The affect that the different genders have on each other is quite large, and it affects how a person acts, thinks, and performs throughout his daily life. Because of the affects that males and females have on each other, the anxiety that a person has while giving a speech could raise or fall because of who is in the audience that he is performing in front of. There are several journals that touch on the topic of speech anxiety, but not very many of them look at how speech anxiety is correlated with the different audiences that the speaker is to present to. The theory that will be presented is on how the different genders of the audience effects the speech anxiety of the presenter.

Speech anxiety is a disorder that many people suffer from and in some ways cannot control. There are many things that can cause extra speech anxiety in a person. Some of these factors are the length of the speech, the amount of preparation before a speech, the knowledge of being graded on how well the speech is performed, and the audience also has an effect on how the speaker feels while giving the speech. Camille D. Smith, Chris R. Sawyer, and Ralph R. Behnke wrote an article about how physical discomfort is associated with worry about giving a speech. In this study the experimenters showed that there is “A positive relationship [that] exists between worry and physical symptoms of discomfort before giving a public speech” (Behnke, 35). With having this positive relationship, worry increased the anxiety that a person has when giving a speech. Worry acts like a cognitive trigger to the brain when a person is feeling threatened. For a person going up in front of people to give a speech he feels threatened because the speaker has different thoughts going through his head wondering what the audience is think about him. With these thoughts rush in through a person’s head it will cause him to feel threatened and this will trigger worry which will cause anxiety.

A speaker having anxiety about the audience watching him is a common trigger to affect speech anxiety. Hearne, Sawyer, and Behnke looked at how the audience sees patterns of anxiety that are present in public speakers. With doing this they looked at how the speaker is affected by the thought of an audience. Speakers will watch other speakers and the audience to see what expectations are set for him to overcome. “According to social comparison theory, speakers will seek to deduce uncertainty by monitoring the expectations of audience members and by observing the behavior of other speakers” (Hearne, 64). With this a person is trying to figure out what the expectations are, but if a speaker cannot find the expectations then his anxiety will increase. At the end of the experiment the researchers found that the audience could detect speech anxiety. The speakers thought that the audience saw more anxiety in them and were judging them harder than they really were. This thought would give the speakers more anxiety.

There have been many studies done on speech anxiety and when speech anxiety really starts to set in and affect a person. Many people wonder if speech anxiety happens right when the person gets the assignment or if it set in when the person is about ready to give the speech. Behnke and Sawyer realized that people have more anxiety before a speech, but once a person gets into a speech then anxiety declines throughout the speech (Behnke, 167-166). As a person is preparing a speech this is when the speech anxiety starts to set in and make a person feel anxious. During the speech, a person’s anxiety will decrease.

There are many ways that genders communicate with each other in the way that they act and talk. A person can see in everyday life the affect the different genders have on each other. It is not only that, but males and females are created differently in the way that they talk to other people. In the theory of Genderlect Styles by Deborah Tannen, it looks at how the different genders communicate differently. With males and females they have the difference in private speaking and public speaking. “In the public arena, men vie for ascendancy and speak much more than women do” (Griffin, 434). Men are more comfortable with being in the public’s attention with their speaking and are better at public speaking because they use it to express their power and dominance over the group that is listening to them. With women they are more apt to have private conversation between a few people at a time, and they do not need to express their power. They would rather build relationships with the people that they are talking to. With giving a public speech a relationship is less likely to be formed between the speaker and the audience.

God created genders to have different roles in life. Men were made to be leaders while women were created to be man’s helper. In Genesis 2:18 it states, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”” (Barker, 9). Next, God created all of the animals and none of them were suitable to be man’s helper, so God created Eve. When God created man, God placed man in charge of all living things. Because man could not do this on his own God made a women to help the man with taking care of God’s creation. This could be a reason why men like speaking in public to show their power more than women.

Throughout the bible there are different example of where the man was the leader and the woman was the helper to carry out the plan. This does not mean that women cannot lead. In Judges 4 when a man did not want to lead the armies into battle God had a woman lead. Deborah led the solders to victory. Throughout different times in the bible women are called to lead God’s people and to be the ones who carry out God’s plan. Another example would be with Esther and how she was able to protect her people from being killed. Through this she was a leader of her people by helping them escape certain death.

With looking at God’s purpose for males and females, a person could wonder about how this correlates with speech anxiety. When a person is giving a speech, he is the leader of the audience. The audience is supposed to listen to the speaker and not interrupt. This gives the speaker more power. Because men were created to lead, could this mean that they have less speech anxiety them women?

