Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking. The word glossophobia derives from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and phobos, fear or dread.
The US National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety affects about 73% of the population. Evolutionary psychologists believe that for our prehistoric ancestors in a tough environment, living in a tribe was a basic survival skill. Rejection from the group led to death. Speaking to an audience makes us vulnerable to rejection, much like our ancestors’ feared. At any given time you could unwittingly say something inappropriate or unseemly that would make you less likable. In a 1-on-1 conversation that’s a relationship that can be mended. 1-on-5? At 1-on-1000 our evolutionary instincts perk up and pressure to be accepted builds. For some people, understanding the evolutionary biology and assimilating that this is a quasi-universal human survival mechanism helps them deal with and ultimately overcome their glossophobia.