How do you manage communication anxiety?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by sdilley14, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. sdilley14 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
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    Mesa, AZ
    #1
    I'm just going to lump this all in under the general description of "communication anxiety" - particularly oral communication anxiety.

    I feel like I'm "above average" when it comes to written communication. I have time to think and articulate my thoughts in a precise manner. I'm able to effectively and accurately convey my thoughts and feelings.

    However, when it comes to oral communication, I really struggle at times. I have no problems speaking directly with my friends and family - but when it comes to small talk, speaking with strangers, co-workers, superiors at work - I struggle at times. I actually fear/avoid it to a degree. I have thoughts and things I want to say running through my head, but when it comes to the conversations I often "draw a blank", forget what I was going to say, nervously talk in circles, feel anxious/nervous, etc. It sucks.

    I'm on the brink of a nice promotion at work, but one of the caveats of this new position is that it is more of a leadership role. I need to be able to speak to new hires, coach co-workers, talk/deliver information in front of groups of co-workers, run small meetings, etc. Just thinking about doing those things makes me nervous. And it shouldn't. I know I'm not going to die, I know I'm knowledgeable and capable when it comes to what we're doing at work...I just can't shake that anxiety. And it really holds me back from excelling at work. I want to work through this barrier.

    Any tips, suggestions, some type of medication even? Sadly I feel like if I had like 2 beers or 2 bong rips before work it would really take the edge off and this wouldn't be as big of an issue (of course I'll never do that). Admittedly weed does curb my general anxiety/anxiousness quite a bit, but I don't see that as being a permanent solution.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. chown33 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2009
    #2
    Practice, practice, practice in a supportive environment.

    Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toastmasters_International

    A friend of mine had major anxiety about public speaking. She joined Toastmasters, did whatever it is they do there, and eventually worked through it.

    I used to be much more anxious about public speaking than I am now. I got over most of it in college, partly because I had to make presentations as part of several classes, work with small teams in classes, etc. That was for an electronics engineering degree, and the shortcoming seems to be prevalent in engineers of many stripes, except in the company of other engineering types.

    I still suck at small talk, unless it's a subject I'm interested in.

    I'll also point out that coaching and diplomatic communication isn't the same thing as anxiety. Those are separate skills, and probably need some specific training. Diplomacy isn't my strong suit, but at least when it's written I have a chance to edit it and tone it down. You may or may not want diplomatic coaching of your performance in public speaking.
     
  3. heehee macrumors 68020

    heehee

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    Location:
    Same country as Santa Claus
    #3
    I'm interested in this thread. I have zero public speaking skills or even speaking skills.
    If I'm with a stranger, it's actually awkward to speak to me.

    One of my friends mom once said to me I'm a very nice person to talk to but I tend to walk away after a few minutes because I find I can't hold a conversation.

    When I first met my now wife through friends at dinner, she asked me I don't speak and just laugh. :rolleyes: Good thing I'm good looking. :p

    Will look into toast masters, heard it from my boss a while ago.
     
  4. garirry macrumors 68000

    garirry

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    Apr 27, 2013
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    Canada is my city
    #4
    I can barely talk with anyone. I just end up being incredibly embarrassed and I feel awkward. On the Internet (or writing texts), I can write perfectly without any issue. I believe it has to do with my autism. I generally am a person with a ton of social problems, it makes life really difficult (even though I'm quite younger than most people here).
     
  5. mscriv macrumors 601

    mscriv

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    Location:
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    #5
    When I train/teach others about communication, whether it be interpersonal or public, I remind folks that the people you are talking to don't have a script or know what you are going to say. They don't have your notes and can't read your mind. Often when speakers feel like they have made a "mistake" it only leads to further breakdown in the form of overwhelming anxiety, feelings of awkwardness, freezing, stuttering, etc. etc.. No one is listening to you and thinking to themselves, "oops, that's wrong, he/she was supposed to say this instead of that" or "wow, they really messed that up because they were supposed to do it this way...". People process information as you give it to them. So, take your time and share genuinely what you want to share. The more you are comfortable and confident the more comfortable your audience or listener will be. If you do make a mistake then don't act like you made one, just roll with it and continue moving forward with your intended goals or the flow of the conversation. If you make a mistake that is obvious, then just acknowledge it, make the needed correction, and move on. It is what it is, an honest mistake, if you don't make a big deal of it then no one else will.

    Interpersonal communication obviously has different dynamics than public speaking like training, teaching, lecturing, etc.. But, many of the basic principles to effective communication are the same. Be yourself, be authentic, be confident, be prepared, take your time, don't take yourself too seriously, and enjoy yourself.
     
  6. Gutwrench macrumors 65816

    Gutwrench

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  7. Grey Beard macrumors 65816

    Grey Beard

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    #7
    For a retired LEO, that was remarkably erudite.

