Social Anxiety: Tips for Coping
There are several things you can do without therapy to help get more comfortable in social situations. They might feel uncomfortable at first, but making the effort will be worth the added confidence you gain.
You can change your attitude. By changing your own self-imposed unrealistic expectations of your behavior, you can alleviate the feeling that you have to perform perfectly in social situations to be accepted. When you change your own expectation that you should be perfect, you can better understand that others will not condemn you for making mistakes. One way to do this is by replacing negative, self-critical messages with more positive ones. Tell yourself, “No one is perfect; I don’t have to be, either.”
Start pushing yourself to be more outgoing in certain situations. Once you’ve realized that your fears are irrational, you can override your impulse to shy away from uncomfortable situations. Next time you find yourself in a group, make it a point to engage one person in a conversation about something pertaining to the group. Next time, talk to two people. Build up as you get more comfortable with striking up conversations with those around you. It’ll feel weird and hard at first, but once you get used to it, it’ll get easier.
Change your bearings. Speak in a slightly louder voice. Make eye contact. Assume a more relaxed yet alert posture rather than being rigid or stiff. If you don’t feel like you have the self-confidence to pull off talking in social situations, fake it ‘til you make it!
Read the newspaper, magazines, or watch the news regularly. If you feel like you have something to say, you’ll feel less reserved and fearful of chiming in. If you have a special interest, learn how to talk about it in a way that will interest both experts and novices. Also, it helps if you keep a few funny stories or jokes in your memory bank to relieve the tension.
If you don’t feel like talking just yet, it helps just to be a good listener. Ask the other person open-ended questions about themselves that require more than a yes or no answer. Give compliments. If you’re at a party or social function, reach out and approach someone else who looks shy. They’ll probably thank you for it, and it’ll help make you more comfortable reaching out to people in all types of social situations.
Take a risk and reach out, even if it’s just to one person. After you realize that your greatest fears don’t materialize, you’ll understand the nature of your anxiety, and you’ll be able to control your anxiety for a more fulfilling life.