7 Ways of Overcoming Social Anxiety
Nothing can be done without the help of others. Those that believe a “lone wolf” approach to life will be subject to the life a lone wolf leads. Ostracized from the pack with no home or support. Destined to die in the wilderness at a young age.
Even a hermit such as myself understands the value of social bonds in this world. Every aspect of your life will need, to some degree, social interaction. So, why don’t we work on removing the nasty stink of anxiety from the equation? At least then you can make a conscious decision to avoid others, instead of having it remain a reflex.
The following practices are designed to rip the band-aid off the open sore that keeps you from appropriately and openly socializing. Some of these practices will make you feel exposed and will even feel counterproductive to overcoming your anxiety. I’m going to have to ask you to trust me with these steps. I’ve done and continue to do each of these practices regularly.
Socializing isn’t easy for me either. I still get anxious when I deal with others. However, I have gotten very good at identifying ways to overcome that pain. I have learned to revel in the feeling that I get when I overcome myself. Trust me, it isn’t easy. Especially these days. As you read these, I will be renewing my own understanding of these established methods for my own sake. You aren’t alone in this journey.
These simple “basic people skill” methods are things that you can revisit and practice continuously. I hope these help you no matter where your current social abilities reside. Remember that the more you utilized these approaches, the more of a result you will receive.
Depending on your comfortability level, consider picking 1 or 2 actions to add to your daily life. Once you are getting good at those things, ad 1 or 2 more. Continue to combine these methods and experiment with them. At the beginning of this journey, be very conscious of what you have utilized and what result you are getting from the usage. Continue to add these practices until all of them become instinctive reflexes.
1- Eye Contact
Have you ever walked by someone who looked you right in the eyes with a soft look and a simple little smile? After that encounter, did you think about that person sometime during that day? This is the power of direct eye contact. Very few people do it. It’s exposing. It’s uncomfortable. It’s exactly what you should be doing.
Overcoming this will make for lasting impressions for both you and them. As you make eye contact with strangers you pass on the street, you will begin to desensitize your self-conscious mindset toward making eye contact. Give it time and this will be incredibly easy for you. In fact, you’ll almost demand that you receive eye contact in return.
In the longer scope of this practice, reading people becomes a lot easier. This is beneficial in any aspect of having to sort through people. Making friends, dating, sales, and other parts of your life will be affected in a positive way with the mastery of this ability.
2- A Genuine Smile
Coupled with direct eye contact, the smile is very versatile. Your greatest tool in gaining trust and confidence is what you present on your face. People simply treat you better if you are appearing to always be in a good mood. It’s one thing to be a jerk to someone, it’s a completely different level to be a jerk to someone with a smile.
Practice keeping a smile while talking to anyone, and you’ll see the difference right away. In most cases, that person will willingly want to talk to you. If you are very shy at this point, I suggest you ease into this practice. Use your smile to overcome your shy demeanor.
You should practice a genuine smile if you feel you don’t have one. Look at photos of your parents and even yourself where the smile was sincere. Notice the muscle structure. Notice the shape of the cheeks, the upturn of the lips, and the squinting of the eyes. You should practice this exact look in the mirror until you understand exactly how it feels.
From here, it’s all about faking it until you make it. Continue utilizing the smile until it becomes a permanent feature on your face. Studies have shown that facial expressions have a direct effect on your mental health. A genuine feeling smile will impact your perception of yourself in a positive way.
3- Positive Posture
Having good posture is good for your general health. Having a positive posture is good for your social health. The positive posture will create a building block of attraction that works in 2 ways. Your psyche will feel reinforced and people will be less likely to attempt manipulative methods on you. When you appear strong, the wolves look for weaker prey.
This is done while straightening yourself up and standing tall. Extend your neck upward, pull your shoulders back, and keep your weight over your ankles. Make sure you do not tilt your head upward. Having your chin too far up will make it look like you are looking down on others. This will create a visual of smugness. So, be aware of leveling your chin while utilizing a positive posture.
For masculine personas, take up your space horizontally. Keep your legs about shoulder-width apart and your elbows pointed slightly outward. When sitting, take up your given sitting area. Do not over exaggerate your posture, even while sitting. This will give a presentation of arrogance. While speaking to others, square your shoulders toward the person you are speaking to. This shows that you are giving them your full attention. You should be giving a stable or structural presentation of yourself.
For feminine personas, take up your space vertically. Stand tall. Keep your legs and elbows in and your feet forward. This stance is geared toward commanding respect. I recommend having your leading foot slightly forward while standing or sitting. This gives a visual representation of readiness. The idea is to give a brief but lasting impression.
If you have trouble perfecting these postures, think of someone you admire for their strength and study the way they stand and sit. Using this as a building block, focus on putting your own natural personality into your stance.
4- A Simple Hello
This is an effective way to break the ice with anyone. I’m often asked, “how do you approach people so easily”. The answer is “practice”. This doesn’t come easy for me. It’s a chore every time I do these things. Regardless, I still do them. Its positive effect on my life is far too powerful for me to not do any of them. Even if it feels awkward to do them.
A simple “hello” or “hi” is a great way to begin stepping out of yourself and inviting others to be a part of your inclusive world. It works even better when used with a smile and eye contact.
At first, do this while passing someone. Leave them stunned with your direct approach while you build your confidence level. Don’t spam your greetings to everyone that passes. Practice doing a few a day until that becomes comfortable or even natural for you. Continue to add the amount you use this tactic in your daily life as a way to stretch your comfort level.
5- Holding Open the Door
Holding open the door for someone is an incredibly good gesture that happens to be contagious. One good open deserves another. Similar to saying “hello”, this also forces you to interact with others. You don’t have to speak to them while you are doing something that directly benefits them. However, you’ll find the amount of “thank you's” you receive welcoming and even therapeutic. You may even say “you’re welcome” a few times out of reflex.
This small action can greatly cut down social anxieties. It could even benefit building a cycle of selfless acts. I may forgo every item on this list, but I never relinquish the opportunity of holding the door open for someone else.
6- Avoid Hot Discussions
When engaging with others, it is a common practice to avoid discussions that could be heated. Especially in the days we live in now. These topics could be anything that polarizes thinking to an extreme level. Things such as religion and politics are off the table when dealing with strangers.
Speaking on potentially polarizing topics can bring a halt to the early development of any relationship. In these early stages of interaction, simply don’t discuss them. If they themselves bring up topics that trigger an emotional response, it’s better to find a way to disengage than to continue. These hot topics can cost you lasting positive impressions that are beneficial to building relationships. Rise above common thinking and actions and you will benefit in your interactions with others.
Once you have established a good foundation in a relationship, heavy-handed topics are much easier to handle. Think of it as if you are creating a physical structure. The bigger the structure, the stronger the foundation needs to be. Building a good foundation in a relationship will result in easier communications with deeper topics. You should be focused on building that foundation.
7- Acta Non Verba
When it comes to people, everything involving them is a numbers game. Because of this, actions speak louder than words. The best course of action is to simply “do”. Get out there and make it happen. Doing nothing will yield nothing. No results will come from any amount of effort toward thinking and hypothesis if an action doesn’t back them.
Every one of these things should be practiced regularly. The amount you utilize a skill set will determine how quickly you approach mastering that skill. This law directly affects everything you do, including the people skills you are trying to develop.
Get outside. Say hello to people. Look them in the eye and smile. Hold their doors open. Get into it!
Above all else, don’t think about it. Do it. Acta non verba. Deeds, not words. now is the time to stop worrying about how it feels and begin building habits. Your habits make up who you are. This is the only effective way to overcome social anxiety.