Do You Have Communication Anxiety?

Do you dread making small talk with a new acquaintance? Do you avoid presenting or speaking up in a meeting? Do you like to listen rather than talk?

All of us have some level of nervousness when it comes to communicating. This is often referred to as communication anxiety. Professor of Communication Studies, Dr. Patricia Palmerton says, “Anxiety about a communication situation is not entirely a bad thing . . . Most effective communicators experience an increased level of anxiety prior to an important communication situation. Overly high levels of anxiety, however, can inhibit performance.”

But do you know where you fall? Have you ever taken an assessment to see how nervous you are and in which settings? In this post, we’ll look at two of the most commonly used communication anxiety self-assessment tests. These tests have been determined to be valid and reliable research tools and have been used in many scientific studies. Most importantly, these assessments can help you learn more about yourself as a communicator and the level of anxiety you may have.

The Personal Report of Communication Apprehension

The PRCA, developed by James McCroskey in 1982, is perhaps the most widely used tool for assessing someone’s level of anxiety when it comes to communication. This particular assessment breaks communication down into four specific contexts: public speaking, small group discussion, meetings, and interpersonal conversations. The test consists of 24 items. It took me less than 2 minutes to complete the assessment.

Once you’ve completed the test, you’ll immediately be taken to a feedback page where you will receive your overall score. Robert H. Woods Jr. helps explain the ranges in his chapter on the PRCA. He says, “A high score means that you report more anxiety related to oral communication than most people do. A low score means that you report less anxiety related to oral communication than most people do.” Beyond that, the feedback is broken down into the categories of public speaking, small group discussion, meetings, and interpersonal conversations. This lets you know if there are specific communication contexts in which you have more anxiety. 

Take the test here to see where you fall.

The Communication Anxiety Inventory

The CAI is another assessment which can help you figure out what level of communication anxiety you have. Developed by Booth-Butterfield & Gould in 1986, the CAI is similar to the PRCA. It breaks down communication anxiety into three contexts: interpersonal, small groups, and public speaking. The inventory has just 21 questions, and it took me under 3 minutes to complete. The results are given immediately following the test. You will receive an overall score which places you in one of the following five categories of communication anxiety: low, mild, moderate, elevated, or high.

Take the Communication Anxiety Inventory here.

The instructions of the Communication Anxiety Indicator remind us that “Learning about yourself through tests such as these can help you develop knowledge and skills in communication.” It’s comforting to note that neither the PRCA or the CAI has a category for zero or no communication anxiety. That reminds us that we aren't alone. Everyone has some level of apprehension when communicating with others. The key is to figure out how much anxiety you have and in which contexts, and then to create a plan to manage and reduce it.

Whatever your level of communication anxiety is, we are here to help. We have worked with companies and individuals with varying degrees of communication anxiety, and we are committed to helping you replace anxiety with confidence. In our online presentation skills class, you’ll learn proven methods used by the best in the world. Get started today at

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