sit around in your pajamas (“Excuse me, WHAT…?).

    Instantly, on a scale of 0 to 10, my anxiety level had ratcheted up to 15.4. I immediately yet politely told my roomie “no, but thank you very much.” I even tried to rationalize why it was a not so good idea: “They don’t know me. I don’t know them. I don’t have any pajamas. Bill! You DO know I’m black, right? And everybody in your family is probably white? What if that makes them feel uncomfortable? Hell, that’ll make me feel uncomfortable. What kind of gifts do you guys normally give to each other? What if they don’t like mine? What if they try to serve me watermelon and chicken? If something happens and you die, how am I supposed to get home? Is anybody in your family a cannibal? How can I be SURE of that?”

    And on and on this living room conversation had went for a half hour. Ultimately, with surprising calm and a kind smile, Bill had somehow managed to coax me down from the ceiling and talk me down from my insanity. I’d wound up going to the party and – though yes, it still felt awkward at moments – I had fun and was so glad I went, if for no other reason than I had succeeded in trying something new and overcame my trepidation. As a result, I’m probably a stronger, wiser, more confident person today.

    So ya see, Adele…if I can survive my fear of being eaten alive by a family of cannibals at a New Year’s Day elephant party, surely there MUST still be hope for you. =)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pingback: Blogger Spotlight: Adele at “Adele Archer Writes” – Bonnywood Manor

  11. Brian from Bonnywood Manor led me to you. Great post! I hide behind the written word too, very happily! At work I’m known for my witty emails, but then they look so confused when I barely talk to them to their face, or decline a party invite. Trust me, people, if I opened my mouth, nothing but gibberish would come out.

    Liked by 2 people

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