Have you ever, before you have to speak in front of an audience, experienced that feeling of not feeling up to par? This is one of the most common fears regarding the topic of public speaking. The real problem is that this feeling of inadequacy very often we do not feel the hours before the performance, but even days, weeks before and at the mere thought of having to perform that action. Of course, many of us manage to cope with this feeling and cope with the speech as best we can, while there are those who instead of coping just worry about avoiding this kind of complex performance so that they don’t feel inadequate anymore. The latter behavior, however, only fuels this fear of ours and lowers our self-esteem levels.
The feeling of not feeling up to par is closely related to a construct introduced many years ago by psychologist Albert Bandura, “self-efficacy” or “self-efficacy,” which is everyone’s awareness that he or she is capable of dealing with life’s challenges, certain activities, and situations. In other words, it refers to the perception we have of ourselves in being able to do: “knowing that we can do.” To make it clearer for you, people with self-efficacy generally tend to avoid challenging activities, have low aspirations, and at critical moments tend to focus on negative outcomes and their weaknesses. People with high self-efficacy, on the other hand, are all the opposite: high ambition, a tendency to succeed and achieve their goals and seek challenging tasks to test their abilities. As you can well understand my self-assessment of my abilities, it immediately refers us back to self-esteem, but unlike the latter, the former is highly dynamic; Certainly both influence each other, and perceived self-efficacy depends on factors that can quickly change our self-assessment: first of all, previous positive experience fosters increased feeling. Social persuasion, that is, good judgment of people significant to us contributes to raising self-efficacy. Similarly, the positive experience of people who are role models for us is an excellent means. Finally, our perceived emotional state at the time and our ability to recall positive images in our minds are excellent contributors to improving our levels of self-efficacy. At this point it is good to ask: since this construct is so dynamic, can it be developed, and in what way?
Several methodologies can be used to increase self-efficacy, which have in common a step-by-step process consisting of 4 steps:
- Persuasion, or rather the desire to improve oneself by acquiring information, accepting and questioning one’s weaknesses.
- The imitation of a model who has achieved successes, analyzing one’s path with all the difficulties overcome, negative and positive aspects.
- The execution of the action: putting oneself on the line, to the test is the best thing one can do to become aware of one’s abilities.
- The monitoring of the action: in other words, I monitor my path, what is happening to me, and the achievement of my goals, so that I can eventually reshape my goals and tools to achieve success.
Self-efficacy and performance are related because they influence each other: the former contributes to the achievement of success or failure, while the latter governs the evaluation that each of us gives on our abilities based on performance. In our case of public speaking, the use of virtual reality turns out to be very effective: the pliability and the possibility of creating and changing settings of various kinds make virtual training become a kind of role-playing, i.e., a “role-playing game” that aims to make the person experience specific situations in different contexts and roles as if they were theater actors. People who have difficulty relating to an audience in front of them have the opportunity to do so in a controlled and safe situation, gradually learning new techniques of adaptation, self-control, and emotion management. The main purpose of this type of training is to increase awareness, self-esteem, and self-efficacy, to improve one’s communication skills. An example of all that has just been saying is the Team Vrainers project, which allows the person to immerse himself in a virtual world, inside which he can train endless times, according to personal needs and even from home without necessarily having to go to specific places.
Bandura A., “Self-efficacy,” in Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, V. S. Ramchaudran, Ed., vol. 4, pp. 71–81, Academic Press, New York, NY, USA, 1994.
Bandura A., Autoefficacia: teoria e applicazioni (1997, ed. it. 2000b) , Erickson Ed.
Poeschl, S., Doering, N.: Virtual training for fear of public speaking–design of an audience for immersive virtual environments. In: Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), pp. 101–102. IEEE (2012)
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