If you often find yourself anxious in social situations, especially when meeting people for the first time and you want to change that, then you have come to the wrong place.
Scratch that, I meant the right pl… You know what, I’m not exactly sure myself. I am not a certified psychotherapist. As a matter of fact, I wrote this piece for myself because I am one of those who find certain social interactions a bore at best or they get me nervous at worst.
So if you are just seeking some sort of consolation or encouragement from a kindred spirit, then you have come to the perfect place.
Anyways, every time I’m feeling anxious in any social situation, sometimes all I need to do is remember to do one of the first 3 tips below, and all will be right with the world again.
Here they come:
I’ll tell you a short story. Some time ago I was having a chat with this girl I’d been crushing on for many months. It was our first conversation.
I just stood there with a straight face, all my strength concentrated on making my voice smooth while concealing the blush on my face and the excitement I was feeling. It did not even occur to me to look her in the face even though she was the one I was talking to.
At one point though, my glance fell on her face. She was smiling. Can you seriously believe that? What I was saying was not at all funny but all the while that I spoke she was looking straight at me and smiling. It was a benign smile, the sort that melts hearts.
As soon as I noticed this, deep inside me, I burst into laughter. I had just realized what a nerd I’d been making of myself. By the time this laughter reached my face, though, I had hushed it to a smile — a wide and genuine smile. Instantly I felt relaxed and welcome. The blush on my face was now a smile so I didn’t need to work too hard to conceal it any longer. All the phantoms of rejection and humiliation that had planted themselves in my imagination, slunk away defeated. I had a warm, friendly, and confident conversation with her from then on.
Smile often, people. It puts you and the person you’re talking to at ease.
Make eye contact
Social anxiety is hyper self-consciousness. That is why people will tell you to focus on the crowd when you’re giving a public speech instead of on yourself. The more you focus on others, the less anxious you will be.
Look the person in the eye. And I don’t mean blankly staring at one spot on their face, no. Look at it with an air of curiosity, especially around the eyes. Notice the color of their pupils, how often she blinks; measure the thickness of her eyebrows and how deep or full her eye sockets are.
That’s not all. Most important of all is: listen. Try to make out what the person is saying just by looking at the expression on their face, the words are secondary.
They will appreciate it that you are listening to them with interest and that they have your full attention.
Sometimes we forget to breathe. When we speak we are expelling air. You can’t expect to speak properly when you start speaking immediately after exhaling. Take a pause and breath in.
Very often, the reason we forget to breath is that we can’t bear a pause in a conversation. In our minds, we’ve associated silence with awkwardness, and so even a pause for half a second seems a bad idea. That’s not true.
Get comfortable with pauses in conversation. You can use this time to properly articulate what you are about to say next.
You don’t have to remember all three of the above to have a smooth and anxiety-free conversation. Sometimes, remembering just one is enough.
And here’s the last tip:
Improve on your vocabulary
This one is more of an assignment. The answer to “how are you?” doesn’t always have to be “fine.” There are several ways of saying almost anything and some ways are more interesting than others. Find out different ways of saying the same thing. You can do this by pausing a moment during the conversation to consider a different way of saying it, or you can build it over time by reading more books and writing.
You don’t have to write a book. You can keep a private journal and write any stories or thoughts you might have.
That’s all, folks.