Inhibition of speech – what is that exactly?

Actually, your English isn’t that bad? But your colleague somehow sounds much better? Do you know the feeling of keeping your ideas and criticism to yourself in the meeting, ignoring the phone call with the “foreign number on the display”, not attending lunch with the new colleague from London – and all this just for fear of making mistakes?

Do you fall into “shock paralysis” when people speak to you in English? Do you feel the impulse to “vanish into thin air” when you have to present something in English?

If you recognize yourself in these or similar scenarios, then you suffer from speech inhibition.

Speech inhibitions not only make it difficult for us to communicate, but can also have serious consequences for our health (e.g. due to constant stress levels). It is not uncommon for us to fear for our careers when we are accused of “ignorance” or even “refusal to work”, when we avoid meetings, telephone conferences or presentations in the foreign language. It doesn’t have to be that way! The good news is, you can overcome speech inhibition and you are not alone.

Frau unter der Bettdecke, Sprechhemmung überwinden

Known causes of speech inhibition

Without delving into the scientific depths of psychology here, there are many reasons why we are afraid to speak.

Blockages can be caused by, among other things:

  • Traumas from the past:

– long-lasting events
such as the unjust/bad/unlikeable teacher from school, or the “authority figure” who always said that you have no talent and therefore will never learn it

– Unique and incisive experiences
such as a botched presentation, a failed language exam, embarrassment in front of colleagues or friends due to the wrong choice of words, etc.

It is important not to suppress these experiences, but to accept them, but at the same time not to give them too much space and, above all, not to allow these “slips” to be considered the norm.

It is important not to suppress these experiences, but to accept them, but at the same time not to give them too much space and, above all, not to allow these “slips” to be considered the norm.

  • lack of self-confidence
  • Seeing problems where objectively there are none
  • Fear of rejection, embarrassment and criticism
  • Fear of not living up to expectations
  • Fear of fear, which often manifests itself in anger at oneself and feelings of inferiority
  • Fear of losing authority

Overcoming speech inhibition

5 simple tricks with immediate effect


1. You are the boss!

If you are asked something or need to speak in English, then it is also you who determines what you’ll say and how you say it. That is, you can be brief, speak in simple sentences and, most importantly, you can speak slowly.

2. Lowering your expectations of yourself

Just lower the bar! No one expects you to express yourself as confidently and eloquently in the foreign language as you do in your native language. So if others don’t have this expectation of you, then you shouldn’t have it of yourself either. A big hurdle comes to mind: you don’t have to be a perfectionist. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

3. Be honest with your fears

Accept the fear, but talk to yourself in a positive way that you can overcome it. Realize that most people feel the same way you do, and that you are not alone in your anxiety. So you can stop the stressful game of hide-and-seek because you don’t have to be ashamed. An open approach to fear makes it much smaller. You can only overcome your fear if you face it.

4. Set realistic goals

and never lose sight of your goal

Do you remember how long your training lasted, how much time and dedication you put into various training courses, etc.? Even if your company changes the company language to English from “one day to the next”, things are never as bad as they seem. Don’t think you need to immediately communicate flawlessly in every conceivable situation. It’s better to set realistic goals (as a “listener” in meetings or conference calls, make a “prepared contribution”, say something spontaneously, speak English outside the company, …). Slowly feel your way forward and ask your company for specific help, e.g. private lessons, etc.

5. Build confidence

Stop comparing yourself to others! You are you and just as you are, you are worth a lot. “The young colleague”, who perhaps really speaks better than you, certainly has other “deficits”: less experience, less charisma, less prestige, etc. and certainly relies on your advice and support in many ways. Don’t see others as competitors. Trust yourself and your abilities. Reduce fear of criticism and embarrassment by imagining what can go well and how good it will feel.

Language is communication

Imagine if all participants in an international (telephone) conference now had to communicate with you in German. How far would you all get? Therefore, always remember, you will not be subjected to any test during a conversation, but your counterpart is most likely happy that they can communicate with you and will not count the mistakes. Your communication partner(s) are on your side!

Practical tips

that can be immediately integrated into your everyday life

leere Klopapierrolle mit Aufschrift "Don't Panic"
  • Take private lessons: here you can be supported in a very targeted way and do not need to be afraid of embarrassing yourself in front of colleagues or other participants.
  • Don’t see English as a reason to run away but instead as an opportunity to make yourself heard in more than just one language.
  • Speak slowly: Even if you are nervous, your conversation partner will adapt to your pace, which in turn will help you understand them better.
  • Many conversations follow the same pattern : familiarize yourself with them and acquire a few phrases that you can use over and over again without having to think a long time about the right choice of words.
  • Play through an important conversation mentally and think about appropriate reactions in advance. This will help you avoid being unnecessarily offended during a conversation.
  • Speak, speak, speak: the more you practice, the more confident you become, this applies to everything we learn. Look for situations in which you feel comfortable and do not have to be afraid of embarrassing yourself. For example, find a tandem partner who speaks German with you and you speak English with them. Go to English-speaking regulars’ tables or bookclubs. Join the international expat network “Internations” and choose from numerous events and groups where often only English is spoken. The main thing is that it’s fun and you get to speak without any stress or compulsion.
  • Motivate and encourage yourself again and again.
  • Learn a breathing technique and relaxation technique.
  • Think objectively about where your fears come from and perform a reality check to see if they are justified.
  • Think carefully about which skills would help you to cope better in certain “foreign language situations”. Do you “only” lack the necessary vocabulary, or is it uncertainty about grammar rules, or more the lack of language practice? After this analysis, set concrete and realistic goals to develop your skills.

I would be happy to help you deal with this topic and reduce your fears of speaking.

How does that work?

  • I create an atmosphere where you can feel comfortable and relax
  • I take your fears seriously and we pick up exactly where you’re currently at
  • You are not evaluated by me and do not have to deliver any performance
  • we go forward at the pace that’s right for you and you don’t have to compete or compare yourself to anyone
  • every small step is a success that will make you grow
  • You can get rid of your fears and gain quality of life and enjoyment at work