Social anxiety techniques to use today
Social anxiety can be a subtle beast. There are a great many sufferers out there who may not even realise what is going on. When you are struggling with issues such as lack of confidence, low self-esteem, shyness and social awkwardness it is natural that you are going to be anxious in social situations. There can be various causes for this and there may often be several reasons why you are worried about interacting with others. But whatever your situation, there are things that you can do to help yourself deal with social situations better. Below, I suggest some specific social anxiety techniques that can help
1. Define yourself
The more you are aware of who you are and what you want, the easier it is to talk to others. This is a big subject in itself, but you will feel better about yourself if you are clear about who you are. Try writing a few paragraphs in a journal or notes app that describes:
- your likes and dislikes
- what your personality is like
- your strengths
- what you like most about yourself
Be kind to yourself and be totally honest. Don’t just do this exercise once. Repeat it regularly as you will feel differently about yourself at different times. Understanding yourself is like peeling back the layers of an onion, and this is just the outer skin, but every step helps.
2. Allow yourself to be yourself
With a clearer and clearer picture of who you are, the next challenge is to settle into being you, instead of the you that is acceptable to others. This doesn’t mean you should be confrontational and careless about others’ opinions of you. It’s more a sense of where you are coming from and the kind of person you are. You don’t have to be the same as others to be accepted, difference is what makes us interesting. Start with the little details – liking honey in your tea; feeding hedgehogs; playing Mah Jong. There are parts of us that can feel out and out weird, and there is a danger in sharing too much, but the real you is more interesting than you think. I guarantee it!
3. Set yourself simple social challenges
You will only get better at interacting socially if you practice. Yes there are social anxiety techniques that can help you feel better in certain situations and I teach these to my clients. But being sociable needs to be as natural as possible and any way that you can build positive habits will make it easier and more effective for you.
- avoiding avoiding – if you constantly find excuses to avoid social situations then your anxiety will increase and your skills will decrease. So if you are aware that you are deliberately avoiding socialising then push yourself a little. One method is to commit to taking part, but give yourself an escape route. For example if you are invited to a party, say that you can come but you have another appointment an hour after the start. If you are having fun you can always pretend the appointment was cancelled;
- making eye contact – work on maintaining eye contact with people when you talk. It may feel uncomfortable but it conveys confidence and sincerity;
- small interaction – talk to shop assistants, coffee shop staff, the postman. These interactions are fleeting and so require less effort and the people involved will appreciate any kind of human interaction;
- asking questions – when you are talking to people, focus on asking them questions rather than telling them things about yourself. It isn’t nosey, it makes them feel interesting and valued.
4. Use your imagination
I keep saying it – but the brain is incapable of telling the difference between something real and something vividly imagined. You can use this to your advantage.
When you feel anxious about an upcoming social situation, imagine yourself in the future, after the event has taken place. Look back at yourself from that point and imagine that it was a success for you – whatever that means. Imagine that you held your own in a few conversations, imagine that you felt relaxed 80% of the time. Imagining a positive outcome will make you feel better in the moment, which will decrease your anxiety. If you are less anxious you will be better socially, so this is a positive feedback loop you can create for yourself.
Social anxiety techniques are a big part of your armoury in leading a more fulfilling life.
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5. Make it easy on yourself
You will find it much easier to get to know people and practice social skills if you find situations where you are likely to have shared interests. This seems obvious, but I am constantly surprised how many people choose to try to find friends in locations that aren’t compatible with who they are. Pubs, night-clubs and singles groups are great for the confident and outgoing, but it is far better to join a club or a class in which you have a personal interest. You can do a language course, join a writing group or a squash club. Find something you will genuinely enjoy for its own sake, so that you’ll keep going, no matter what. At least you’ll be having fun and you’ll have something relevant to talk about.
There are a host of other social anxiety techniques and tips that can help, along with developing a deeper understanding of what gives you confidence and self-esteem. Take every chance you can to improve your learning.