I was a very shy child. Very very shy. I look at my little nephew today, who is almost four years old, and find it amazing how fearless he is of strangers. He will play with virtually any other child like they are his instant best friend. He has very little fear of adults as well, having no issues talking to any random person, and involving them in games and activities.
When I was their age I stood behind my mum’s leg whenever I met anyone new and it took me a long time to warm to people. Even as an adult I find it takes a while for me to reach a comfort zone with new people, however I have learned how to be much more socially “fearless”.
As all people discover as they grow up, the more socially comfortable you are, the more opportunities you enjoy. Life tends to challenge you with many situations where being a more social person has advantages, which used to really annoy me. I felt, as an introverted person who didn’t want to talk much, that I should not be forced to be outgoing if I didn’t want to be.
I knew that if I was relaxed and comfortable, I was capable of enjoying conversation and could possibly be a good speaker with valuable things to say. Because of my shyness I preferred to be in my own head. I didn’t like to be ignored, but I would choose to be ignored rather than face the fear of talking in front of other people.
As everyone who has gone through a schooling system and later as a grown up knows, the demands on you to present orally increases. Whether it’s to answer questions in class, participate in group discussions, to do group or individual oral presentations in front of class and later in front of bosses – it never seems to end.
Research suggests that the fear of speaking in public is the second greatest fear that adults have. Getting kids comfortable with speaking in front of audiences at an early age can be easily achieved by teaching them “Storytelling”. It allows them to learn the art of “self-expression” easily as children love stories and have no qualms when it comes to sharing their experience. By relating a story, children develop their unique presentation style without being dependent on the pace or turn of others. Storytelling develops children’s confidence. While the task may seem impossible or nerve-wracking initially, with encouragement and assurance they soon develop the confidence essential for public presentation.
The first step to this begins at home when you take out some time each night to read to your children. It could as simple as reading a story from the book or talking about your own childhood. There are innumerable advantages of story listening for kids especially for preschoolers, kinder garden and young children. It helps improve their language skills, instills a love of reading and stirs their imagination.
Expose them to good storytelling. Local libraries often bring in storytellers. Expose kids to a great number of short books and magazine short stories, and let them choose to learn to tell the one they love the most.
Check for a class in your local community to see whether storytelling, acting/drama, writing or illustration classes are available for kids. Many libraries and art-education groups will offer classes that not only teach kids about how to tell an interesting story but also help them step out of their comfort zone to expand their imagination.