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Dealing with Communication Anxiety

written by: Bruce Tyson • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 8/29/2010

For many people, speaking in front of a group does not come naturally: it is a stressful and frightening task that limits the success of your projects and stifles your career. Read about communication anxiety here and get on the path to controlling it today.

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    What is Communication Anxiety?

    When a person experiences stress when faced with the requirement to speak to a group, that person is experiencing communication Ase anxiety. Whether a person is phobic over the possibility of speaking or just uneasy, communication anxiety is a real problem, especially when required to communicate to groups as a part of work.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Was a bee

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    Symptoms of Communication Anxiety

    Even though men and women have different communication styles, they have one common factor that contributes to communication anxiety: a lack of confidence. Regardless of what circumstances triggered the lack of confidence, the person with communication anxiety somehow believes that something can go terribly wrong while speaking and they are not able to recover from it in an acceptable manner.

    An elevated heart rate, feeling of perspiration, lack of concentration, and a dry mouth are just some of the common symptoms that accompany communications anxiety. Solutions to the communication anxiety can come in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or tranquilizers, but there are some things you can do on your own to prepare yourself to speak in stressful situations.

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    Dealing with Communication Anxiety

    Knowing that you experience communication anxiety, try to take steps to make the situation better. First, try not to accept meetings with a hostile audience if possible. Here are some other things you can do if you are called upon to speak in the near future:

    • Get ready for the challenge. Standing up in front of people causes you enough stress already, so don't make it worse by doing it without knowing your subject matter. Careful preparation will go a long way to assuage your fear and anxiety over communicating.
    • Get your mind to buy into your task. Visualize yourself communicating to the group. See how you look. See how your audience looks. Experience the feelings you are so familiar with and let your brain build up confidence prior to the event. Once your mind is in the game with you, it will help you stay calm as you speak.
    • When preparing to speak, realize that you have communication anxiety and expect the symptoms to occur. This way you are not taken by surprise.
    • Breathe deeply and be patient as you get started. If you can make it for just a few minutes, your pulse will go down and other symptoms will moderate as you proceed.
    • Be careful not to overcompensate for the anxiety you feel. Tell the audience that you're excited. Try to act excited too: you'll drain your nervous energy while allowing the audience to think you're excited. People will appreciate your behavior knowing that you are excited more than they would if you told them they were nervous.
    • Focus on the present. Don't let your mind jump into the future and what trouble lurks there. Stay in the present where you are in control.

    To help you deal with communication anxiety over time, you might consider:

    • Taking a communications class online or or at a local college. Education and experience can help you build confidence.
    • Seeing your doctor for a referral to a counselor that can help you work through some of your confidence issues.

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    Go Communicate

    Now that you know a little bit about communication anxiety, what it is, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it, put what you know into practice. Practice your next presentation in front of friends to see if you do better and then go live. You'll be surprised how much better you feel when you take control of your communication anxiety.