Social anxiety and communication about the self


Journal Article

The reciprocal relationship between social anxiety and the communication of information about the self is examined. Social anxiety appears to arise from people's concerns about the impressions others are forming of them. Specifically, it is proposed that social anxiety occurs when people are motivated to create a desired impression on audiences but doubt they will do so. High social anxiety, in turn, is associated with qualitative and quantitative changes in how people communicate. It is argued that the combination of an important goal (i.e. to create a desired impression) and low expectations of goal achievement produces negative affect, physical or psychological withdrawal from the situation, and self-preoccupation with one's limitations. These distracting concomitants of high social anxiety impede optimally effective self-monitoring and control. A protective self-presentational style, in which the focus is on avoiding blatant failures rather than achieving major successes, is engaged. The result is a lowered level of participation in interactions (e.g. initiating fewer conversations, talking less frequently), the avoidance of topics that might reveal one's ignorance (e.g. factual matters), minimal disclosure of information about the self, cautious self-descriptions that are less positive and less likely to assert unique qualities that draw attention to the self, and a passive yet pleasant interaction style that avoids disagreement (e.g. reflective listening, agreeing with others, smiling). © 1985, MULTILINGUAL MATTERS LTD. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schlenker, BR; Leary, MR

Published Date

  • January 1, 1985

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 4 /

Start / End Page

  • 171 - 192

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-6526

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0261-927X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0261927X8543002

Citation Source

  • Scopus