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  • Emily Lee

How does social anxiety affect the way we speak?


human evolution

The definition of social anxiety is a disorder whereby a person has an overwhelming fear of social situations. In fact, one in ten people have social anxiety in the UK. Before we dive into how it affects the way we speak, we need to understand what verbal communication is and how we've been conditioned to speak even for people who do not have social anxiety.


Humans have a basic need to communicate in order to succeed and survive. In this case, verbal communication means to be able to speak out loud to satisfy our wants and needs. This need is a primitive and organic entity that lives within the human body. For examples, babies crying for food or someone seeing danger and shouting stop. Humans are designed to communicate with words and language. We use this to educate, to persuade and to entertain others. When we need to communicate, it just happens. There is a voice, an energy, a presence. We match our tone to the specific situation using our emotions which demonstrates empathy towards the person we are talking to. Overtime, since the beginning of cave men times, we have improved our communication skills but not everyone is as confident with speaking and talking as they would like to be.

bored school boy

This is due to today's society that we live in. At school, we have been conditioned to be quiet. From a very young age as children, when they go to school they are told to sit down in silence, they can't shout out, if they want to speak they have to put their hand up and wait their turn. Once this behaviour is repeated over many times, the children learn what to do and what not to do. There are various other factors such as social environment, background, culture, religion etc, which inhibit the organic and natural process of speaking. And as those children grow up into adults, we have to relearn how we talk without asking permission. I'm sure most of us have heard the saying such as think before we speak, well as we grow up we learn to put a filter over what we want to say especially if what we want to say is rude or causes dangerous consequences. We do not need to ask for permission to go to the toilet or to have a drink at our workplace unlike at school. But surprisingly, students at university are still asking their teachers if they can go to the toilet and even adults at work are asking "Can I go to the toilet?" Madness!

confused face