Two Types of Speakers

What are you when it comes to public speaking, an “orchid” or a “dandelion?”

I came across the “orchid” and “dandelion” concept when I listened to an interview with W. Thomas Boyce. M.D. talking about his book, The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How all Can Thrive.

Boyce discovered children fall into one of two categories… they’re either an “orchid” or a “dandelion.” I’ll explain the concept more in a moment.

The interview made me think about how this concept applies to those of you who struggle with public speaking anxiety.

Genes and the Environment

Let’s first look at what Dr. Boyce said after spending 25 years researching children. He found that what you become is based both on genes and the environment.

Dr. Boyce describes the “orchid” children as highly sensitive. And like the flower, they need special care to flourish.

To be like an exquisite “orchid,” you might have had a challenging upbringing. You were more vulnerable to stress than others. Maybe you got sick often. Perhaps you felt timid and held yourself back from diving into an adventure.

The point is that you needed to feel safe and secure before you could try something new.

On the other hand, the “dandelion” children are rugged. And just like the flower itself, they are hardy and can grow in all sorts of climates.
To be like a hardy “dandelion,” you also might have had a challenging upbringing. Maybe you had to learn to survive on your own. Perhaps you were criticized, emotionally wounded, or lived in an abusive household.

The point is that family support was not forthcoming. Your tough outer skin kept you safe.

Which Are You?

Dr. Boyce’s research may seem simplistic, but I’m thinking it is useful, especially if you apply it to yourself and speaking in public.

Ask yourself now…

“Am I more like an “orchid” or am I more like a “dandelion?”

If you are like an “orchid” when you have to speak in public, you are terribly uncomfortable in the spotlight. You avoid any invitation to present because you get terrified. It makes you sick just thinking about exposing your weakness.

However, If you’re like a “dandelion” when you have to speak in public, you may take on the challenge even if you don’t want to. You might memorize and over-prepare. You look like you have a tough outer skin, but could it be that inside you might feel like an imposter?

I’m not saying one is better than the other.

I’d say both have gifts and both have challenges when it comes to being authentic and speaking in public.

In fact, Dr. Boyce’s message is that “all can thrive.”

And, I agree with Dr. Boyce.

I believe you can thrive and learn to express your authentic voice, no matter if you’re an “orchid” or a “dandelion.”

P.S. Here’s a great way you can overcome your speaking anxiety whether or not you’re an “orchid” or a “dandelion”, starting in the next few months:

Fall Group Coaching Program
Weekly meetings so you can find your authentic voice and speak with confidence.
Email Me to sign up for updates and earlybird pricing.


Looking forward to this fall’s session!