How do you feel about public speaking? Do you feel any communication anxiety? Some surveys have indicated that people may fear speaking in front of a crowd more than anything. In the YouTube clip below, Jerry Seinfeld comments about how strange it is that people fear public speaking more than even death.
But is the fear of public speaking really the number one fear? A 2001 Gallup poll indicated that the percentage of people who fear of snakes is actually higher than those who fear public speaking. Indiana Jones would agree. An article at Public Speaking Power suggests that we are drawing the wrong conclusions from these surveys. The statistics do not actually say that public speaking is the number one fear of humans. The better way to interpret the data is that public speaking is the fear most shared by humans.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is a normal part of life to experience occasional anxiety. Problems occur when it becomes excessive and can cause sufferers to dread everyday situations. Once such area where anxiety can become a problem is in the area of communication. Communication is such a central part of our lives. If it begins to adversely impact our ability to communicate, our lives are going to be negatively affected.
Dealing with Communication Anxiety
I once read an article at Inc.Com, which presented an interesting way to deal with anxiety, including communication anxiety. If you are someone who experiences communication anxiety from time to time, consider these steps.
- Realize that anxiety is a normal part of life. Remind yourself that feeling nervous before an important speech or meeting is not unusual.
- Take some time prior to the event to role play it in your mind. View yourself completing the event, noting that you did well.ce
- Replay this in your mind several times, noting all the positive aspects, including your performance and others’ responses.
- Get excited about the upcoming event, telling yourself, “I already did it, and now I get to go back in and do it again.” Take some deep breaths as you say these things to yourself.
Use this tool anytime you are feeling anxious to help you reduce the stress you are experiencing. You might find that you begin enjoying these formerly anxious situations.
Two Supplemental Ideas
I think the tool presented above is both a practical and effective way to deal with communication anxiety. I would add two supplemental ideas to make this idea more persuasive to your own mind. The first is to develop communication competence. That is the purpose of Intelligent Communication. We help others improve their communication skills. Having an established and proven approach to your communication can increase your confidence. You know you have the right skills and you know how to use them.
The second supplement idea is practice. Practice your communication skills. Some of my students were quite extreme introverts. I started them with a simple exercise. Go to the grocery store and talk to the person at the checkout. This is easy since you know you will not have to maintain the conversation very long. Build up from there. Seek out opportunities to have longer conversations with people you do not know. Apply the anxiety-reducing tool described above prior to each practice session.
Eventually, competence and experience will help you effectively deal with communication anxiety.
Be swift to hear, slow to speak.