2 part paper, will need the same tudor for both parts


Developing Confidence: Coping with Insecurities about Interpersonal Communication

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, readers will explore the fear and anxiety that some communicators experience during communication situations. By the end of this chapter, readers will be able to

• Define the concept of communication apprehension and identify the various types of com- munication apprehension

• Explain how communication apprehension is related to a number of personality factors and interpersonal consequences

• Describe both broad and specific interpersonal effects of communication apprehension • Use strategies to reduce communication apprehension in interpersonal interactions


Sigrid Olsson/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

Introduction Michael, a 25-year-old man, has a great deal of trouble communicating in certain situations. When he is talking with his friends, his family members, and his girlfriend Jane, he is perfectly comfortable: He seeks out interactions with those he is close to and fully engages in and partici- pates in conversations with them. But he quickly becomes overwhelmed when he is in situations where he is meeting new people or participating in a group situation with those he does not know very well, which happens frequently for him at school and at his job as a marketing assistant. He gets nervous; he starts to sweat, and his hands become clammy, which makes him even more uncomfortable with introductory handshakes; he avoids talking unless he absolutely has to, and he stumbles over his words and sounds unsure and tentative when he does have to speak. Overall, he is generally not himself in such situations. As a result he routinely avoids certain communica- tion situations because he does not want to experience such discomfort.

Michael’s trouble communicating in these new interactions has been detrimental to him: He has had job interviews where he did not get hired because of his difficulty communicating con- fidently, he has not impressed his classmates or coworkers because he shuts down in group situ- ations, and he is too afraid to ask his boss for a raise or to speak with his professor about a grade that he thinks is incorrect. Michael doesn’t think that he is shy, because once he gets to know people, he is very eager to interact with them and does so competently. In fact, what Michael has is communication apprehension, and as we will see in this chapter, this is a common communica- tion challenge that can make you a less confident or competent communicator.

Like Michael, you likely experience some insecurity in at least one aspect of your communication with others. Maybe you get nervous when speaking with someone who has a great deal of power and influence, experience apprehension when talking with your romantic partner about a diffi- cult issue, or get jitters while speaking in public or performing on stage. A major goal of this text is to help you understand and improve your interpersonal communication. Identifying specific communication challenges and insecurities, and then addressing these issues, is the main hur- dle in this process. Throughout the book we have discussed communication competence as an important and easy-to-implement strategy for improving communication. Chapter 5 thus exam- ines a number of challenges that can arise in interpersonal communication situations, introduces and describes the concept of communication apprehension, and examines how communication apprehension is related to a number of personality factors and interpersonal consequences. We will also discuss several strategies for reducing communication apprehension in interpersonal interactions.

5.1 Communication Apprehension Communication apprehension is one of the most frequently researched concepts in the com- munication discipline and, on a more specific level, is commonly studied in relation to interper- sonal communication (Daly, 2011; Levine & McCroskey, 1990). Communication scholar James McCroskey first identified communication apprehension in 1968 when he proposed it as a broad concept that encompasses the fear and stress associated with any form of communication, includ- ing stage fright and reticence. Communication apprehension (CA) specifically occurs when an individual experiences “fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons” (McCroskey, 1977, p. 78). In other words, CA can occur during an interaction or when you expect to take part in an interaction in the near future. In fact, CA can compel you to avoid certain interactions altogether.

Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

An individual who experiences CA might avoid or reduce her participation in com- munication situations in an attempt to prevent feeling upset and experiencing anxiety. In this way, someone with high CA views communication as a punishment that should be avoided, whereas people with low CA will seek opportunities to engage in the same interaction and find it to be enjoyable (Daly, 2011). We will use the words high, moderate, and low to describe CA levels throughout this chapter because these des- ignations reflect the categorizations that researchers often use for their study partic- ipants in order to make statistical compari- sons among the three groups. Keep in mind that CA is a continuum that ranges from low to high levels, and that there is also a continuum for each of the different types and forms of CA that we will discuss below. Everyone’s CA levels will differ according to the specific type or form of CA that is relevant, and everyone will experience some type of CA at different points. For example, an individual may feel very comfortable talking with others but become nervous in formal meeting situations, particularly when the meeting is a job interview.

McCroskey (1977) describes three propositions regarding individuals with high communication apprehension:

1. Those with high levels of CA will avoid and withdraw from communication whenever they can. 2. Avoidance and withdrawal will lead others to view the high CA individual less positively than

those with low to no CA. 3. The combination of communication avoidance and less positive perceptions by others will

cause the high CA individual to experience greater difficulty in social, academic, financial, and professional situations.

Individuals can experience communication apprehension as either an enduring personality trait or in response to a particular state. We discuss these two concepts and the different forms of CA next.

Two Types of Communication Apprehension

It is not unusual for people to experience apprehension in a specific communication scenario. Indeed, McCroskey (2009) notes that 70% of Americans experience CA in anticipation of giving a speech. This type of CA is known as state communication apprehension, or an apprehensive reaction to a specific communication context or situation. If you have high state CA, you fear or feel anxious in one communication context but do not feel that way in others (McCroskey, 2009). The stage fright that singers and actors describe experiencing, such as Renée Fleming’s perfor- mance anxiety described in the Web Field Trip at the end of this section, is an example of state CA because they only feel that fear and anxiety in performance situations. State CA thus occurs less often, and only when in the midst of the single communication environment, and it is typi- cally experienced at only mild or moderate levels. McCroskey (1977) stresses that experiencing

Michael Blann/Iconica/Getty Images

▲▲ For an individual with communication apprehension, com- munication situations cause feelings of fear and anxiety.

Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

state CA from time to time is normal for most people, and it is a logical response to an interaction that could be perceived as intimidating or intense, such as giving a speech to hundreds of people or going into an important job interview.

On the other hand, communication apprehension can also be something that you are to some extent born with, and it can affect your life and your relationships. This trait communication apprehen- sion is experienced as a broad, consistent personal attribute that can have multiple implications and must be dealt with almost daily. It is viewed as a general pattern along a continuum such that one can have low, moderate, or high fear or anxiety orientation across communication contexts (McCroskey, 2009). For example, someone with high trait CA may be less assertive, free, and clear when communicating, and may also feel less powerful, confident, and brave during interactions (Hopf & Colby, 1992; Jung, 2013). In contrast, low trait CA people will communicate in a more assertive, clear, and free manner and feel confident and in control when interacting with others. Consistent effects of high CA can prevent you from achieving certain personal goals, particularly ones that involve interacting with others. In addition, the higher one’s trait communication appre- hension, the more he or she experiences a self-identity gap, which is the difference between one’s present self-concept and his or her perception of how others view the self (Jung, 2013).

