The Misconception: When your emotions run high, people can look at you and tell what you are thinking and feeling.
The Truth: Your subjective experience is not observable, and you overestimate how much you telegraph your inner thoughts and emotions.
You stand in front of your speech class with your outline centered on the lectern, your stomach performing gymnastics.
You sat through all the other speeches, tapping the floor, transferring nervous energy into the tiles through a restless foot, periodically wiping your hands on the top of your pants to wick away the sweat.
Each time the speaker summed up and the class applauded, you clapped along with everyone else, and as it subsided you realized how loud your heart was thumping when a fresh silence settled.
Finally, the instructor called your name, and your eyes cranked open. You felt as if you had eaten a spoonful of sawdust as you walked up to the blackboard planting each foot carefully so as not to stumble.
As you begin to speak the lines you’ve rehearsed, you search the faces of your classmates.
“Why is he smiling? What is she scribbling? Is that a frown?”
“Oh no,” you think, “they can see how nervous I am.”
I must look like an idiot. I’m bombing, aren’t I? This is horrible. Please let a meteor hit this classroom before I have to say another word.
“I’m sorry,” you say to the audience. “Let me start over.”
Now it’s even worse. What kind of moron apologizes in the middle of a speech?
Your voice quavers. Flop sweat gathers behind your neck. You become certain your skin must be glowing red and everyone in the room is holding back laughter.
Except, they aren’t.