Many people are required to take a speech class in college. Thus, many people are away of the stress, pressure, and anxiety that comes from speaking directly to their peers. While taking speech in college is important and is something that will be used throughout a lifetime, many people struggle with giving a speech in a classroom. It seems like an easy task, to simply explain or inform your classmates about a certain topic. However, as humans we fear rejection and strive for perfection in all things. This self-induced pressure is the core of communication anxiety.
Some people may think that having time to prepare for a speech that they would be less nervous since they feel ready to address the audience and have put in the work, but Bochme et el. argued that “Even when such social situations are anticipated, pronounced anxiety symptoms emerge” (2013, p. 1413). In fact, there was a study done where participants said that having knowing they will have to give a speech was more stress-inducing (Bochme et al., 2013).
Unfortunately, some positions require a person to give a speech, regardless of the person’s level of social anxiety. Being able to speak well and having the ability to control a room using your voice is something that will be helpful in the work force (Roby, 2009, p. 608). While most people take a speech class in college, Wright State University required students to take the Personal Record of Communication Apprehension (Roby, 2009, p. 608) . Roby (2009) said that “This survey was used to measure communication apprehension of the teachers in the course” (p. 608).
Roby (2009) reported that “Those emerging as leaders were associated with argumentativeness and communication apprehension, and combined were better predictors of leadership” (p. 609). He went on to say in response to a study that “there is an inverse relationship between verbal aggressiveness and content listening” (Roby, 2009, p. 609). Later on in his article, Roby (2009) mentioned that “Anticipatory speech anxiety was detected during informative speeches that were impromptu, extemporaneous, and completed by reading a manuscript” (pp. 608-609). So if we are to encounter communication anxiety or apprehension to public speaking, whether our speech is to be spontaneous or not, how are we to let our voice be heard by our peers without letting our fears overcome us? How are we to become better speakers if we are overly comfortable with being listeners?
Roby (2009) offered some simple tips in his article that will not completely cure communication apprehension but may perhaps help with anxiety related to public speaking. He mentioned that “Sharing information in group discussions led to more openness for all members to share, thus reducing communication apprehension and increasing the frequency of communicating” (Roby, 2009, p. 609). Having the freedom to let your thoughts be heard, then, can potentially help a person get used to sharing things with others, thus preparing them for future speeches.
It was noted by Roby (2009) that spontaneous speeches did not help people with their communication anxiety (pp. 608-609). However, he went on to say that “Impromptu speech exercises reduced communication apprehension” (Roby, 2009, p. 609). Roby (2009) reported that “When eliminating the speech evaluative factor, students [could focus on]… improving their speaking skill instead of having concern about their grade” (p. 610).
Roby (2009) also mentioned in his article that anxiety related to public speaking could be reduced when the person to be giving a speech “envisioned themselves as public speakers who were positive, vivid, and in control” (p. 209). By taking out the negative thoughts and anxiety associated with public speaking and replacing them with positive thoughts, people could actually alter how they felt about a situation.
A person may never be rid completely of their fear of public speaking. Public speaking may come easy to someone, while another may struggle with even starting a conversation with someone one-on-one. With careful preparation and a positive outlook, however, a person with communication apprehension can learn to control anxiety and deliver a successul speech that an audience can connect with.
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