    KGB:cool:
     
  8. sdilley14 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    Mesa, AZ
    #8
    I can totally relate to this. I really have a tendency to try to end "small talk" conversations as quickly as possible. I feel like I need to end the conversation before I run out of things to say and start feeling awkward. :/ It really takes me a long time to warm up to strangers and feel comfortable talking with them. I'm a regular at a gym and I see other regulars there. It usually takes me months, if ever, to warm up and engage those people I see every day. I just don't know what to say when it comes to small talk conversations. I can throw out a few lines, then I kinda draw a blank, lol.
     
  9. mscriv macrumors 601

    mscriv

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    Dallas, Texas
    #9
    For those of you who struggle with small talk or meeting new people, one of the easiest things you can do is ask basic open ended questions. Generally, people are willing to talk about themselves when they feel that someone is genuinely interested.

    Tell me more about yourself?
    What do you like to do for fun?
    Do you have any hobbies?
    Tell me about your interests and passions?
    Tell me about your career/job?

    The key to asking good questions is being a good listener. When you truly listen to what someone is saying you know how to ask specific follow up questions that will carry the conversation further.

    Another key to good conversation skills is context. Use the context you find yourself in to help with the conversation. @sdilley14 mentioned having a hard time talking to people at the gym. Well, let the context of the gym help start the conversation. Ask people what they like to do at the gym, do they have exercise goals, are they using a specific work out plan, are they seeing the results they want to see. Likewise you can use that context to help guide you in what you share. Tell people what you are working on at the gym, what you enjoy about exercise, etc. etc..
     
  10. A.Goldberg macrumors 68000

    A.Goldberg

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    #10
    Just try and relax. Easier said than done, I know. The more you focus on what you're saying and how you're being perceived, the more distracted you'll become from being able to communicate effectively.
     
  11. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

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    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    #11


    +1. Almost all people have this "problem". You will cope with it, you will see. Soon, you will even enjoy speaking in public. ;)
     
  12. ThinkDifferent24 macrumors member

    ThinkDifferent24

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2015
    #12
    Ask open ended questions, not questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Prepare a list beforehand like "what's something most people don't know about you?" Listen carefully to their answer for nouns and then ask questions based on those nouns. So if they say people don't know I like to build model airplanes, the follow up would be how'd you get into building model airplanes? It's just about building a nice chain on people talking about themselves.
     
  13. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

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    Lucky Country
    #13

    Ask me those questions and the nosy parker will be told to mind their own business, and I have no interest in what they may get up to.

    So, where does that place me? (Just trying to be helpful, here).
     
  14. Roller macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2003
    #14
    Speaking to a group (as in delivering a presentation) is different than one-on-one conversations, speaking at meetings, and so on. For presentations, I always advise people to remember that they usually know more about the subject at hand than their audience, if they've done their homework. Having that confidence helps. Also, as chown33 said, practice is effective. As well, it's OK to be nervous before speaking publicly, as long as it's not debilitating. I love public speaking, but I do get a bit nervous before a major presentation. It helps me get "up" for the event.

    In other settings, I find that being a good listener is critical for effective communication. If you truly listen to the other person or parties, you can respond genuinely and with less fear, even if what they say doesn't fit with your thinking. Listening also makes it harder to formulate what you're going to say next in your mind, which is often a good thing. By the way, listening also applies to yourself - it's helpful to learn to hear what you're saying and how you're saying it affects people around you and reacting accordingly.
     
  15. NastyComputers macrumors regular

    NastyComputers

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    San Diego
    #15
    Echo the practice. If you know you are giving a speech doing the research so that you know what you are talking about and again practice once you know your topic. If it is a teaching situation chances are that you know more about the given topic than the audience so they won't know if you're full of it or not!

    Take a college speech class. I have always been pretty comfortable speaking in front of people but I had to take a speech class in college. It was very helpful in knowing how to (and not how to) stand or use your hands, engaging the crowd and how to open and close a speech.

    Another thing I like to tell people (especially if they are giving a presentation when everyone else is too) is that everyone feels the same way that you do, most people worry or get nervous so your not alone. Just try to relax and do the best that you can. And after some different types or presentations or speeches you will begin to feel more confidence and comfort in front of groups.
     
  16. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    North Country (way upstate NY)
    #16
    Paragraph one is different than paragraph two and require different skills though picking up the skills for two will likely fix one.

    I can't really help because I have lived and worked in a very hierarchical environment that most people wouldn't be used. The only thing I can say is these will be your people and your success or failure will depend on them so put yourself in there shoes and act accordingly.
     
  17. sdilley14 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    Mesa, AZ
    #17
    All good advice! I'm going to be looking into some leadership and speech classes. I know the anxiety is all in my head, and comfort will come with practice and repetition.
     
