The rising emotions of asking the panel a question

A recurring anxiety

Does anybody else feel the hot prickly pain of adrenaline-fuelled anxiety as they formulate a question in their brain and gear up to launching it?

The Physiognomy of Pain, Plate I, Fear by A. Mosso Wellcome

No matter how many presentations I have given or how many questions I have asked as a member of the audience, I still always feel a rising heart-thumping emotion as I psyche myself up to posing a question.

It starts with a quickening heartbeat at the very moment I realise that I want to ask something. Then I stop listening for a while as I try to hear and articulate the question in my head and as I picture myself actually asking it. As I increasingly persuade myself of its relevance for my own research or interests, I convince myself that I must ask it, even though it feels as though the deafening thundering of my heartbeat will smother the sound of any words I do manage to (m)utter.

And then, before I am even aware of it, the question pops out as I somehow disembody myself to be able to ask it. It then feels like I am consciously listening to myself as somebody else, as somebody who is asking a question, in order to keep calm and get to the end.

Why does this happen every time?

It occured to me that the reasons for this anxiety might include:

  • the fear of not being pithy
  • the fear of not being relevant
  • the fear of not being clear
  • the fear of not doing justice to myself
  • the fear of not being respectful to the presenters’ intentions
  • the fear of being selfish, i.e. of asking a question that is only important to me
  • the fear of not extending the conversation but of bringing it to a dead end
  • the fear of having misunderstood the spirit of the presentation

Does anybody else feel uncomfortable with asking questions? How do you deal with it?

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