An estimated 15–20% of college and public school students, adults, and senior citizens have high trait CA (McCroskey, 2009; McCroskey & Richmond, 1982). Trait CA is experienced in a variety of different communication situations, from interpersonal to organizational to public speaking, and such interactions can be either real or imagined threats. As a result, the vast majority of com- munication apprehension research has focused on trait CA. For the remainder of this chapter, when we refer to CA, we are describing trait CA, unless otherwise noted.


Stage Fright

In 2008, Renée Fleming, a now internationally famous opera singer, became the first female to solo headline an opening night gala at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, roughly 13 years after she had a breakthrough career performance at the same venue (Metropolitan Opera, 2013a, 2013b). Despite years of professional training and immense vocal talent, there was a point in her career when the anxiety of performance could have prevented her from taking those fateful steps toward center stage.

Even confident, talented individuals such as Renée Fleming must cope with anxiety and appre- hension about one of the most important aspects of their jobs: performing in front of others. In interviews, Fleming admits there was an especially trying time in her career when her performance anxiety was so severe that her voice coach would physically usher her from her dressing room to the performance stage (Morland, 2013). She describes a feeling of deep, debilitating fear: “We’re not talking about jitters; we’re talking about deep, deep panic, and that every fiber of your being is saying, ‘I cannot be on that stage’” (CBS News, 2013). Visit the website for The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/), and review Polly Morland’s (2013) article “Terror Behind a Rising Curtain: Why Do Talented Performers Get Stage Fright?” Then consider the following questions.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Consider the discussions in the article and compare stage fright and communication apprehen- sion. What type of communication apprehension does Renée Fleming experience?

2. Consider the final remarks about risk. How might levels of perceived risk influence an individual’s communication apprehension?

Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

Four Forms of Communication Apprehension

There are four different identified forms of CA, and each form is reflective of the various contexts in which we can experience CA. These four communication contexts are

1. Dyadic: communication that occurs between two people 2. Group: communication that involves three or more people 3. Meeting: communication that involves two or more people and occurs in a business or profes-

sional setting 4. Public speaking: communication that involves one or more people presenting information to

a larger group

As we noted above, degrees of each of these forms of trait CA fall along a continuum ranging from low to high, and an individual with low dyadic CA may have high public speaking CA. A self-report measure, known as the Personal Report of Communication Apprehension, is provided in the Self-Test feature and can be used to identify your degree of CA for each of these four forms. Take the survey and consider your results as you read about each of these forms of CA, discussed in the next sections.

S E L F -T E S T

Personal Report of Communication Apprehension

This instrument, often referred to as the PRCA-24, is composed of 24 statements concerning feel- ings about communicating with others. Please indicate the degree to which each statement applies to you:

1 for strongly disagree 2 for disagree 3 for neutral 4 for agree 5 for strongly agree

1. I dislike participating in group discussions. 2. Generally, I am comfortable while participating in group discussions. 3. I am tense and nervous while participating in group discussions. 4. I like to get involved in group discussions. 5. Engaging in a group discussion with new people makes me tense and nervous. 6. I am calm and relaxed while participating in group discussions. 7. Generally, I am nervous when I have to participate in a meeting. 8. Usually, I am comfortable when I have to participate in a meeting. 9. I am very calm and relaxed when I am called upon to express an opinion at a meeting.

10. I am afraid to express myself at meetings. 11. Communicating at meetings usually makes me uncomfortable. 12. I am very relaxed when answering questions at a meeting. 13. While participating in a conversation with a new acquaintance, I feel very nervous. 14. I have no fear of speaking up in conversations. 15. Ordinarily, I am very tense and nervous in conversations. 16. Ordinarily, I am very calm and relaxed in conversations. 17. While conversing with a new acquaintance, I feel very relaxed.


Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

18. I'm afraid to speak up in conversations. 19. I have no fear of giving a speech. 20. Certain parts of my body feel very tense and rigid while giving a speech. 21. I feel relaxed while giving a speech. 22. My thoughts become confused and jumbled when I am giving a speech. 23. I face the prospect of giving a speech with confidence. 24. While giving a speech, I get so nervous I forget facts I really know.


Group discussion: 18 − (scores for items 2, 4, & 6) + (scores for items 1, 3, & 5)

Meetings: 18 − (scores for items 8, 9, & 12) + (scores for items 7, 10, & 11)

Dyadic: 18 − (scores for items 14, 16, & 17) + (scores for items 13, 15, & 18)

Public speaking: 18 − (scores for items 19, 21, & 23) + (scores for items 20, 22, & 24)

Group discussion score:

Dyadic score:

Meetings score:

Public speaking score:

To obtain your total score for the PRCA, simply add your subscores together:

Scores can range from 24–120. Scores below 51 represent people who have very low CA. Scores between 51–80 represent people with average CA. Scores above 80 represent people who have high levels of trait CA.

Norms for the PRCA-24

The following norms are based on over 40,000 college students. Data from over 3,000 nonstudent adults in a national sample provided virtually identical norms, within 0.20 for all scores.


Standard Deviation



Total 65.6 15.3 > 80 < 51

Group 15.4 4.8 > 20 < 11

Meeting 16.4 4.2 > 20 < 13

Dyad 14.2 3.9 > 18 < 11

Public speaking 19.3 5.1 > 24 < 14

Source: Self-test from McCroskey, J. (1982). Introduction to rhetorical communication (4th ed.) ©1982. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Printed and electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Consider Your Results

1. Consider your overall CA score, as well as your scores for each specific type of CA. Using the table of norms for the PRCA-24, determine how you compare to others with regard to your CA levels.

2. Were there any scores that surprised you? In addition, think about how your CA levels in a par- ticular area may have impacted how you communicated in that situation. Did you do poorly in a group project because you have high group CA?

3. How might you manage your CA in future situations?

Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

Dyadic Communication Apprehension Also known as person–partner CA, dyadic communication apprehension describes the fear one feels of interactions with one individual and the subsequent desire to prevent or avoid such interactions. According to McCroskey (1984), dyadic CA involves “a relatively enduring orienta- tion toward communication with a given person” (p. 17). Since dyadic CA is a response to one particular individual, the anxiety is a product of previous negative interactions and the relational history with the identified individual. Is there someone with whom you are always nervous to talk? Perhaps you didn’t make a good first impression and you feel anxiety every time you have to interact with this person because you know he does not like you very much. Or you may be anxious when talking to someone because you really want him to like and respect you. The first time that you meet a romantic partner’s parents or siblings is probably an instance when you experienced high dyadic CA, as their opinions of you could potentially make or break your rela- tionship. If your partner’s family welcomes you with open arms, your dyadic CA levels will likely lower substantially. But if they are not welcoming and seem to disapprove of you, you will prob- ably remain apprehensive when you interact with each of them. Interpersonal communication scholars most commonly examine this form of CA, as it best represents the one-on-one nature of interpersonal interactions, and the one that will be the focus of this chapter.