  18. mscriv macrumors 601

    mscriv

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    Dallas, Texas
    #18
    Well, your username might have something to do with how you respond to folks. :eek: ;) :D

    You are absolutely correct in stating that some folks are more shy/private or don't enjoy social interaction and in those kinds of circumstances engaging them in a conversation will be more difficult. That being said, keep in mind what I posted about context. One usually doesn't just walk up to a stranger and start firing questions at them. Small talk generally occurs when you are introduced to someone or find yourself in a social situation that encourages interaction. In those settings being genuine and asking "non threatening" conversational questions are a great way to maintain a conversation. In fact, if you and I were to find ourselves in that kind of situation I bet we would get along just fine. :p
     
  19. Spectrum Abuser macrumors 65816

    Spectrum Abuser

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  20. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

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    Lucky Country
    #20
    Small talk is no problem for me since I don't indulge. I found out, long ago, that loose lips can come back to haunt one, so I prefer to keep to myself whenever possible. I can hold a long conversation on a particular subject of interest, but nattering is a no-no.
     
  21. Savor Suspended

    Savor

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #21
    Alone!

    :)

    Actually, I deal with it too because I feel like Bill Murray's character in Lost In Translation. I seem to have a split personality. My parents are divorced. My Mom can be very social since she worked in banking and real estate. My Dad is soft-spoken, but had alot of friends. Now in his 50's with two other kids and another wife, he seems he rather tinker with something in the garage and alone. Mom seems the funnier and louder parent but she rather would be alone most of the time. Dad knows how to be part of groups but also likes to be alone more.

    They have opposite taste and personalities. I have each of their traits including their smarts. I can be a natural conversationalist but have the mumbling soft voice of my Dad. I have the strong sense of humor and natural charisma to talk one on one. But in a group larger than two, I stay quiet. But other times, I prefer being alone. Being a home body like Mom.

    This might sound odd, but practice talking to yourself. Think of any topic and start talking about it. Give your opinion on it. That's what I do. I talk alone when reviewing movies, cell phones, basketball, or horse racing. Then I gather those thoughts into written form and post it from my Notes app into forums. That's the reason why my posts can be so long. I love taking notes of things I enjoy. But try to get into things fairly universal like say movies or music. I doubt many people would care who is the greatest racehorses of all-time from me. The topic can't be too niche.

    I find posting in forums a bit therapeutic like a mini-blog. I start with a conversation to myself and the end result is on a message board or comment section. I remember getting a ton of likes in Engadget and YouTube. But you have to be passionate about those topics and really enjoy learning alot from it. Then the talking stuff because easier and easier with someone if you start practicing the conversation to yourself. And if that doesn't work, get into Dubsmash and gain some confidence from it.

    And if none of that works, search for Howard Stern's "smallest penis" contest. None of them were Asian guys. I guarantee you will start feeling better about yourself. My eldest cousin has anti-social skills and got me into watching that video. He is a 39-year old guy who never had a gf and broke his cherry with a Tijuana prostitute at 29 because I took him there and felt bad he never scored. He is a good-looking enough guy. Just weird how he thinks like a grown up Beavis or Butthead. He exaggerates his stuttering problem too. It isn't even noticeable. He is so self-deprecating. Don't be like that.
     
  22. LIVEFRMNYC macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    #22
    I'm a great with communicating in person. :)

    My problem is displaying interest when other people talk. :(

    I don't have that happy go lucky free spirited vibe that draws people in. I only smile when there's something to smile about, and it's hard for me to display interest. People think I'm zoning out when talking to me, but I'm listening.

    Damn near everyone I know says "I though you were an ass before I knew you".
     
  23. Badagri macrumors 6502

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    Aug 9, 2012
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    UK
    #23
    I've always noticed this with a lot of people. You/I, has to drive the conversation. If you don't it dies. Some people are like this online as well with instant messengers.

    They never try or show interest.
     
  24. LIVEFRMNYC macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    #24
    For me, it's not that I'm not showing interest. It's more of a problem of "displaying" interest. Many like to know they have your undivided attention and/or expect a reply when none is nessecary.

    Sometimes I would play into what people expect, but then I feel fake.
     
  25. sdilley14 thread starter macrumors 65816

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    Feb 8, 2007
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    Mesa, AZ
    #25
    Well, I've been managing my "anxiety" much better lately! I went out on a date Saturday and had no problem holding fun, engaging "small talk" for a good 2 hours. It was my second date with this girl so she wasn't a total stranger anyways. We're going out again this week. :)

    Also, this week at work I've been doing "side by side" training with new hires. They sit at my work station and watch me work for a little while, I explain to them what I'm doing, then I sit back and watch them work and "coach"/critique, etc. It's actually been going really well! I think it's MUCH easier to feel comfortable and confident in your communication when you're speaking on a subject you actually know really well. I really struggle with the "fake it until you make it" type thing. But when it comes to communicating about things I actually know really well, I feel a good level of confidence.
     

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