To function effectively in today’s society people must communicate with one another. Yet for some individuals communication experiences are so unrewarding that they either consciously or unconsciously avoid situations where communication is required.
(McCroskey ; Richmond, 1979) The term communication apprehension’ was coined by James McCroskey (1976a) and is defined as “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons” (McCroskey, 1984). In the last two decades communication apprehension and related constructs, such as reticence and unwillingness to communicate, have received extensive research and theoretical attention by scholars in communication and psychology. In 1984, Payne and Richmond listed over 1000 entries in a bibliography of publications and papers in this area (Payne & Richmond, 1984). Overwhelmingly the underlying theme of the articles has been the negative effects that these constructs can have on academic and social success. It has been forwarded that two out of ten people suffer some form of communication apprehension (CA). The focus of this paper is on communication apprehension as a construct and on how it affects the behaviour and lifestyle of an individual.
Although constructs such as CA, communication reticence, and unwillingness-to-communicate have often been treated in literature as interchangeable, (McCroskey, 1982) particularly in earlier work, some researchers have found the need to distinguish between them. Reticence was originally thought of in relation to CA, particularly in connection with stage fright, and anxiety was identified as the causative agent that produced the characteristic behavior patterns. (McCroskey, 1977b; McCroskey, 1982) However during the 1970’s the constructs of reticence and CA evolved and changed to become quite disparate. According to McCroskey (1982) the contemporary view is that reticent people are those who do not communicate competently. Phillips (1984) further states that reticent people “avoid communication because they believe they will lose more by talking than remaining silent” (p. 52).
So while the construct of reticence was initially the same as CA, reticence is now perceived as a concept that represents a broad range of communicative incompetence while CA relates to communicative incompetence that stems from anxiety or fear. (McCroskey, 1982)The unwillingness to communicate construct, which was introduced by Burgoon (1976, as cited in McCroskey, 1982) focuses on the individual’s unwillingness to communicate with others. This construct was an attempt to look beyond the concepts of CA and reticence (as it was perceived at the time) and along with fear and anxiety, considers low self esteem, introversion, anomia and alienation. “Thus this construct can be viewed as intermediary between CA and the contemporary view of reticence.
More simply, reticence is concerned with people who do not communicate effectively; unwillingness-to-communicate is concerned with one of the reasons that people may not do so (i. e. , they do not want to); and, although it is highly associated with ineffective communication, CA is concerned with one of the reasons that people may be unwilling-to-communicate. ” (McCroskey, 1982, p. 4)Types of Communication ApprehensionA person may be apprehensive in one situation but not in another.
Additionally, as communication does not confine itself to just talk, a person may, for example, be apprehensive about communicating by engaging in talk but feel quite comfortable about writing. McCroskey & Richmond (1987) identify four types of communication apprehension: traitlike, context based, receiver based, and situational. Traitlike CA concerns mainly oral communication and refers to a relatively stable and enduring predisposition of an individual towards experiencing fear and/or anxiety across a wide range of communication contexts. Context based refers to a relatively enduring, personality type CA that an individual experiences in a specific context.
For example a person may experience high levels of CA when speaking in groups but be not in dyadic interactions or when speaking to others who are from a different cultural group. Receiver based CA depends on the person or type of person or group that is involved in the communication. For example, being fearful or anxious when communicating with the boss or with strangers but not with friends (McCroskey & Richmond, 1987). Situational CA depends upon changes in the environment in which communication takes place.
Causes of Communication ApprehensionCauses of Traitlike CA. When we consider the aetiology of human behaviour generally two primary explanations are hereditary and the environment. .