Group Communication Apprehension Individuals can also experience group communication apprehension, which causes them to avoid or withdraw from interactions that involve three or more individuals. McCroskey and Virginia P. Richmond (1992) believe that group CA is the most important predictor of how one will communicate in a small group situation. American culture emphasizes teams at work and in social and athletic situations so this form of CA can be a great detriment in an individual’s personal and professional lives. Compared to those with a low degree of group CA, those with high group CA tend to speak less, choose seats that prevent them from being the focus of atten- tion, and even generate fewer ideas than when they are alone (McCroskey & Richmond, 1992). Other group members view them as more nervous, less dominant, and as providing fewer impor- tant contributions than those with low group CA. These characteristics mean that high group CA individuals will be less effective group members and are less likely to be group leaders. In addition, from a more general CA perspective, those with moderate or high trait CA (i.e., the combined scores for the four forms of CA measured on the PRCA-24 scale) were less likely to be viewed as group leaders than low trait CA individuals (Limon & LaFrance, 2005). So even if an individual does not specifically experience group CA, a significant degree of CA in general can affect the person’s ability to interact in group environments.

Meeting Communication Apprehension An individual with meeting communication apprehension experiences anxiety associated with participation in formal meetings. This form of CA can have significant effects in an indi- vidual’s academic and professional life. In a job interview, for example, individuals with a high degree of employment interview CA (a specific form of meeting CA) reported that they chose to avoid thinking about and preparing for the interviews and used minimal communication during the interviews (Ayres, Keereetaweep, Chen, & Edwards, 1998). In addition, those with low CA differed from high CA individuals in terms of how they approached the job interview: Low CAs felt confident, prepared, and concentrated on how they were going to act during the interview in order to get hired (Ayres et al., 1998). In contrast, high CAs fretted about being evaluated or judged, felt pressure about how to act during the interview, were brief when describing their qualifications, and were scared of saying the wrong thing (Ayres et al., 1998).

Factors that Contribute to Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

High trait CA can be particularly detrimental because job interviews are typically required for an individual to be hired for an employment position. For example, researchers found that high CA could prevent the apprehensive person from fully preparing for the interview (Ayres et al., 1998). Such lack of preparation could preclude the individual from learning more about the company or creating a list of questions to ask during the interview. This feeling of unpreparedness can then generate more apprehension, creating a communication apprehension cycle that significantly diminishes the chances that the person with high trait CA will present herself well in the inter- view, which then reduces her chances of being hired. Not being hired could then reinforce the person’s belief that she cannot get a job, meaning she is less likely to prepare for future interviews.

Public Speaking Communication Apprehension The final form of CA is public speaking communication apprehension, or fear one feels when asked to give a speech or presentation to a group of individuals. Public speaking apprehension is often the strongest form of CA. It is thus not surprising that those with public speaking CA avoid public speaking situations and demonstrate lower competence when they do have to speak to a group of people (Behnke & Sawyer, 1999; Scott & Timmerman, 2005). Consider the possible cor-

relation between master of business admin- istration (MBA) students and experienced levels of CA. John Burk (2001) found that students in a MBA program had high levels of both meeting and public speaking CA. This is an interesting correlation because, after graduation, MBAs will likely pursue professions that require them to participate regularly in meetings, lead discussions, and present speeches to groups of colleagues. In response to this unusual finding, Burk (2001) recommends that MBA programs incorporate more communication courses in their program curriculums in order to reduce these forms of CA experienced among their students. As we will discuss later in the chapter, taking courses or engaging in formal training can be a helpful way to reduce or alleviate communication apprehension.

5.2 Factors that Contribute to Communication Apprehension

A number of factors can affect communication apprehension. As stated in the previous section, trait CA, for example, is identified as a stable personality characteristic that is present from birth. State CA, in addition, can emerge from a single upsetting experience. But there are also a number of other individual and communication factors that can contribute to CA or make one’s CA more severe. Three of these most prominent factors are shyness, introversion, and willingness to com- municate, and these factors are related to branches of research that aim to determine why some people do not communicate. Each of these factors is discussed next.

Digital Vision/Photodisc/Thinkstock

▲▲ Public speaking apprehension, or fear one feels when asked to give a speech or presentation, is often the strongest form of communication apprehension.

Factors that Contribute to Communication Apprehension Chapter 5


Shyness can be at least partially genetic or can emerge from upsetting and traumatic childhood experiences such as physical or emotional abuse. Much like trait CA, shyness is considered a relatively stable personality trait and describes an individual’s feelings of apprehension, timidity, discomfort, and awkwardness in social situations. One observable behavior that is indicative of shyness is talking less than others (McCroskey, 2009). New situations or interactions with unfa- miliar people can make shyness even more pronounced.

But are shyness and CA two different concepts? Identifying the motivations behind each indi- vidual characteristic can help us understand the differences between CA and shyness. Shyness is primarily motivated by anxiety of what others might think. In other words, if you are shy, you do not behave how you would like to because you are scared that others will negatively judge you by criticizing you, rejecting you, or using disconfirming messages toward you. In contrast, though judgment from others can be one reason for CA, there are other possible reasons for communication apprehension. CA can also be caused by fear of a communication context or situation, a lack of communication skills overall or in a specific situation, receiving positive rein- forcement for being quiet as a child, and even difficulty learning or acquiring a new language (McCroskey, 1977).

Despite their differences, research (e.g., McCroskey & Richmond, 1982) consistently finds that a shy individual is also more likely to have high CA. Someone who is shy and someone who expe- riences CA will both exhibit similar behaviors, such as talking less during communication sce- narios, withdrawing from interactions, and avoiding social situations (McCroskey & Richmond, 1982). However, research (McCroskey, 2009) finds that there is only a moderate correlation between shyness and CA, suggesting that each is at least somewhat distinct. In other words, you can have high CA and not be shy, and vice versa.


As a culture, the United States values an individual’s ability to engage in interactions and a willingness to speak up. This can be troublesome for the approximately one-third to one-half of individuals who have the personality trait of introversion (e.g., Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998). Introverted individuals focus their attention inward, which means that they pay more attention to their own thoughts and feelings rather than seek outward for exter- nal experiences or stimulation. Due to this inward focus, introverts are quiet, introspective, serious, reserved, and generally very organized. (The Web Field Trip feature explores some of the qualities of introverts in a noisy world.) Similar to CA, introversion and its counterpart extroversion are evaluated on a continuum. In contrast to introverts, extroverts are typically more sociable, gregarious, energetic, and positive, focusing their attention on the world around them. Identifying the distinctions between introversion and extroversion is an important step toward understanding an individual’s personality, and as such it is one component of the Big Five Factor Model, which focuses on the five basic aspects of personality. These two ele- ments are also one of four dimensions of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory, which is designed to provide explanations of 16 distinctive personality types (MBTI Basics, 2010).

