Communication Apprehension was a term coined in the
early 1970s by James C. McCroskey. Communication apprehension
(CA) has been defined as an "individual level of fear or anxiety
associated with either real or anticipated communication with
another person or persons" (McCroskey, 1977). This type
of apprehension is not only applicable to small children as
would be seen in an elementary school but can also be prevelent
in adults as well especially in the realm of public speaking.
If Communication Apprehension Unusual?
The facts that can easily be found by doing some basic research
reveals that communication apprehension is not unusual and that
it is experienced by thousands upon thousands of people worldwide.
is not insurmountable for most people. Let's talk about is one reason,
and adoptable strategy, that gives optimism
as to why communication apprehension can be minimized.
The basis of communication apprehension, at least defined for the adult,
The process of worry begins with the anticipation that some
kind of event will happen. In the case of communication apprehension,
the worry or apprehension is focused forward to a situation either
real or illusory. This means that the individual will see or envision
an upcoming circumstance or situation that they may encounter and the
emotionally charged feelings of inadequacy swell.
Easy To Say But Not To Do
Do not worry or be apprehensive is easy to say and much harder
for thousands upon thousands of people to do. It seems that worry,
or communication apprehension in this case, is one of those behaviors
that dominates many people's lives and is not easily dispelled as a
useless emotion or feeling towards a variety of circumstances and situations.
Worry or apprehension, however, is one of those behaviors that
cannot and will not accomplish anything at all. Worry is an emotional
state and not a state that works towards doing anything positive.
Worry erodes the psychic, causes unwanted emotional turmoil, and
depletes the body through lack of sleep or poor eating habits.
It only leads to further and further despair.
Worry Or Apprehension Can Be Defeated
On the other hand, communication anxiety or worry in general can
be defeated. It can be minimized or completely diminished when
you recognize it and learn to overcome its' debilitating affects.
So, how does one go about diminishing or eliminating communication
apprehension and worry?
Step By Step Strategies
One of the very first steps is to 1) understand and recognize
what causes you communication apprehension, 2) when is it likely to
occur, and 3) in what situations or environments?
First Step To Overcoming Communication Apprehension
In some instances, a person who experiences some level of communication
anxiety in public venues where one is required to speak in front of a
small group of people, as in a team meeting for example,
is much different for that same person when speaking to a group
where that person is amongst a gathering of friends.
This point is to highlight that there are certain circumstances or
situations that either elevate one's communication barriers or
worry and one's that do not. The step, relative to identification of
those situations causing anxiety is to at first make a list of those environments.
So, how does this help to identify the root causes of one's apprehension.
In the midst of a group of friends, it is more obvious to draw causal
factors in that friends represent a web of safety where one does
not feel or be made to feel that they are unworthy of being accepted
by those with whom they associate.
However, on the other hand, a group of colleagues, as represented by a
work team, do or are not necessarily seen as friends, and, for the most part,
are often viewed as people with whom one is in competition with for the
favor of the leader.
When you recognize, understand and project situations where you feel
anxious, it is only reasonable to assume that you would feel somewhat
threatened or, at the least, somewhat inadequate relative to the potential
extroverts with the group.
Step two is an adjunct to step one wherein you need to declare
exactly when you start to experience an increased level of anxiety
in relation to the requirement or expectation that you must verbally
contribute to or defend a position that differs from someone else.
In this step, again as an adjunct to step one and two, you would need
to declare in exactly what situations or environments one feels
compromised in relation to feeling adequate in verbally expressing
one's ideas or thoughts. For example, one may feel somewhat comfortable,
over time, in speaking amidst work colleagues that one has come to
know for a period of months or years but when one is thrust into an
environment that does not connote friends or associates,
communication apprehension jumps to the forefront of the thought processes.
This jump from comfort to discomfort is often based on feelings of
inadequacy or lack of self-worth. It really is not the point here that
one may have been negatively affected as a child or youth but it is more
to the point that one recognizes that the situation or circumstance
spawns less than capable feelings, thoughts, or emotions that lead to
inadequate or diminished verbal performance.
The Next Step
The next step will be difficult initially, but if you get comfortable
with this step, you are well on your way to reducing worry or apprehension.
This is the step that you begin to take control of the fear or anxiety
and that step is to take action.
The old adage is just as true in the past as it is now and that adage
is that the best way to conquer fear of anything is to take action.
This means, for example, that if you listed speaking in front of a group
of people as a situation that causes verbal trepidation or anxiety, then
you will begin to practice overcoming this fear through taking action.
This action entails writing out a few pages of a presentation on a subject
that you feel comfortable in speaking about. Once you have these notes
prepared (e.g. three pages) practice reading them out loud in front of a
mirror in the privacy of your own home. Look up and into the mirror
as often as you can. Do not feel stupid or weird about this tactic;
it is for your own good.
The Next Step After The Last Step
This is a step that sees you inviting a group of friends (more than 2) over
to your home so that you can deliver your prepared speech to them.
Preferably, you have practiced so many times (probably five or more times)
that you seldom refer to your notes at all. After this event, the next step
is to invite a different group of friends (even more than the last time) over
to your home and this time, you should try and deliver the same speech
without using your notes at all. However, as a safety net, keep your
notes close but not in your hand. In this way, you know that your material
can help support your speech should you forget a point or two.
Putting It Together
What all of these practice sessions should tell you is this: practice is the
secret to performing well in a variety of circumstances. Know the subject
what you want to talk about; familiarity with the subject, through practice,
makes for a more satisfying and less stressful experience. This tactic, i.e.
practice, is the same method that all great public speakers have used
to prepare for public presentations. The more you do it, the more you
speak in front of any size group, the better and better you'll perform
and the more confidence
It is 'action' that erodes or replaces worry. As I have said before,
worry doesn't accomplish anything but action does. The plan of action,
therefore, is to find other ways and means through practice that defeats
any communication apprehension. This could be
(a longer-term solution I realize) practicing these new found
communications skills in front of larger and larger groups of people.
In fact, there may be an opportunity for you to participate in a
local Toastmasters group where practice speaking in front of an
accepting and supportive groups of people prepares you for future
meetings whether that be with colleagues or in front of a group of people
that you do not know.
I cannot specifically tell you what action to take given your particular
circumstances can be very varied, but you can alter, modify, and overcome
these verbal challenges if you really have a desire to do so.
Take action - not worry. Action defeats worry, just like "action" defeats fear,
you can defeat and overcome communication apprehension.
"Do not worry about the size of a project. Think of a large project as doing the dishes - one dish at a time gets it done."
Byron Pulsifer, Stop Worrying
Worry is futile much like despising the fact that we all will grow old. The clearer vision accepts that old age and death are inevitable and that to worry about this fact of life is certainly futile thinking. Instead, a life that unfolds gallantly living each day to its fullest brings a life of no regret.
"Worry is something you can make as big as the tallest mountain, or as small as a pebble on the beach. It is up to you to decide which you would rather have."
"Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?"
Jesus, Bible Matthew 6:27