There could be some correlation between speaking anxiety and genders. Pribyl, Keaten, and Sakamoto in their journal The effectiveness of a skills-based program in reducing public speaking anxiety state, “Nishida (1988) noted that Japanese females report higher levels of anxiety in the public speaking context… Research data [does] not, however, reveal a clear pattern of gender difference in levels of communication apprehension among Americans” (148). This fact looks at how speech anxiety is not only presented in gender context but also in a cultural perspective. These experimenters looked further into this subject by looking at Japanese and American college students. With their findings they realized that “… more Japanese students were classified in the moderately low anxiety category, and more Americans were classified in the moderately high anxiety category” (Pribyl, 152). Yet, the experimenters believe that the levels of anxiety are nearly the same in both cultures. This was not the only experiment that found a difference in speech anxiety between males and females. In Behnke and Sawyer’s journal Anticipatory Anxiety Patters for Male and Females Public Speakers it states, “… females generally report more communication anxiety than males” (188).

There is also a power element that genders have when talking to each other that could contribute to speech anxiety and how it is different in males and females. Looking at the power that people have in a group, the person that has the most eye contact with each member is one of the more powerful people in the group. For a small group situation men seem to try and gain dominance through this tactic of looking into another person’s eyes. For females they are different. Theodore A. Lamb states that females “… are more likely to look away as they begin an utterance. The first few seconds seem to be a “dominance battle” for males but not for females” (52).

Looking at how genders have different anxiety levels a person may wonder about how the different genders affect each other in life and if this contributes to people having anxiety. The opposite gender has more effect of the other gender then a person may think. A person can see this in high schools, colleges, or even just walking down the street. Typically, males or females are worried about what the other gender thinks about them. People tend to be more self-conscious around the opposite gender. Because men and women are concerned about what the opposite gender thinks, their anxiety increases when they are have to try and impress the opposite gender.

It is natural for men and women to try and look good for each other to try and attract a mate. Helen E. Fisher looks at the different flirting methods of men and women and how they try to attract the opposite sex. She states that, “Young women begin the attention-getting phase with many of the same maneuvers that men use—smiling, gazing, shifting, swaying, preening, stretching, moving in their territory to draw attention to themselves” (Fisher). With trying to attract a mate, a person is more self-conscious about how he looks and acts around the opposite sex. With the attention getting phase of flirting a person is focused mainly on physical appearance. An example of this would be when people are attracted to the other gender, they will unconsciously groom themselves by fixing their hair, straitening their shirt, or try to make sure they are looking as good as they possibly can. It is in a person’s natural instinct to try and attract a mate.

With a natural desire to attract a mate, people are more self-conscious about what they say or do. This can affects how the different genders that are in the audience affects the speech anxiety of the speaker. As the speaker is giving a speech they will be looking at the audience that is before him. If a person sees an attractive potential mate he will begin to think about what he is saying more and how he looks instead of the speech. This will increase the anxiety that he already had. If this male gave a speech to an audience that was composed of all men, then he will decrease his anxiety because he is not self-conscious about how he is acting around the men. In fact, he may feel more powerful as the speaker in front of an all-male audience because all the men there are supposed to listen to him as he talks. This would relate to the theory of Genderlect. In this theory Tannen believes that men are more focused on their status in a group of people. Men value report talk which calls attention to themselves making them use talking as a weapon.

Females on the other hand, may have less anxiety giving a speech to an all women audience, yet they will have more anxiety then men do when giving a speech to the same gender audience. Their anxiety would increase if a female had to give a speech to an all-male audience. Using the theory of Genderlect, Tannen notices that men want to draw attention to themselves, while women on the other hand want to build relationships with the people that are around them. “Girls learn to involve others in conversations, while boys learn to use communication to assert their own ideas and draw attention to themselves” (Griffin, 434). With this women enjoy having more one on one conversations with each other rather than giving a speech to the whole audience that is just listening to them. Women would prefer to have dialogue with the people that they are presenting to and less focused attention on themselves.

To overcome speech anxiety can be a difficult task for a person. Behnke and Sawyer in their journal on Public Speaking Anxiety as a Function of Sensitization and Habituation looks at how people can overcome speech anxiety. They believe that the more a person is exposed to a public speaking with positive reinforcements the less anxious a person will be. There are a few different ways that they suggest doing positive reinforcements. One way is for a teacher to place a small screen in front of the speaker. This can be small enough to not be distraction but also large enough so that the speaker can see it. While the student is giving the speech the teacher will show words of encouragement on the screen to the student. The experimenters thought that this would distract the speaker, but it did not distract him at all. In fact the students reported that the words of encouragement actually encouraged them and decreased their anxiety while giving the speech.

Behnke and Sawyer looks at how procrastination affects the speech anxiety of a speaker. “Public speaking procrastination has been associated with performance anxiety and self-perceived communication competence (Behnke & Sawyer, 1999b). Behnke and Sawyer (1999a) suggest announcing speech assignments no earlier than the beginning of laboratory sessions in which students begin work on their speeches with the help of laboratory instructors” (Behnke, 171). With knowing this a professor can help students in class work on the speech that they are going to prepare. Also, making the speech and presenting it with in the same class time will help to decrease speech anxiety.