Factors that Contribute to Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

As with shyness, introversion shares some similarities with and differences from communication apprehension. As you learned, CA is one’s fear or anxiety about taking part in communication situations. Introversion, on the other hand, is not about fear of interactions. Rather than socialize with others, introverts simply prefer to spend time alone instead of socializing, and they tend to feel as if their energy is drained after spending time with others; thus, they may need to recharge by themselves for a little while. This emotional exhaustion, not fear, is often what motivates intro- verts to avoid social situations. Although both introverts and those with high CA avoid certain interactions, their motivations for doing so are different.

As further evidence of the similarities and differences between these concepts, research has con- sistently determined that introversion and CA are moderately correlated (McCroskey, 2009). For example, Stephanie Shimotsu and Timothy Mottet (2009) found that maladaptive perfectionism, which occurs when a person is unable to reach goals or standards because these goals are exces- sively high, is an aspect of personality that is related to both lower extroversion and higher CA. Take a moment to complete the introversion–extroversion assessment in the Self-Test feature. Whatever your score is, consider how your own introversion or extroversion has impacted your interactions with others. This self-awareness can help you to approach interactions in a way that accommodates your level of introversion or extroversion—for example, knowing that you are an introvert can motivate you to not schedule more meetings in a day than you can handle or to be aware that you will need some personal recuperation time after attending a party or interacting with a large number of people.


Speaking Up for Introverts

In 2012, the trait of introversion was thrust into the spotlight with the publication of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Cain argues that Western culture’s preference for extroversion, which she calls the “extrovert ideal,” means that introverts’ traits and abilities are often misunderstood, undervalued, and even viewed as inferior or extreme (2012, p. 4). According to Cain (2012, p. 6), this cultural emphasis on extroversion has led many introverts to feel pressured to adopt a “pseudo-extrovert” identity where they act like extroverts rather than be their naturally quiet, introspective selves.

Cain’s book works to dispel the extrovert ideal by citing research from many different academic disciplines that, together, highlight the multiple benefits and contributions of introversion, including a focus on listening, creativity, and being careful rather than reckless. Visit the website devoted to Cain’s book (http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/) to learn more about The Power of Introverts. Review information located under “Quiet: The Book,” take a Quiet Quiz, and view Susan Cain’s TED Talk.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Do you consider yourself an introvert? If not, do you have a close friend or family member who is introverted? What are the communication effects of introversion that you personally experience?

2. Do you believe that our culture is becoming more attuned to accepting introversion? Why or why not?

Factors that Contribute to Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

S E L F -T E S T

Introversion–Extroversion Scale

Below are 12 statements that people sometimes make about themselves. Please indicate whether or not you believe each statement applies to you:

1 for strongly disagree 2 for disagree 3 for undecided 4 for agree 5 for strongly agree

1. Are you inclined to keep in the background on social occasions? 2. Do you like to mix socially with people? 3. Are you inclined to limit your acquaintances to a select few? 4. Do you like to have many social engagements? 5. Would you rate yourself as a happy-go-lucky individual? 6. Can you usually let yourself go and have a good time at a party? 7. Would you be very unhappy if you were prevented from making numerous social contacts? 8. Do you usually take the initiative in making new friends? 9. Do you like to play pranks upon others?

10. Are you usually a "good mixer?" 11. Do you often "have the time of your life" at social affairs? 12. Do you derive more satisfaction from social activities than from anything else?


To determine your score on the Introversion Scale, complete the following steps:

Step 1: Add scores for items 1 & 3 Step 2: Add scores for items 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Step 3: Complete the following formula:

Introversion = 12 − total from Step 1 + total from Step 2

Your score should be between 12 and 60. If you compute a score outside that range, you have made a mistake in computing the score.

Individuals scoring above 48 are highly introverted; those scoring below 24 have low introversion (are extroverted). Those scoring between 24 and 48 are in the moderate range.

Source: Self-test from Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, J. C. (1998). Communication: Apprehension, Avoidance, and effectiveness (5th ed.) ©1998. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Printed and electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Consider Your Results

1. Evaluate your score. Did you fall into the introverted or extroverted side of the spectrum? Or were you in the middle?

2. How do others potentially view you based on how you behave in accordance with this trait? 3. What can you do to explore the other side of the spectrum (that is, if you are introverted, how

can you try to act more extroverted in certain situations and vice versa)?

Factors that Contribute to Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

Willingness to Communicate

The final individual factor that can contribute to communication apprehension is willingness to communicate (WTC). McCroskey (1977) defines WTC as “a global predisposition to avoid com- munication” for multiple reasons, including apprehension, low self-esteem, feelings of alienation, or introversion (p. 79). Indeed, research (e.g., Pearson, Child, DeGreeff, Semlak, & Burnett, 2011) consistently finds that low self-esteem is related to being unwilling to communicate. At a basic level, someone may be more or less willing to communicate in a given situation. WTC is one’s preference to either initiate or avoid interaction. Someone may be unwilling to communicate simply because he does not know the information, does not feel well, or does not know the lan- guage well enough to understand what is being said. WTC is a trait that can indicate a consistent preference to not communicate with others, but it can also be influenced by prior communication experiences and one’s culture. For example, someone from a high-context culture, where most meaning is derived from subtle nonverbal messages and the surrounding environment, may be less willing to communicate because the person’s culture does not place as much emphasis on direct, verbal messages. WTC can also be more likely in a specific context, such as willingness to communicate in a large group setting.

Willingness to communicate is also related to a number of aspects of who we are and how we communicate. According to com- munication scholar Judee Burgoon (1976), WTC is based on two related factors. The first is approach-avoid, which identifies the anxiety that can accompany small group and interpersonal interactions and the indi- vidual’s decision to either seek out or avoid such situations. In this sense, you are will- ing to either approach or avoid a commu- nication scenario. The other factor, reward, accounts for one’s belief that relationships with others can offer camaraderie, empathy, and valuable conversation. These perceived benefits of relationships combine to offer a reward value for interactions with others. So if you believe that a relationship has a

reward value, then you are more willing to communicate with others. For example, those who have an approach orientation to communication and who find interactions rewarding are also more likely to use humor in a variety of communication situations (Miczo, 2004). Why would humor usage be related to the WTC trait? One researcher (Miczo, 2004) posits that when an individual feels a greater willingness to communicate, the person is thus more involved, respon- sive, and attentive to a conversation, and so also makes spontaneous jokes and uses humor that fits with the topic of the interaction. In essence, those with a high WTC have more experience interacting with others and are better able to read a situation when being humorous.

