DR. WALLACE: I have an oral report due in my history class and I am terrified to speak in front of the class. Up to this point I have successfully avoided having to make any public speeches.
I spoke with my teacher and explained that due to my severe anxiety I cannot complete the assignment, but then she stated she would get back to me on whether I will get a grade of F if I don’t complete the oral report.
Can I go to my counselor and ask for an alternative assignment instead of being forced to accept a failing grade? — Terrified of Public Speaking, via email
TERRIFIED OF PUBLIC SPEAKING: You may have a path out of this assignment if you have a note from your physician clearly stating that you have an anxiety disorder that prevents you from speaking publicly. However, it may be time for you to do your best to step up and try to overcome your fears of public speaking. Don’t forget nearly every other student feels the same way you do to some degree.
I can offer you here a few tips that can help you overcome your fear of public speaking, starting with what I feel is the most logical one: practice, practice, practice! Do this in your own home simply by standing up in your bedroom and carefully reading a few lines of your report. Do this over and over and over again so that you will be very familiar with both the material and the sound of your own voice reading the words aloud.
Be sure to do some deep breathing and exhale slowly so you focus on your material, not the audience in front of you. In fact, when you look up toward the audience you can look slightly over their heads at the wall in the back of the room so that you’re not distracted by any facial expressions other students may have.
Be sure you know your topic well and be organized with some index cards so that your material can easily be read and understood when you begin.
Another idea is to ask your teacher for the opportunity to practice your speech one time with only her in the room after class one day. This might really help you to get the ball rolling in a positive direction.
I feel you can indeed do this oral report, and I know you’ll feel simply wonderful once you finish and find out that it was not as difficult as you perhaps first thought it would be.
I REALLY LIKE THIS OLDER GUY
DR. WALLACE: I met a guy online and we really have a lot in common. I really enjoy all of our written conversations because he’s so smart and clever, and we have exchanged many funny messages back and forth now for several weeks.
This guy told me he is 22 years old, but I’m not sure he’s telling me the truth since I have not yet met him in person.
And now I also have another problem. When he asked me how old I was, I was embarrassed to tell him my real age, so I lied and said that I was 18 so that he wouldn’t be worried about me being too young to talk to a 22-year-old guy.
The problem with this is that I’m really only 14, although I’ll turn 15 this December. I don’t want to lose him as a friend, so I’m afraid to open up and tell him my real age. As all our activity has been exclusively online, is it OK that I continue to lie to him? I understand most people lie to each other when they are anonymous on the internet anyway. — Underage Girl, via email
UNDERAGE GIRL: Whenever any relationship begins with lies, it is doomed to be one in which distrust becomes a hallmark. And all good relationships need a healthy dose of trust and confidence.
The guy told you he was 22 years old and you are only 14 years old, so he is an adult and you are an underage teenager. Do not continue to engage in these communications as nothing good will arise from them; to the contrary, you’re exposing yourself to many potential risks and detriments.
You signed your letter correctly, as an “underage girl,” so you know this is inappropriate. Cease all communications with this person immediately.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.