Published: 12th June 2021
English Blues: A letter to a communication apprehensive reader
Awareness of these rights, I am sure, will give you the confidence that you need to fight your communication apprehension
Many thanks for your emails in which you have shared your personal experience of the struggle you faced while learning English during your school days and how certain experiences in the classroom have eroded your confidence in yourself and affected your personality. You have mentioned that because of fear of making mistakes, you couldn’t develop your communication abilities.
In my reply to your first email, I asked you to go back to your school days and think about your teachers who taught you English at various levels – primary, secondary, higher secondary and tertiary. I am glad that you have written about your favourite teacher and also about an unpopular teacher. I was touched by your anecdotes. Glad to hear that your favourite teacher was gentle enough to listen to you, generous enough to pay you compliments, kind enough to encourage you and patient enough to walk with you.
You say that you will always remember the teacher for her gentle and supportive behaviour. Great!
In another anecdote, you have described a teacher who made fun of you when you made grammatical mistakes while speaking and laughed at you when you mispronounced some words. You seem to suggest that she is partly responsible for your faulty beliefs: “I shouldn’t make mistakes. I should be perfect in order to be successful. I should always ace in what I do.” I can very well understand how the teacher’s negative comments have affected you and inflicted harm on you. The bad teacher’s attitude and behaviour have affected you so badly that you have developed a sort of self-defeating belief system that has slowly killed your self-esteem.
You have asked me to help you with tips to improve your interpersonal skills and communication ability. I do appreciate your earnest desire to improve your level of confidence and develop your communication skills. The first step is to think positively about yourself. Your thoughts shape you. If you think you can overcome your fear of speaking to people, you can definitely achieve your goal.
Your emails indicate that you have a certain level of communication apprehension (CA). You might wonder what CA is all about. It refers to one’s “fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons.” CA is not an abnormal thing. Everyone experiences it. Only the level varies. Communication apprehensive people are not comfortable communicating with people in groups or speaking in public due to various reasons. Such people are not skill deficient. Even those who have excellent language skills may experience CA.
Remember, you are not the only one who experiences CA. As I have mentioned earlier, almost everyone experiences it. Even great leaders such as Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi had fear and anxiety associated with public speaking but they all overcame it. According to a study, almost 70% of people have CA triggered by public speaking. Is it possible to overcome communication apprehension? Yes, it is possible. Here are some useful tips:
-Become aware of yourself.
-Believe in yourself and your abilities.
-Speak positively about yourself.
-Identify your irrational beliefs and rewrite the script.
-Speak voluntarily to strangers and engage in conversation.
-When you have to speak in public, know your topics and prepare well.
-Know your rights as a speaker.
Recently, I came across this beautiful Bill of rights for public speakers at https://www.diresta.com/knockoutpresentationsblog/bill-of-rights-for-public-speakers .
-I have the right to be my authentic self.
-I have the right to be relaxed and in control.
-I have the right to smile and enjoy myself.
-I have the right to engage the audience.
-I have the right to not know all the answers.
-I have the right to make mistakes and recover with grace.
-I have the right to walk in like I own the room.
-I have the right to reference the slide without reading it.
-I have the right to own my power and not give it all to the audience.
-I have the right to establish eye contact and not get flustered if they don't smile.
-I have the right to speak with conviction.
-I have the right to enjoy my standing ovation!
Awareness of these rights, I am sure, will give you the confidence that you need to fight your communication apprehension. You can and you will.
All the best!