Both CA and introversion can thus affect an individual’s WTC. However, WTC is not necessar- ily linked with shyness because WTC is a preference, or a conscious choice to either approach or avoid communication, whereas shyness is a behavior, or a more inherent trait that can initiate interaction avoidance. Shyness, introversion, and CA are moderately but consistently related to WTC. In other words, the shyer, more introverted, and more communicatively apprehensive you are, the less willing you are to communicate.

Ian Cumming/Axiom Photographic Agency/Getty Images

▲▲ Previous communication experiences and culture are factors that can influence one’s willingness to communicate.

Interpersonal Consequences of Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

These relationships between CA and CA-related characteristics have been observed in American, Finnish, Swedish, Australian, and Micronesian population samples, also indicating that such trends span multiple cultures (Sallinen-Kuparinen, McCroskey, & Richmond, 1991). But there are some cultural differences. For example, Americans had lower levels of CA and higher levels of WTC than New Zealanders, and Americans were more willing to communicate with Chinese than Chinese were with Americans (Hackman & Barthel-Hackman, 1993; Lu & Hsu, 2008). Even though CA and factors that contribute to CA, such as WTC, are observed across multiple cul- tures, there are differences within each culture that can affect observed levels of CA.

5.3 Interpersonal Consequences of Communication Apprehension

We have described what it means to have communication apprehension, and we have differenti- ated CA from the CA-related concepts of shyness, introversion, and willingness to communicate. The next step for developing confidence in interpersonal interactions is to better understand the consequences or effects of CA and these CA-related concepts in various communication situations.

The first broad consequence is internal to the CA individual, typically involving physical dis- comfort and high emotional and physiological arousal. If you find yourself in a high CA situa- tion, your heart might beat faster, or you might start to sweat or tremble. Michael’s sweating and clammy hands that were described at the beginning of this chapter are physiological examples of his internal discomfort.

Beyond this immediate internal discomfort, there are other ways that CA can be experienced. For example, general anxiety disorder (GAD) is related to communication apprehension. In addition, individuals who were diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a biopsychosocial gastro- intestinal disorder that is related to stress and anxiety, were more likely to have dyadic CA than those who did not have IBS, and for these IBS-diagnosed individuals, the more extreme their IBS symptoms, the greater their dyadic CA (Bevan, 2009). Depressive symptoms are also associated with high CA (Jung, 2013).

A second broad consequence of CA is the lifestyle and economic difference between those with high and low CA. McCroskey’s (2009) review of CA research found that those with high CA tend to have a lower chance of being hired for a job, earn less money, have lower job satisfaction, are less successful in school, and are even viewed as less credible and interpersonally attractive than their low CA counterparts. Based on these findings, it is possible that those with high CA could suffer academically, professionally, economically, and relationally. There are also specific interpersonal effects of CA on their communication and relationships. Three such consequences—loneliness, difficulty in online interactions, and communication incompetence—are discussed next.


As we described in Chapter 1, loneliness, which occurs when our actual number of relation- ships is fewer than our preferred or desired amount, is one possible consequence if we have dif- ficulty forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Many of us struggle with loneliness. Recall from Chapter 1 that Americans have fewer confidants today than they did 20 years earlier (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Brashears, 2006), that one-third of Dutch individuals are chroni- cally lonely (Dykstra, van Tilburg, & de Jong Gierveld, 2005), and that American college students

Interpersonal Consequences of Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

experience chronic loneliness at moderate-to-high levels (Wang, Fink, & Cai, 2008). If you are lonely, you can feel alienated, meaning that you feel estranged or apart from others.

Communication apprehension and the CA-related concepts are important factors when deter- mining whether an individual will be lonely or not. Because those with CA or those who are unwilling to communicate are viewed as less believable, less physically appealing, and less satisfy- ing to interact with in interpersonal situations (e.g., Colby, Hopf, & Ayres, 1993), they will be less likely to develop and maintain close relationships with others (McCroskey, 2009). Their commu- nication apprehension or shyness means they are less likely to engage in social interactions and, as a result, will have minimal interpersonal contacts. For an introvert, having only a small group of friends may be preferable because frequent social interactions can be exhausting. However, for someone who is shy, who has CA, or who is unwilling to communicate, the resulting lack of relationships is not what that individual prefers, thus leading to loneliness.

These relationships between loneliness, CA, and CA-related characteristics have been supported by research. For example, if someone who is less willing to communicate—the more the person avoids interactions and find interactions are not rewarding—the greater the person’s loneliness (Miczo, 2004). In addition, if older adults have higher levels of CA, they are lonelier (Downs, Javidi, & Nussbaum, 1987). One interesting study focused on individuals who had placed personal ads in an Atlanta-area newspaper and found that those who provided uncomfortable and poten- tially stigmatizing information about themselves, such as comments about being overweight or having a criminal record, had higher dyadic and group CA and were lonelier than those who did not include uncomfortable information (Lemieux, Parrott, & Ogata Jones, 1999). These results suggest that those who struggle with CA and CA-related characteristics might be more likely to share information that makes others uncomfortable, possibly perpetuating existing feelings of loneliness. Such research findings can help us better understand loneliness, but unfortunately loneliness may be viewed as a stigma that few people will openly acknowledge, and it can thus become another burden for someone who is already struggling with a fear of or an unwillingness to communicate.

Difficulties with Computer-Mediated Communication

There are now countless opportunities to communicate via mediated contexts. This can be an exciting opportunity for many people, but how does it impact those with CA or CA-related char- acteristics? Craig Scott and Erik Timmerman (2005) found that individuals with high CA were less likely to use audioconferencing, speakerphone, and mobile phone technologies. These researchers also found that apprehension when using computer-mediated communication (CMC) was related to decreased frequency of instant messaging, online chatting, videoconferencing, and e-mailing. These forms of CMC all can involve group or public communication, which may be why appre- hensive individuals do not embrace these new technologies (Scott & Timmerman, 2005).

However, the relationship between CA and CMC may not be as clear-cut as Scott and Timmerman’s (2005) findings suggest. In one early study on CMC, for example, researchers considered effects based on the individual’s specific avoidance characteristic (Mazur, Burns, & Emmers-Sommer, 2000). Internet users with higher CA, for example, indicated that their online relationships were more interdependent and meaningful than their offline relationships, but introverted individuals indicated that their online relationships were less central and significant than their offline rela- tionships (Mazur et al., 2000). In addition, individuals who were less willing to communicate had fewer Facebook friends (Sheldon, 2008). These findings suggest that those with high CA might feel more comfortable in online communication situations, but that introverts and those with low WTC prefer to keep to themselves both online and offline.

