Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Low self esteem can affect your ability to communication effectively with others. There is a clear connection between low self esteem and fear of social communication, according to this article published in Human Communication Research journal in 1997. But exactly how does self esteem affect communication skills and what can be done to improve them?
I suffered from low self esteem, depression and lack of self confidence for many years and experienced a real fear of social interaction. This caused me to become very shy and withdrawn. I feel qualified, therefore to write about this topic and to help anyone looking to improve self esteem and communication skills. First, let’s consider how self esteem and communication is connected.
Low self esteem negatively affects communication as it increases fear of interaction with others (McCroskey, Richmond, Daly, & Falcione, 1977). Also, self esteem affects self confidence, necessary for effective communication important in your social life and career.
Lack of communication skills will affect you in your everyday relationships with friends, and social events can become a nightmare. Likewise, promotion and career prospects can be severely damaged by low self esteem and poor communication skills. Fortunately, I am going to show you how to improve these in a few simple steps, so make sure you read on to the end of this article.
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How Self Esteem and Poor Communication Skills are Connected
Like many closely connected factors, the relationship between self esteem and quality of communication is a two way street. Low self esteem can cause poor communication skills, and vice versa. Improving either has a positive effect on the other. Let’s look a bit more closely at this connection before thinking about what we can do to build self esteem and improve our communicative abilities and confidence.
How Self Esteem Affects Your Social Communication
A fear of social events and situations can cause you to avoid social gatherings or opportunities to meet people. This can affect your social life and limit your ability to make friends and develop supportive relationships. Low self esteem can often cause self-doubt and lack of confidence which increase the fear of meeting new people. It can also lead to a fear of social failure.
An extreme example of social fear is shyness. I experienced severe shyness and an inferiority complex as a teenager and into my twenties, and I can tell you life was almost unbearable. I beat it after a struggle, and now find that I am very effective and enjoy social interaction and opportunities to meet new people.
A Note About How To Improve Your Communication
You may be wondering at this point, how understanding the relationship between self esteem and communication is going to help you to improve, we will come to this in the second part of this article. For now, let me tell you how I managed to pull myself out of the shyness I suffered. Basically, I faced my challenges head on and started journaling. I would set myself challenges, such as asking a question in class, or answering one. Then next time, something more difficult. I would note down in a journal every small success in my interactions with others. For every successful social step I achieved, I gave myself a grade and monitored my progress. I would note down only positives, such as how I could do better next time.
Fear of communication is very high in students at university, according to McDonald (1988). And communication skills are important for study success at this level, as any who have studied at university know only too well. Healthy levels of self esteem and confidence will help you to give a more confident presentation, which is a common requirement of for students.
Also, shyness affects 42 percent of 4th to 6th graders and 54 percent of 7th to 9th graders (Zambardo 1977). These are very high figures which suggest that more should be done to help young people develop confidence in their communication skills. This would not only have benefits at school and in university, but just as importantly, in daily life.
The Importance of Self Confidence in your Communication with Others
Something as small as smiling can make you feel more confident when you communcate with others. Want to improve your self confidence? Check out these Communication Skills hypnosis audios which will help you to communicate more positively and master the social skills you want so badly.
Being sure about who you are and what you stand for is at the core of your self-concept. Make sure to check out this helpful page and think about this important factor in your efforts to build your self esteem.
Assertiveness and Communication Skills
One of the most important characteristics of those with high self esteem is that they are assertive. Assertiveness is the ability to say what is on your mind. Here is a definition:
Definition of assertivenessThe quality of being confident and not frightened to say what you want or believe.
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press. Source
Self esteem and assertiveness are both positively connected (Unal, 2020). Assertiveness and self esteem are both factors in developing effective communication skills, as the article by Unal shows. In the article he discusses how important confident communication is for nurses and how it might be improved.
Assertiveness is an effective characteristic for daily life because it enables you to communicate confidently and ask others directly for what you want. It will enable you to say no when you need to. Many people who suffer from low self esteem find it hard to say no to others. If you lack assertiveness, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the demands of others and in extreme cases you may feel like others are taking advantage of you. Assertiveness is a type of self care because it is about balance between your responsibility to others and yourself. It is about defending your right to think as an individual and your right to be who you are despite what others think.
With a healthy level of assertiveness and self esteem your communication skills will improve and earn you the respect of others which will in turn improve your self esteem, self confidence and happiness.
How to Improve your Social Communication Skills
One effective way to improve your social communication skills is by modelling. You should try to observe a confident person who communicates well and try to model their actions and strategies. Try to do what a successful communicator does.
One reason why this is so helpful is because just about everyone experiences fear or nervousness in communicative situations. This is especially true when communicating in a group, for example, in meetings, presentations or speeches. It is therefore helpful to understand how “confident” communicators deal with these fears and appear confident.
First, think about the social situations which you find difficult. Decide how you would like to relate with others socially and watch someone you admire who is socially skillful. If you watch carefully you may notice how they smile and listen to others a lot. How does he or she relax and speak clearly? What is it about them that shows confidence? How does this person act to feel confident when communicating?
You can learn to be a good speaker and a good communicator and your social and professional relationships will improve tremendously. This will not only boost your self esteem, but will also have many positive affects on other areas of your professional and personal life.
How to Improve Communications Skills and Self Esteem
How does self esteem affect communication skills?
There have been many studies that have looked at this question and more that have tested different ways to help those with communication skills that need improving. One study by Kazemi, Momenia, and Abolghasemi, published in 2014, tested how life-skills training could help those with learning difficulties to improve their communication skills. The results show that life-skills training can help increase confidence, self esteem and boost communication skills in most people.
- Kazemi, Momeni, Abolghasemi. The Effectiveness of Life Skill Training on Self-esteem and Communication Skills of Students with Dyscalculia. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. Volume 114, 2014, Pages 863-866. ISSN 1877-0428. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.12.798
- McCroskey, J. C., Richmond, V. P., Daly, J. A., & Falcione, R. L. (1977). Studies of the relationship between communication apprehension and self-esteem. Human communication research, 3(3), 269-277.
- MCDONALD, J. (1988). Communication apprehension. Middle School Journal, 20(1), 29-31. Retrieved July 11, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/23074975
- Sati Ünal (2012) Evaluating the effect of self-awareness and communication techniques on nurses’ assertiveness and self-esteem, Contemporary Nurse, 43:1, 90-98, DOI: 10.5172/conu.2012.43.1.90
- Zimbardo, P. G., Pilkonis, P. A., & Marnell, M. E. (1990). Shyness: What it is, what to do about it. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.