If a student just works on a speech in class or without putting it off to the last second will help to decrease speech anxiety. Most students tend to procrastinate till the last possible moment to prepare or do a homework assignment. With giving a speech, Behnke and Sawyer believe that this procrastination will increase speech anxiety. The two experimenters stated that, “… making assignments well in advance maybe helpful from a planning perspective, it may significantly increase the performance anxiety of public speaking students” (Behnke, 171). Because assignments are made so far in advance students are given more time to procrastinate and have more anxiety.

Knowing how the gender of the audience affects a speaker will help a person to prepare and understand their anxiety a little bit more. For a student to know who they are presenting to and who the audience is will help for the presenter to know how to prepare his presentation. With knowing this a student will know how to relate to the audience and how to mentally prepare himself for the speech that he is about to give. A way that a student can work through his speech anxiety and how the genders of audience effects his anxiety is to deliver more speeches to the audience that makes him more anxious. By doing this a student will become more use to giving speeches to the opposite gender.

With all of these different ideas of decreasing speech anxiety, a person should be able to combine the different techniques to decrease his speech anxiety. For example if it is a male giving a speech, he will be more nervous about giving a speech to a group of females then to a group of males. To decrease his speech anxiety he should not procrastinate at creating his speech. He should know when he is giving his speech a short time before he needs to deliver it so that he can know what to say to his audience. Also, he could have a place that has a word of encouragement that he can see while he is giving his speech.

With knowing how speech anxiety is effected by the audience that they are presenting to will help people to know how to go about preparing themselves for the speech that they will have to make. There are so many different causes of speech anxiety that knowing how the gender of an audience affects how much anxiety a person has seems like such a little cause. On the other hand a person knowing who his audience is will help a person to prepare himself mentally for the speech. Also, knowing what gender the audience is will help the speaker to know how to relate to the audience and will know what examples to use in his speech.

Not only will this help people who are giving a speech it will help teachers to know how to help people work though student’s speech anxiety. Before a teacher goes to his first class session he can look to see how many males and females are in his class. With knowing this the teacher will have a better idea of the anxiety levels that will be present during the speeches that will be given. He will also be able to try and help different genders work through speech anxiety.

There are a couple of different ways that people can further this study on how speech anxiety is effected by gender. Someone could conduct an experiment with this theory to see if it is psychologically true. A way that a person can do this experiment is with three different speech classes with the same professor. One speech class can be all males, another all females, and the third one can be composed of half males and half females. This can be done with random assignment to the mixed gender audience. At the beginning of the semester the professor can hand out a pretest to all the students. The students will fill out this test which will ask different questions about how they feel about public speaking and what they think causes speech anxiety.

While the semester goes on the professor will assign different speeches throughout the year that the students will have to do. Every now and then students will have to give speeches to the other two classes. This will let the experimenter see if a female has more anxiety giving a speech to an all-male audience, if she had less anxiety giving a speech to an all-female audience, or how much anxiety she has when giving a speech to the mixed gender audience. While the students give the speeches the professor will watch for signs of anxiety while presenting to the class. At the end of the semester the professor will look at his different notes that he has taken about each class and see how much anxiety each student had. He will check to see if the students have more anxiety giving a speech to a different gender audience, same gender audience, or an audience that is of both genders.

Throughout life people are bound to make a speech at least once in their lives. Knowing what effects the anxiety that they feel before giving a speech will help people better prepare themselves before they get up in front of a large audience. The audience has more effect on the speaker then they actually think that they have. With looking at how people are affected by the other gender while not giving a speech, a person can see that there is already some kind of nervousness that is associated with that. For a public speaker giving a speech to an audience that is of the opposite gender or that has the opposite gender in the crowd, there will be more speech anxiety for the speaker. With this theory it will be able to help people understand the causes of speech anxiety.


Works Cited

Barker, Kenneth L., and Donald W. Burdick. The NIV Study Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible, 1985. Print.

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Fisher, Helen E. “The Biology of Attraction.” Psychology Today. N.p., 1 Apr. 1993. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Griffin, Em, Andrew Ledbetter, and Glenn Sparks. A First Look at Communication Theory. Ninth ed. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2015. 432-43. Print.

Hearne, Tina K., Chris R. Sawyer, and Ralph R. Behnke. “Task Sensitization And Speaker Anxiety Level As Predictors Of Audience Detection Of Public Speaking State Anxiety.” Journal Of The Northwest Communication Association 30.(2001): 62-72. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Lamb, Theodore A. “Nonverbal And Paraverbal Control In Dyads And Triads: Sex Or Power Differences?.” Social Psychology Quarterly 44.1 (1981): 49-53. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Pribyl, Charles B., James Keaten, and Masahiro Sakamoto. “The Effectiveness Of A Skills- Based Program In Reducing Public Speaking Anxiety.” Japanese Psychological Research 43.3 (2001): 148-155. PsycINFO. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Smith, Camille D., Chris R. Sawyer, and Ralph R. Behnke. “Physical Symptoms Of Discomfort   Associated With Worry About Giving A Public Speech.” Communication Reports 18.1 (2005): 31-41. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.