Interpersonal Consequences of Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

It is possible that communication appre- hension and WTC are both associated with our motivations for interacting with others online and with the rewards that we gain from such interactions. Uses and grati- fications theory is a media communica- tion theory that attempts to identify and understand the needs and motives we seek, and the fulfillments that we receive, from using a particular medium. This theory has recently been extended to different forms of new and social media such as Facebook. Social media users access such media for information, to communicate with others, for self-expression, for entertainment, and to pass the time. If an individual is more apprehensive about CMC, then they are less likely to use Facebook to communicate with others, express themselves, be enter- tained, or pass time (Hunt, Atkin, & Krishnan, 2012). Another study of gratifications that users obtained from Facebook found that those individuals who were less willing to communicate in general were more likely to use Facebook to pass time when bored and to decrease feelings of loneliness (Sheldon, 2008). These findings about relationships between social media use, CA, and WTC conflict with one another and seem to depend on the individual’s specific CA-related characteristic. In fact, there is a debate about whether socially anxious people indeed prefer to communicate via CMC—an issue that is considered in more detail in the IPC in the Digital Age feature.

Communication Incompetence

As we have discussed, communication competence is an important interpersonal skill that can help increase shared meaning between communicators. However, communication apprehen- sion can be a significant barrier for those who wish to exercise communication competence in an interaction. Why does this occur? Consider those with high trait CA. They likely avoid interactions, but when they do communicate with others, they are more likely to focus on their internal anxiety about their CA than they are to focus on the verbal and nonverbal messages exchanged during the interaction. Each time this occurs, individuals with high CA miss oppor- tunities to learn and practice both appropriate and effective communication. Their drive to avoid communicating is also likely to overpower their desire to apply their communication knowledge and skills.

In short, those with high CA do not give themselves enough interactive opportunities to practice communication competence. This lack of competence then fortifies and justifies these individu- als’ high CA because they continue to avoid interactions, and they are not as competent when they do decide to communicate with others, which then reinforces their fear and anxiety. Research examining CA and communication competence consistently supports these relationships:

• Jason Teven and his colleagues (Teven, Richmond, McCroskey, & McCroskey, 2010) found that higher communication competence was linked with decreased communication apprehension and shyness, and a greater willingness to communicate. This inverse relation- ship between CA and communication competence is consistent across age and biological

Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

▲▲ There is a debate among researchers about whether socially anxious people prefer to communicate via computer-mediated communication.

Interpersonal Consequences of Communication Apprehension Chapter 5

sex (Donovan & MacIntyre, 2004). This means that as CA levels increase, communication competence decreases, regardless of age or sex.

• In a cross-cultural sample, higher levels of communication competence are associated with less shyness, introversion, and CA, and more WTC (Sallinen-Kuparinen et al., 1991).

• In addition, increases in WTC are also associated with greater communication competence for both Chinese and Americans; higher WTC was also related to more language compe- tence for the Chinese sample (Lu & Hsu, 2008). Over time, becoming acculturated to a new culture can improve communication competence, as well as increase WTC and reduce CA (Hsu, 2010).

The relationship between CA and communication competence also extends to online environ- ments Lisa Birman and Brian Spitzberg (2006) examined technophobia, defined as the fear, anxi- ety, and inability to use a technology that then leads to resistance or avoidance of the technology altogether. Based on this definition, technophobia can be viewed as a technology-specific form of CA. Birman and Spitzberg (2006) linked technophobia to knowledge, motivation, and skill and found that, as each of these aspects of communication competence increased, technophobia decreased. Improved communication competence helped decrease one’s fear and apprehension about a particular technology. Later in this chapter we discuss how understanding these relation- ships can help alleviate CA in mediated and online contexts.


Introverts and Extroverts Online

As more people communicate online and the number of mediated interactions increases, research- ers become more interested in understanding how introverts and extroverts communicate via these channels. Two possibilities have emerged. The first, called the social compensation hypoth- esis, posits that introverts would primarily benefit from online interaction. According to the social compensation hypothesis, the reduced nonverbal and verbal cues, time delay, and anonymity in computer-mediated interactions may be appealing to introverts because there is a lower chance of being rejected or ridiculed. Introverts might prefer online interactions more than face-to-face interactions because the confidence they feel online is compensation for the deficits that they expe- rience in their offline interactions. In contrast, the rich-get-richer hypothesis posits that those who already easily navigate face-to-face interactions will also take advantage of opportunities to initiate online interactions. This hypothesis predicts that extroverts will thus reap more benefits from an online interaction because such interactions are extensions of their offline relationship skills. In other words, the rich-get-richer hypothesis asserts that individuals who are sociable or who possess social skills will use the Internet as an alternative or an addition to offline interaction.

Over time research findings have revealed greater support for the rich-get richer hypothesis. Individuals who are shy, introverted, or socially anxious do not use the Internet to interact more frequently or for greater lengths of time. For example, individuals who are less socially competent preferred face-to-face to online dating and did not have a favorable view of dating on the Internet (Poley & Luo, 2012). In addition, one study (Tian, 2013) found that high social anxiety bloggers made fewer new friends, interacted via blogs, and had lower relational quality with fewer existing friends than bloggers with low social anxiety. However, this is not to say that introverts or those who are shy do not at all benefit from interacting online; they may merely see it as another form of


Strategies for Reducing Communication Apprehension in Interpersonal Encounters Chapter 5

5.4 Strategies for Reducing Communication Apprehension in Interpersonal Encounters

Throughout this chapter, we have detailed the difficulties that individuals with high CA can encounter in their interactions with others. If you have one or more forms of CA, are you des- tined to always have difficulty in those situations? The answer is no. Identifying that you have one or more forms of CA (as opposed to, or possibly in addition to, shyness, introversion, or an unwillingness to communicate) is the first important step to becoming a more confident com- municator. In this section, we go beyond knowledge to offer three specific strategies that you can employ to reduce your CA levels.

Understand Your Needs and Develop Communication Confidence

The first important step for developing interpersonal communication confidence is to better understand and acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses. Do you believe that you are shy, or are you perhaps more unwilling to communicate? Use the self-tests provided in this chapter to identify your level of communication apprehension, and pinpoint your place on the introversion– extroversion scale. Identifying your individual communication apprehension profile can help you figure out which elements you need to focus on. If you discover you have a specific form of CA, then you can work to decrease your level of CA. If you are an introvert, you do not have to focus on allaying your fears, but you may want to decide how to balance your preference for solitude with the expectations of social interactions—perhaps by coordinating your preferences to allow for more interactions with your closest friends and family members.

