Factor 4 – Nerves, Anxiety, Stress And Your Communication
Stress and anxiety have a growing prevalence in today’s society with the rising pressures of an individual’s work life, home life, social life and everything in between. You may not have stopped to think about the relationship between nerves, stress, anxiety and your communication.
At Voice Science™ we aim to assist you with the key factors that will impact your communication abilities, and stress is a core area that is discussed regularly. As much as we aim to assist you with your overall communication abilities, we find that anxiety and communication tend to work against each other.
(Please note – we are not psychologists! If you feel you need further assistance with your anxiety and stress please do not hesitate to consult a psychologist to work with you in these areas. Psychologists are registered professionals and you can find qualified, independent practitioners here. )
You’re about to start a big job interview and are understandably a bit anxious. The interviewer invites you in, and starts chatting with some standard small talk to try and ease your nerves. They then ask you an obvious interview question that you have practiced plenty of times in front of the mirror at home. You think, “YES! I know how to answer this!:, but you start talking and it all sounds wrong. The one question you thought you would answer perfectly doesn’t sound as good now when compared to how it sounded while practicing in your pyjamas the night before. This makes you more nervous throughout the rest of the interview and you have a leaving impression that the whole thing went horribly wrong. You think to yourself as you drive home, “I should have said X instead.”
We thought so.
The fact is, this just one simple example of a communication exchange that was derailed by stress, anxiety and nerves. There are plenty of others we could have provided as an example, including a big presentation at work, a first date, or even just asking for help at the supermarket and the list goes on.
Generally, when people become anxious, WE START TALKING FAST.
Sometimes too fast. We find this can be one of the key factors that derails your communication. It can breakdown all factors mentioned below.
When we speak with an increased speech rate, it is much harder for our brains to process words and organise motor movements for speech leading to a big kerfuffle with your speech sounds (pronunciation), fluency and word choice.
Stress and your communication can lead to an astronomically fast rate.
Speech Sounds- The Rocket Science Of Talking!
Speech sounds take a lot of motor planning in the brain to produce. Especially if you are trying to produce speech sounds that are not present in your first language.
This is increased if you are talking faster than normal as well.
Language And Words
To say the words, we need to think of the words.
To think of the words, our brain needs to go into its little (actually very large) filing cabinet, retrieve the word and ensure it is a grammatically coherent sentence. Now imagine, someone has opened your filing cabinet and thrown all the files on the ground, out the window, and into the shredder. This someone is called Stress. And they have just made your conversation/ hour/ day a whole lot harder by making that word much more difficult to find.
Brain freeze anyone?
Rate has an impact on your overall fluency. Have you noticed that when you speak faster ….
you fall over your words more?
Or, it feels like your tongue doesn’t fit in your mouth…
You just can’t get those words out smoothly?
If you have a stutter does it become harder to get the words out, or do you find you are repeating sounds more? Does this go into over-drive when anxious, nervous or off-the-richter stressed? (nodding our heads with you). Yeah, that makes sense.
Increased pitch, or feeling like you have a frog in your throat leading to a croaky, rough or strained voice are all ways your voice can change when stressed. Why?
Because the vocal folds that create voice are a muscle. And, just like every muscle in the our body, they become tense when nervous, stressed or anxious. When the voice muscles tense the don’t work as well. And when they don’t work as well, our voice doesn’t sound as good.
Body language is also a very important form of communication and can be affected in different ways depending on the person and situations. You may find you become jittery, or very still… You may have increased facial expressions, or none at all. Sweaty palms and an anxious laugh can also fall into this category as well.
If you have difficulties with any of these communication areas we are happy to work with you and strategise together.
If you feel you have more severe stress and anxiety concerns, please consult your doctor or speak to a psychologist.
Modifying your communication takes time and practice. Many speakers opt to consult with a Speech Pathologist to seek assistance in goal based communication progress with methods based on research. Voice Science™ treats from Melbourne to Stuttgart, Zurich, Mannheim, London … wherever you are via our global online service. We also offer face to face consultation via our Melbourne Collins St clinic. Read more about our Services HERE.
Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
Better Health Channel- Mental Health Services for Victorians Victoria has a range of mental health support services available 24/7. You can find out more at this link.
Some ways to treat Anxiety This webpage from The Better Health Channel, an incentive of the Victorian State Government has ideas for managing anxiety.
Stress Learn more about Stress and its effects on healthy living.