Understanding Your Nervousness

Did you ever wonder why your body suddenly experiences physiological changes when you go up to deliver a speech in class? Why is it that your heart rate speeds up, your knees start to shake, your voice quivers, or that your palms start to sweat uncontrollably?

Research reveals that the anxiety you feel when speaking publicly is not only a inherit trait but also a “state”(10) of mind. You may be asking the same question, I asked myself when I heard this: “How can the anxiety you feel when delivering a speech be inherit?” Researchers are increasingly discovering that some people could genetically inherit a trait that makes them prone to feeling anxious when it comes to speaking in public. If this is you – don’t worry – you can control your anxiety but learning about your individual communication apprehension type and how to manage it.

Furthermore, let me explain how the anxiety you feel can also be a “state”(10) of mind. When you know that you are about to go up and speak publically, your stress is detected by your brain and therefore signals your body to help you with accomplishing the task of public speaking. Unfortunately, your brain can offer too much guidance, in which the guidance is either not helpful or causes an increase in anxiety. Suddenly things like your perception of your skills, the level of your preparedness, and your self – esteem all start to combine in which the end product can result in anxiety. Due to your uncertainty about how well you will do your body starts to respond by increasing your heart rate, breathing rate, and secreting adrenaline. This is what is most frequently referred to as the “fight – or – flight mode, ”(11) in which you choose to deliver your speech or not deliver your speech and avoid the anxiety accompanied with public speaking. In other words your psychological state is the result of your physiological changes. Thus you might start to use  more verbal pauses -“Um,” “Ah, “ “Ugh”- (11), less eye contact with your audience, or rush through your speech at an accelerated pace. Although you may view all these changes as “hindrances, “(11) your body is simply assisting you at accomplishing the task, or delivering a speech publicly.

To find out more about your individual  type of communication apprehension and how to manage it visit our website at http://newcollege.asu.edu/call or follow us on Twitter @CommLabASU.


Beebe, Steven A., and Susan J. Beebe. Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach. 6th. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, Inc., 2005. Print.

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