If you do not have communication apprehension, or are not shy or introverted, you do not need to focus as much on developing interpersonal communication confidence. Instead, you can aim to better understand these different characteristics and how they may impact your communica- tion with others. When you communicate with someone who you believe has CA, you can tailor your messages to attempt to make the person more comfortable. You can focus on the other person when she speaks, nod and smile at her more frequently, and ask her individual questions without drawing too much attention to her. Do not be insulted if she is quiet or excuses herself early from an interaction or social situation. Remember that communication is a two-way trans- action; both communicators must work together to shape and shift the interaction and to create shared meaning.

interaction, rather than a more preferred communication environment. Apply these findings to your own online interactions, and then consider the following questions.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Do you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert? Do you have high trait CA, high state CA, or are you shy?

2. Do you prefer to interact online or offline? Do you think that your online behavior has anything to do with your personality characteristics?

3. Do your own experiences in your online interactions fit with the research findings for the social compensation or the rich-get-richer hypothesis? Why do you think that is?

Strategies for Reducing Communication Apprehension in Interpersonal Encounters Chapter 5

Develop and Practice Communication Competence

We discuss communication competence throughout this text, but it is particularly important in the context of communication apprehension. Those with CA—or who are shy, introverted, or have low WTC—are less likely to seek out opportunities to communicate and have fewer chances to refine and improve their communication competence skills. Thus one important sug- gestion for developing confidence in your communication skills, especially if you have CA or an individual CA-related characteristic, is to revisit and focus upon the components of communi- cation competence. Determine if you have trouble with a particular aspect of communication

competence: Is it a lack of communication knowledge or are you unmotivated? Once you have identified a particular compe- tence problem area, learn how to improve your skills and then be sure to practice them. Try to interact more with others, or if you do not want to do that, try to be more aware of how competent you—and others—are when you do decide to com- municate. Improving your communication competence may not entirely alleviate your CA, but it can give you more confidence to approach communication situations, which makes the interactions less stress- ful and allows you to feel more comfortable and less fearful. (Everyday Communication Challenges offers tips for overcoming com- munication difficulties in a doctor’s office.)


▲▲ Understanding and practicing communication skills can help you learn to manage, and possibly overcome, communication apprehension.


Competent Communication in the Exam Room

Some of us don’t enjoy visiting healthcare providers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, physical ther- apists, or even pharmacists. There may be long wait times, painful procedures, issues with insurance coverage, or discussions about something that is embarrassing or private. So if you are faced with a medical appointment, experiencing anxiety about or difficulty communicating with your healthcare provider can only make things more challenging.

A number of communication challenges can occur when someone with high CA interacts with a healthcare provider. Interpersonal communication skills, such as giving and receiving information and building rapport and a partnership with health providers, are important skills for receiving high quality healthcare, but these are some of the very skills that those with CA or a CA-related charac- teristic often struggle with. The concept of willingness to communicate about health (WTCH) spe- cifically addresses difficulty with communicating about health and well-being. WTCH emphasizes the level of comfort and competence when you interact with healthcare providers, and being active and open when it comes to health information (Wright, Frey, & Sopory, 2007). Researchers have identified several different CA relationships in healthcare situations:


Strategies for Reducing Communication Apprehension in Interpersonal Encounters Chapter 5

• Someone with high trait CA is likely to have state CA about interactions with a physician (Richmond, Smith, Heisel, & McCroskey, 1998).

• Those with higher state or trait CA ask fewer questions, have lower levels of understanding, and spend less time in contact with physicians during medical appointments (Booth-Butterfield, Chory, & Beynon, 1997).

• High CA individuals also describe their interactions with their physicians as negative in nature (Booth-Butterfield et al., 1997). Those with higher levels of WTCH are more likely to seek health information, more assertive with their physicians, and more likely to adhere to their physician’s prescription or recommendations (Wright et al., 2007).

• Those with higher state physician CA are less satisfied with their physician and also feel less satis- fied with the care they receive (Richmond et al., 1998). However, these relationships do not exist for people who have high trait CA, which means that someone with general CA, but who is not anxious about talking with a physician, is not necessarily less satisfied with their doctor or their care (Richmond et al., 1998).

These findings led researchers (Booth-Butterfield et al., 1997) to suggest that those with communi- cation apprehension will likely communicate about their health problems less effectively with pro- viders, which could then result in lower quality healthcare in the future.

So what can those with high state physician CA or an unwillingness to communicate about health do to ensure that they receive proper healthcare? Because there is a power differential between patients and providers, especially during the medical exam, patients often think that they can’t do anything to improve communication with their healthcare providers. However, remember that com- munication is a two-way transaction, where both communicators can influence the interaction.

Based on collaborative research by communication scholar Carolyn Shue and medical education researcher Louise Arnold (2009), the following list identifies communication skills to look for in your healthcare provider and that you can use to increase your health communication competence:

• Introduce yourself. • Explain the reason for the exam (for the patient) or the purpose or goals of the exam (for the

provider). • Ask and answer appropriate questions to understand symptoms and other information that is

needed to reach a correct diagnosis (for the physician) or to understand or clarify what the physi- cian is saying and what the diagnosis and treatment is (for the patient).

• Use appropriate listening behaviors, such as not interrupting and making and maintaining eye contact.

• Express understanding verbally and nonverbally by nodding, smiling, and rephrasing what has been said.

• Show interest in what the other person is saying.

Healthcare providers are increasingly aware of the importance of competent communication, and most medical schools now include communication in their curriculum. You should expect that your provider communicates with you using most of the skills outlined above. You also should strive to use these skills yourself.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Can you recall a frustrating interaction with a healthcare provider? Was the communication com- petent for both parties? Why or why not?

2. With which of the specific communication skills discussed above do you think that healthcare providers have the most difficulty? What could they do to improve that skill?

3. With which of the specific communication skills discussed above do you think that patients have the most difficulty? What could they do to improve that skill?

Summary and Resources Chapter 5

Seek Assistance from Others

Communication apprehension is a perfectly normal, and often expected, reaction to stressful or high-pressure interactions. In fact, McCroskey (1977) points out that experiencing a certain degree of CA is more normal than never experiencing CA in any situation! There are many ways to reduce or at least manage CA. First, though it may be uncomfortable, it can be helpful to seek out and take part in situations where you are particularly apprehensive. This approach allows you to treat CA by working on your communication behaviors. For example, an important first step is taking an interpersonal communication course. The concepts covered in interpersonal courses, such as CA and communication competence, can help you to identify areas or situa- tions where you need to develop more confidence in your communication. In addition, you can practice and refine your skills by participating in group and in-class discussions and presenta- tions. Your discomfort is likely to decrease as you become more familiar with or educated about such situations.

If you remain extremely or overwhelmingly apprehensive or shy even with practice, a next step is to seek more formal help, including training or therapy. This CA treatment approach can help you focus on your thoughts about your own communication behaviors (McCroskey, 1984). Stress reduction exercises such as successive relaxation techniques, meditation, and yoga, and clinical treatments for anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy and systematic desensitization, can assist with CA as well (Daly, 2011).

