The first time I went to a business mixer, I was so nervous about meeting other people, that after getting a drink, I went and stood in a corner next to another guy who also seemed to have the same problem. That’s where I stayed the whole night. I went home and my wife asked me how it went and I told her it didn’t. She went with me the next time and that made it a lot easier.
Have you ever walked into a social situation with fear or dread about what you will say or do in front of other people? Has it got to the point where you avoid these kinds of circumstances? If so, you have probably experienced social anxiety.
Social anxiety is a feeling of discomfort or fear in social situations where a person is concerned about being judged or evaluated. There’s usually an intense fear of what others are thinking about them.
Social anxiety is typically a part of childhood development, and most kids grow out of it. If they don’t, however, it can turn into chronic social anxiety in the teenage years or even into adulthood. And if you find that you need to be around people for your work, this can be highly distressing and an impediment to making valuable business connections. On a personal level, you might be craving connection or have the desire to go to parties or get-togethers but the idea seems overwhelming and way too scary for you.
Of course, we want to be sensitive to social norms, and we expect to be judged to some extent on how we are dressed, how we act, what we say and how we interact with others. This is a normal part of the social process. However, if this fear of the expectation of others becomes too severe it can affect a person’s quality of life, quality of relationships, and the ability to achieve success.
Social anxiety that is chronic and disabling is called social anxiety disorder. This is social anxiety that interferes with a person’s daily activities. According to Harold Leitenberg in the (1990) “Handbook of Social and Evaluation Anxiety”, roughly 40 million American adults 18 years or over have some type of anxiety disorder.
People that suffer from social anxiety usually feel all the symptoms of anxiety including:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sweaty palms
- Dry mouth
But even more of an issue is that there is the tendency to have negative and unrealistic thinking:
- I’m such a loser.
- Everybody is looking at me.
- Everybody knows that I’m nervous
- I don’t belong here.
This in turn can lead to unproductive behaviors such as:
- Arriving then leaving quickly
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope with social situations
- Excessive grooming so that they look “perfect”
- Spending too much time on phones or devices or hiding in a corner to avoid contact like I did at my first business mixer.
Almost everyone can benefit from healthy social interaction. Avoidance because of social anxiety not only leaves one alone and isolated but can affect self-esteem and as I mentioned before, can result in lost opportunities for meaningful personal and business relationships.
I’m more of an introvert. I’d prefer to stay home, read a book, listen to music and avoid crowds and rooms filled with people, especially ones I don’t know. However, it became obvious to me early on that I needed to develop the skills that were necessary for growing my business and that those skills involved talking and connecting to people I don’t know while presenting myself as confident, approachable and in control. I learned those skills and it wasn’t really that hard, but it did take practice. owe
You can learn to be comfortable in social situations and release social anxiety if you are willing to practice and be ok with being uncomfortable.
Here are some 8 easy tips for dealing with social anxiety.
- Become aware of when your social anxiety gets triggered. Is it at the supermarket? Parties? Meetings? Get clear about when you feel the most uncomfortable. You can then be better prepared for those situations. Mental preparation is the key here.
- Take someone with you. As I mentioned, when I got back from the mixer that I told you about, my wife asked me how many people I met. I said “None”. She went with me to the next mixer and introduced me around. It really helped. Find someone that is more outgoing than you are and have them help you meet people and show you how it’s done. Find a wingman or wingwoman or wingperson.
- Ask questions. If you are concerned about what to say in a social situation, get good at asking questions. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Ask questions such as: What do you do? Where are you from? What made you come here today? Get people talking and you won’t have to fumble for things to say.
- Create a script. Have a script of things you want to say or talk about. Don’t wing it, be prepared with questions you can ask or topics you can talk about. Sounds weird but it’s incredibly helpful. Practice saying the words at home.
- Make sure you eat. Social anxiety can be triggered by being hungry. If you are going to put yourself into a situation where there might be some social anxiety, make sure you eat something before you go even if you don’t feel hungry, have something with protein.
- Practice. Find someone you trust and practice making conversation comfortably. Or join clubs or take classes where you will become “desensitized” to social anxiety through exposure to situations where you will be meeting new people. Toastmasters is an organization where you can learn to speak articulately and confidently in front of people. Got to Toastmasters.org to find a chapter near you.
- Mental rehearsal. Before you go into a social situation, imagine yourself feeling calm, relaxed and comfortable. Take some time to relax your body. See yourself having interesting conversations, smiling, and having fun. The key here is to get your mind familiar and comfortable with these situations. Practice feeling any discomfort and moving through it and letting it go by breathing deeply.
- Be realistic in your thinking. Are people really judging you? Is everybody really looking at you? How do you know that other people are better or smarter than you? You don’t! The reality is that most people are in their own heads thinking about themselves. Examine and try to replace thoughts that don’t serve you with positive affirmations such as “I can do this!” Affirmations can be very useful to help you change your negative self talk.
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Ok, I hope you found this helpful. I want to assure you that you can overcome social anxiety. If you want support, let me tell you that hypnotherapy is an excellent way to gain more confidence, greater ease and greater enjoyment in social or business networking situations. Request a complimentary consultation at https://tedmoreno.com/contact. We’ll talk about what’s going on, I’ll answer any questions you have, and we’ll explore if working together is the best path forward for you.
As always, let me leave you with a quote. This one is by Norman Vincent Peale
“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
Thanks for listening and have a great day.