The Fear of Public Speaking

Interpersonal Communication and Communication Apprehension One of the major fears that people have is the fear of communication. The fear of speaking is a real issue that everyone needs to recognize. It does exist and will continue to exist without the proper education against it. Have you ever had a hard time talking in a certain situation? Have you ever tried to give a speech and just froze? Have you ever felt discomfort, pressure, nervousness, pain or stress towards communication?

Then you have experienced Communication Apprehension. Communication Apprehension is defined as an lndividual level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons. (McCrosky, 1977) Everyone from time to time has experienced some apprehension toward communication. However, some individuals really experience this issue on a day-to-day basis. About one of every five persons–20 percent of all college students–is communication apprehensive….Communication apprehensive people may not appear apprehensive unless they are engaging in a particular type of communication.†(Pearson & Nelson, An Introduction to human Communication, p. 224).

The most common issue of Communication apprehension is in speaking in front of an audience. Here there is a fear of what people are going to think or say about what you are talking about in front of the audience. I have personally experienced this several times throughout my life. Communication Apprehension can be distinguished into two levels: Those with a low form (low CA) and those with a high form (high CA). People with a high level of CA contain high levels of anxiety when it comes to communication. They feel more comfortable when alone and isolated.

They tend to have lower self-esteem and have a high level of fear of communicating with others. People with a low CA do have some uneasiness in communicating but can control it to an extent. This would probably characterize those who, although get a little nervous when making a speech, get over it, and speak fairly well. Although they speak well, they still experience nervousness, and anxiety about speaking, but they control it. Apart from a severe feeling of discomfort a person with high levels of CA experiences when communicating. certain physiological effects could also be present like rapid beating of the heart, some shakiness, a dry mouth and increased perspiration.

Because of their fear or anxiety, people with high levels of CA try to avoid communication where possible, like choosing jobs where communication plays a minor role, or choose a seat in a classroom or meeting where they would not be very conspicuous. They would avoid communication by saying only that which is necessary or speaking only when called upon. Research indicates that people with high levels of CA generally have lower self-esteem, do not occupy managerial posts, are not very assertive and students academic achievements are lower than those with average to low levels of CA (Richmond & McCroskey, 1989:52-59). At this stage, it should be clear the CA does influence the quality of life of individuals and has a harmful effect on especially interpersonal relationships.

What causes communication apprehension? Researchers have identified five common concerns that contribute to the fear and anxiety associated with public speaking. These include the speaker’s previous public speaking experiences, fear of being in the spotlight, fear of being judged, amount of preparation for the speech and amount of experience (or lack thereof) in delivering a speech.

One of the first steps in overcoming speech anxiety is identifying the reasons you feel apprehensive in public speaking situations. Once you have identified the causes of your fear (first time speaking on a topic or to a particular audience, fear of evaluation), you will be able to develop strategies to help overcome the fear. It is important to realize that the fear you are experiencing on the inside is not always evident to your audience. The key is to view your audience as your friend and to visualize yourself as a successful speaker.

These tips, combined with preparation and practice, will help you put fear in its place. By reducing speech anxiety, your delivery will improve and you will become more confident in your ability as a speaker. Another successful therapy for overcoming speech anxiety that has been included as a part of many public speaking courses is visualization. This method of overcoming the fear of public speaking involves creating a successful image of the public speaking experience and recalling that image while delivering the speech. Systematic desensitization is yet another useful therapy. It uses several therapy sessions to teach speakers how to replace the anxious feelings associated with public speaking situations with positive, relaxing feelings.

This therapy has been used to assist individuals in overcoming a variety of fears, including speech anxiety, test anxiety, and the fear of flying. Skills training is a strategy that teaches individuals to become more n competent organizing a speech, developing ideas clearly. maintaining good posture, while speaking maintaining eye contact with the audience, and incorporating vocal variety and gestures while speaking. Your public speaking course will provide you with the skills training you need to polish your communication skills and enhance your presentations.

Speech anxiety is a problem, but it is a normal problem. Even though you may watch other people give presentations that you think are flawless, they would probably report experiencing butterflies in the stomach and shaking knees during their speech. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. The majority of Americans experience the same fear, and there are things you can do to manage your fear and improve your performance.

Communication Apprehension is a phenomenon that definitely influences the quality of life of people and in schools we should try to prevent and/or surmount this where possible.McCroskey, J.C. 1984. The communication apprehension perspective. (In Daly J.A., and McCroskey, J.C. (eds.) apprehension. Avoiding communication. Shyness, reticence, and communication apprehension. Beverley Hills: Sage Publications. p. 13-38.)) Richmond, V.P. and McCroskey, J.C. Communication apprehension, avoidance and effectiveness. 1989. Scottsdale, AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick Publishers. 138 p. J. Ayres and T. Hopf, Coping with Speech Anxiety (Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing, 1993). June Johnson, Speech Coach. Combating Speech Anxiety (Small Business Times, March, 1998)

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