However, it is important to note that not everyone should feel the need to lower their CA or CA-related characteristic. Having CA is not always a negative thing and does not always need to be “fixed.” In fact, you can use your CA to your advantage by channeling it productively so that you use that anxiety to become energized by and prepared for interactions that you know can be stressful for you. If you are adjusted and happy with who you are and how you communicate with others, do not feel pressured to change.

Summary and Resources Many of us experience some form of anxiety or insecurity when communicating with others. This chapter explores a variety of challenges that can arise in our interpersonal communication, the primary one being communication apprehension (CA), which occurs when fear or anxiety is associated with communication with others. Take a moment to review the information sum- marized in Table 5.1. Each person has a CA level that spans from low to high on a continuum, and these CA levels differ in type and form. There are two types of CA: state, or a temporary, situation-specific anxiety; and trait, or an enduring, consistent attribute of anxiety. Almost one- fifth of individuals have high trait CA.

Communication apprehension can also take four forms: (1) dyadic, or in relation to interpersonal interactions with a particular person; (2) group, or when communicating with three or more individuals; (3) meeting, or in formal group business and professional settings; and (4) public speaking, or when one presents to a group. An individual can have high levels of one or more of these forms of CA. Having these forms of CA can be detrimental in a number of ways, includ- ing being less prepared and competent and being viewed as more nervous and offering fewer contributions.

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Table 5.1: Summary of CA types, forms, factors, and consequences

Category Item Description

Two types of CA

Trait communication apprehension (trait CA)

State communication apprehension (state CA)

A broad attribute regarding anxiety about communication that spans situations

Anxiety about communication that occurs only in relation to a specific communication situation or context

Four forms of CA

Dyadic communication apprehension (dyadic CA)

Group communication apprehension (group CA)

Meeting communication apprehension (meeting CA)

Public speaking communication apprehen- sion (public speaking CA)

Anxiety about communication in relation to interactions with a particular individual

Anxiety about communication in situations where three or more people are interacting

Anxiety about communicating in a formal meeting situation

Anxiety about communicating to a large group of people in a public setting

Three factors that contribute to CA



Willingness to communicate (WTC)

Discomfort and timidity about communi- cating as a stable personality trait

A trait where individuals focus attentions inward and are thus quiet, introspective, and less sociable

A global predisposition to avoid commu- nicating and to find interactions less rewarding, which can occur for multiple reasons such as apprehension, introversion, or low self-esteem

Consequences of CA


Difficulties with computer-mediated communication

Communication incompetence

Occurs when we have fewer relationships than we desire to actually have

Disinclination to communicate or discom- fort communicating with others via mediated channels

Being ineffective or inappropriate in one’s interactions with others

In addition, there are three factors that can contribute to CA. First, shyness is a personality trait that describes an individual as timid and uncomfortable with interaction. Shy individuals talk less than others who are not shy; the main motivation behind shyness is anxiety about what other people think of you. Second, introversion is also a stable personality trait; it involves focus- ing attention internally rather than externally. This inward focus is a preference that predisposes introverts to be quiet, serious, and to feel worn out after an extended period of interacting with others. Third, willingness to communicate (WTC) is a global preference for avoiding interactions and is negatively related to low self-esteem. CA is consistently associated with greater shyness and introversion and a lower willingness to communicate.

A number of consequences can arise from having CA. One can experience psychological and physical discomfort. Further, those with high CA have more difficulties professionally, eco- nomically, academically, and relationally. For example, high CA individuals earn lower salaries than those with low CA. High CA people are also more likely to experience loneliness and have difficulty communicating online and via new technologies. Finally, greater communication

Summary and Resources Chapter 5

apprehension is associated with decreased communication competence in both face-to-face and mediated channels.

Key Terms

approach-avoid A factor related to willingness to communicate that identifies the anxiety that can accompany small group and interpersonal interactions and the individual’s decision to either seek out or avoid such situations.

communication apprehension (CA) Fear and stress, either real or imagined, associated with the anticipation of interpersonal communication.

dyadic communication apprehension Fear one feels of interactions with one individual and the subsequent desire to prevent or avoid such interactions. One of four forms of communica- tion apprehension; also known as person–partner CA.

extroversion The counterpart to introversion, a factor related to communication apprehen- sion, that emphasizes an individual’s focus on external experiences or stimulation rather than having an inward focus.

group communication apprehension Fear one feels of interactions with three or more individuals and the subsequent desire to avoid or withdraw from such interactions. One of four forms of communication apprehension.

introversion A factor related to communication apprehension that emphasizes an individual’s focus on one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than turning outward for external experiences or stimulation.

loneliness A characteristic related to communication apprehension that occurs when an indi- vidual’s actual number of relationships is fewer than the preferred or desired amount.

meeting communication apprehension Fear one feels of participation in formal meetings. One of four forms of communication apprehension.

public speaking communication apprehension Fear one feels of speeches or presentations to a group of individuals and the subsequent desire to avoid such situations. One of four forms of communication apprehension.

reward A factor related to willingness to communicate that accounts for an individual’s belief that relationships with others can offer camaraderie, empathy, and valuable conversation.

shyness A factor related to communication apprehension that is considered a relatively stable personality trait and describes an individual’s feelings of apprehension, timidity, discomfort, and awkwardness in social situations.

state communication apprehension A type of communication apprehension associated with a specific interpersonal communication context.

uses and gratifications theory A communication theory that attempts to identify and under- stand the needs and motives users seek, and the fulfillments they receive, from using a particu- lar medium.

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trait communication apprehension A type of communication apprehension associated with interpersonal communication experiences as a broad, consistent personal attribute.

willingness to communicate (WTC) A factor related to communication apprehension that identifies an individual’s preference to avoid communication situations.

Critical Thinking and Discussion Questions

1. Think about a situation when you experienced communication apprehension or were unwill- ing to communicate. What was it about the situation that made you feel that way? How did you communicate in that interaction and how was it different from a situation where you felt comfortable?

2. In what forms (if any) do you have communication apprehension or a CA-related characteris- tic? Which of these do you think is most important or primary in your own interactions with others and why?

3. How do you think the CA-related characteristics of introversion, shyness, and willingness to communicate have impacted your interactions with others? Which CA consequences dis- cussed in this chapter have you experienced in your interactions and relationships?

4. How do you think communication apprehension and CA-related characteristics are linked to how you view yourself? How does cultural background, self-concept, self-image, and self- esteem relate to apprehensiveness when communicating?

5. Based on the information in this chapter, what would you recommend to a friend who comes to you and tells you that he or she wants to decrease his or her communication apprehension?