Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is stage fright just “The American Disease”?

On the third Thursday of each month Thomas Dillon writes a column in The Japan Times  titled When East Marries West. On July 16th  it was Ten tips for shaking stage fright, aka ‘the American disease’. His humorous tips were:

1. Keep in mind - no matter what happens - 1 billion Chinese won’t give a hoot.

2. Imagine the entire audience is sitting there naked - a vision guaranteed to make you grin and relax.

3. Imagine the entire room filled with clones of someone you love and trust.

4. Wear your lucky shirt.

5. Encourage yourself by focusing on good memories.

6. Whisper your own words of encouragement.

7. Create a distraction. You know, to take the pressure off. For example, you might release some small animal in the back of the room.

8. Come out smiling and don’t stop. Smile, smile, smile.

9. Even if you goof up the world’s not gonna end.

10. Don’t forget your audience. They’re Japanese. They will be polite, graceful and responsive even if they don’t understand.

Mr. Dillon’s description of stage fright as being “The American Disease” surprised me. Perhaps over  in Japan it’s no big deal compared with our obsession. I found a magazine article from 2001 in Japanese Psychological Research written by C. B. Pribyl, J. Keaten, and M. Sakamoto that mentioned why. It is titled The effectiveness of a skills-based program in reducing public speaking anxiety. Their opening paragraph noted:

“American students have numerous opportunities to learn and practice presentation skills in both high school and college. In contrast, public speaking has played a minor role in Japanese education. However, the Ministry of Education is calling for renewed emphasis on oral skills, and this has prompted Japanese educators to reconsider their position.”

The cropped and flipped 1856 election poster for John C. Fremont came from Wikimedia Commons.    

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