When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?

I’m probably not the only one to say I’ve never thought much about this before — at least the bungee jumping. A problem with that is I’m scared of heights and not big on scary rides. I thought I was going to die on one of the tamest roller coaster rides they have at Disney World 20 years ago. Now I am sure I would die.

I have done public speaking before large audiences and small groups — not frequently, but often enough that it doesn’t scare me. The large groups have been strangers — for my job; the small groups have included people I know. Like most people, it makes me feel a bit stressed to addressing a group of people, but there’s a part of me that enjoys it too. I also did some speech writing, too, which is interesting because you have to consider how the speech sounds — the cadence, the catchphrases, how the audience will react to it, and then of course, that the facts are right, and it all makes sense.

As a retired teacher, I’ve spent lot of time talking in front of children, and when I did student teaching that was scary even though they were just kids. It was even harder when they were 7th and 8th graders — they’re a hard audience! I asked my son to come into my computer class to talk about his job as a network engineer. He declined because it really makes him nervous to speak in front of a group of strangers.

As all teachers, I was observed teaching a class at least once a year by the principal. Even though it was prearranged, that was still a stressful situation. While naturally I’ve gotten used to speaking in front of kids, it’s uncomfortable when someone is evaluating how and what you teach.

Generally speaking, I would prefer it if people in my “audience” were not friends or family. If I’m going to make a fool of myself, I’d prefer it if people I love and respect didn’t witness it.

I love this quote by Winston Churchill about public speaking: “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”