Communication Anxiety

Welcome to the new social reality of cyber-friends,
fake-likes and the growing problem of communication anxiety.

by Kathryn Lancioni

When I was a kid, I didnt have a cell phone. There was no such thing as Snap or Instagram.  And, we certainly didnt have YouTube (although I was lucky enough to witness the debut of MTV.) If I wanted to watch television, I watched it live–without the ability to rewind or pause–something that shocks my kids. If I wanted to talk to my friends, I had to wait until the phone in the hall was free and then drag the long cord into my room into my room for privacy. Or I went to their home and knocked on their door.  Ahhh, the good old days. 

As we are all glaringly aware, today things are very different.  Rather than playing outside or hanging out with friends, many of todays teens spend countless hours using social media applications to talk with their friends. Whats funny is to todays teen, the idea of talking isnt something that takes place face-to-face. Instead, it is done over the Internet and doesnt involve speaking. Since when did taking a picture of your foot or half-of-your face and Snapping it to your friend constitute a conversation? For many teens, that is how they converse with each other in the virtual world. And, ironically, in the real-world, many of these kids actually never talk to each other.  They are simply cyber-friends. 

Welcome to the new social reality of cyber-friends, fake-likes and the growing problem of communication anxiety. Communication anxiety or communication apprehension is a growing problem for both teens and adults. It used to be we just feared giving speeches or making a presentation; but now teens and some adults fear in-person conversations. For adolescents, the communication anxiety is coming from the simple fact that most rarely ever hold extended face-to-face conversations.  Once they have responded, Im goodor Yup,few other words tend to come out of their mouth. For most teens, it isnt that they are trying to be mysterious or snarky, it is simply that they dont know what else to say and get stuck.  

Have a teen with communication anxiety? Here are a 5 tips that may help:

1. Less is more. When having a face-to-face conversation with someone for the first time, share the things about yourself that you want to share. You dont have to tell everyone everything about yourself.  Pick the two or three things to tell them and go from there.  In introductory conversations, less is often more. 

2. Discover the other person. Ask the other person about themselves if you get stuck in the middle of a conversation.  It could be as simple as what they did over the weekend, or what movies they recently watched.

3. Search for common ground. Tell the other person a story about yourself.  It could be about something that recently happened or about a trip you took in the past.  Remember, stick to the topics and stories you are comfortable discussing.4. Listen. In any real-world conversation, it is important to truly listen to what the other person is saying as it will help you figure out what to say next.

5. Put the phone down. Make sure you arent digitally distracted when you are speaking face-to-face with someone.  Not only is it incredibly rude, but it also prevents you from truly engaging in the conversation.  View every conversation as an opportunity to practice your communication skills and a step in overcoming your communication anxiety!

Have communication anxiety?
Most of us do! Kathryn has tips to combat your performance nerves
whether it’s public speaking or learning the art of conversation–
she’s your girl!

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