Some of the most powerful work at The Practice Space has been with parents and families, where we go out into the community and work with organizations that help parents advocate for their children’s needs. If you think public speaking is hard, try speaking about something as personal and emotional as your child’s struggles in school! I always learn a lot from the process of teaching parents to tell compelling personal stories and helping them connect these stories to a broader advocacy message. So often, the key message is buried under countless examples and anecdotes, and it can be hard for a listener to discern the primary argument. What so often happens is that a speaker’s passion veers into anger and an already defensive audience becomes even more defensive. What could have been an interaction of productive problem-solving becomes one ladened with resentment.
When so many interactions are full of such hatred, it is virtually impossible to address social anxieties around public speaking. It just isn’t safe to put yourself out there. And here are the most common fears listed by parents in our workshops:
- Being judged because of their language skills
- Not understanding the content of a meeting
- Not feeling like an expert
- Not knowing when to speak
- Losing people’s attention
- Being attacked and feeling defenseless
In light of all these fears, it is irresponsible that we don’t create safer spaces to alleviate parents’ anxieties and help them prepare their remarks before they have to advocate for their children in high-stakes situations like school board meetings, special education meetings, or parent-teacher conferences. We all need rehearsal and practice, especially when it is for something that is really important to us, like our kids.