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According to James McCroskey, communication apprehensionThe fear or anxiety associated with either real or perceived communication with another person or persons. The physiological changes produced in the body at critical moments are designed to contribute to the efficient use of muscles and expand available energy. Any conscious emotional state such as anxiety or excitement consists of two components: a primary reaction of the central nervous system and an intellectual interpretation of these physiological responses. A wealth of conventional wisdom surrounds the discomfort of speaking anxiety, as it surrounds almost any phenomenon that makes us uncomfortable.
Communication apprehension refers to the fear or anxiety people experience at the thought of being evaluated by others.
The psychological threat individuals perceive in the communication situation prompts physiological changes designed to help the body respond. A great deal of conventional advice for managing stage fright is misleading, including suggestions that speech anxiety is neurotic, that telling a joke is a good opening, that imagining the audience naked is helpful, that any mistake is fatal to an effective speech, that memorizing a script is useful, that audiences are out to get you, and that your audience sees how nervous you really are.
Create an inventory of the physiological symptoms of communication apprehension you experience when engaged in public speaking. With a partner or in a small group, discuss which myths create the biggest problems for public speakers. See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed.
Circulation and breathing become more rapid so that additional oxygen can reach the muscles. The physiological state we label as communication anxiety does not differ from ones we label rage or excitement. Most of this a€?folka€? knowledge misleads us, directing our attention away from effective strategies for thinking about and coping with anxiety reactions.
Humor is some of the toughest material to deliver effectively because it requires an exquisite sense of timing.
This tip just plain doesna€™t work because imagining the audience naked will do nothing to calm your nerves.


Memorizing your speech word for word will likely make your apprehension worse rather than better. Empirical research has shown that audiences do not perceive the level of nervousness that speakers report feeling.Clevenger, T.
These physical reactions to stress create the uncomfortable feelings of unease called speech anxiety and may include sweaty palms, shaking, butterflies in the stomach, and dry mouth. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (61 MB) or just this chapter (3 MB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline). Even experienced, effective speakers and performers experience some communication apprehension. Before we look in more detail at the types of communication apprehension, leta€™s dispel some of the myths about it. As Malcolm Kushner noted, a€?There are some folks in the audience I wouldna€™t want to see nakeda€”especially if Ia€™m trying not to be frightened.a€?Kushner, M. One of the authors of this book was giving a speech and wanted to thank a former student in the audience.
Instead of remembering three to five main points and subpoints, you will try to commit to memory more than a thousand bits of data.
Professional speakers, actors, and other performers consistently rely on the heightened arousal of nervousness to channel extra energy into their performance. Winston Churchill, for example, would get physically ill before major speeches in Parliament.
Instead of saying a€?former student,a€? she said, a€?former friend.a€? After the audience stopped laughing, the speaker remarked, a€?Well, I guess shea€™ll be a former friend now!a€?a€”which got more laughter from the audience.
People would much rather listen to a speaker who is alert and enthusiastic than one who is relaxed to the point of boredom. If we stay immobile behind a lectern, this hormonal urge to speed up may produce shaking and trembling. Effective speakers have learned to channel their bodya€™s reactions, using the energy released by these physiological reactions to create animation and stage presence. Many professional speakers say that the day they stop feeling nervous is the day they should stop speaking in public. Our voices may quiver, and we may have a a€?dry moutha€? sensation that makes it difficult to articulate even simple words.
Additionally, digestive processes are inhibited so we will not lapse into the relaxed, sleepy state that is typical after eating. Many people, even the most professional performers, experience anxiety about communicating. You just have to make an effort to relate to the audience naturally and be willing to accept your mistakes. They know that they will soon be in your shoes and they identify with you, most likely hoping youa€™ll succeed and give them ideas for how to make their own speeches better.


For these reasons, it is not a good idea to start with a joke, particularly if it is not well related to your topic. If you establish direct eye contact with real individuals in your audience, you will see them respond to what you are saying, and this response lets you know that you are succeeding. Anxiety about communicating is profoundly disconcerting because we feel powerless to control our bodies. By understanding what is happening to our bodies in response to the stress of public speaking, we can better cope with these reactions and channel them in constructive directions.
Audiences appreciate speakers who talk naturally to them rather than recite a written script. This psychological response, however, quickly becomes physical as our body responds to the threat the mind perceives.
Furthermore, we may become so anxious that we fear we will forget our name, much less remember the main points of the speech we are about to deliver.
Many different social situations, ranging from job interviews to dating to public speaking, can make us feel uncomfortable as we anticipate that we will be evaluated and judged by others. Our bodies cannot distinguish between psychological and physical threats, so we react as though we were facing a Mack truck barreling in our direction. To a€?imaginea€? the audience is to misdirect your focus from the real people in front of you to an a€?imagineda€? group. How well we communicate is intimately connected to our self-image, and the process of revealing ourselves to the evaluation of others can be threatening whether we are meeting new acquaintances, participating in group discussions, or speaking in front of an audience. The bodya€™s circulatory and adrenal systems shift into overdrive, preparing us to function at maximum physical efficiencya€”the a€?flight or fighta€? response.Sapolsky, R. In other words, the audience is not likely to perceive accurately the level of anxiety you might be experiencing. Some of the most effective speakers will return to their seats after their speech and exclaim they were so nervous. Listeners will respond, a€?You didna€™t look nervous.a€? Audiences do not necessarily perceive our fears.
When it comes to communication apprehension, our physical responses are often not well adapted to the nature of the threat we face, as the excess energy created by our body can make it harder for us to be effective public speakers. But because communication apprehension is rooted in our minds, if we understand more about the nature of the bodya€™s responses to stress, we can better develop mechanisms for managing the bodya€™s misguided attempts to help us cope with our fear of social judgment.



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Comments to What is communication apprehension in speech

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