How to beat social anxiety
Some people can’t imagine their lives without events, traveling, new acquaintances and impressions. For others, on the contrary, all of this is simply an additional source of stress. However, there is nothing wrong with that. If a person is comfortable communicating with a small circle, working from home, and reading books alone in the evening, no need to change him or her.
It is wrong to consider introverts unhappy and deprived of great opportunities. There are many successful people among them, and, as a rule, they do not feel that it is time to alter something in their character.
Yet, there are other examples. For instance, a person is interested in a career growth but is afraid to speak in front of the colleagues. Without this skill, one can forget about professional ambitions. Also, it’s hard to start a family, if you get paralyzed when dealing with the opposite sex.
Such things definitely prevent you from growing and achieving your goals. The only way out is to develop the missing skills. Here are some tips for those who do not like to communicate, but realize how important it is.
1. Stop focusing on other people and how they will evaluate you
Since we all search for approval, we sometimes give up our plans because of possible criticism. Especially introverts. But does it really matter if your colleagues liked your idea that you proposed at the meeting? What truly matters is that you expressed it. If you asked a girl out, and she refused, it’s her problem. So stop thinking about other people’s reactions and do what is important to you.
By the way, the focus is the most important factor of success in any business. We often provoke stress ourselves, concentrating on the bad things that can happen. For example, before going on stage, the speaker might think: “What if I embarrass myself?” “What if I forget half of my speech?” “What if I get booed off the stage?”
Instead, it is better to wonder: “What if my performance gets a standing ovation?” Thus, you are preparing yourself for a positive experience and building confidence.
2. Ask yourself specific questions
Not only introverts tend to dramatize the situation. Sometimes, when we think about a possible failure, we may think: “Gosh, everyone will laugh at me” or “As usual, something will go wrong.”
Ask yourself, “Who exactly is going to laugh?” “What exactly will go wrong?” Such questions help to understand that the threat is only in your head. Even if you managed to find the answer to your questions, and you came to the conclusion that your sarcastic colleague John from the Sales Department might laugh at you, ask yourself: “Will it be a disaster? Will it endanger my life or health?” In 99% of cases, the answer will be negative and it will help you reduce panic.
3. Develop emotional intelligence
EQ or emotional intelligence is primarily the ability to recognize and control your emotions. You can find more on the subject in my article “Emotions under control. How to boost your emotional intelligence”.
Start developing EQ with one simple technique: learn to name your emotion. For example: “I’m feeling anxious.” That way you signal to the brain that you are not that emotion. You don’t identify yourself with it, you’re just temporarily experiencing it. Soon you will notice that the emotion loses power over you and gradually fades.
4. Define your safety behavior patterns and get rid of them
Psychologists have a special term: “safety behavior”. It’s when you are trying to escape a potentially uncomfortable situation. Sometimes, when such a situation is unavoidable, people reduce stress by various destructive methods. For example, before meeting someone at a party, one may have 2 or 3 drinks to loosen up.
But the most common example, which I personally see at events all the time, is people looking into their smartphones, so that they don’t have to talk to anyone.
What’s wrong with safety behavior? First, it’s like trying to learn how to ride a bike with the training wheels. If you don’t take them off in time, you’ll never learn. Secondly, you give a false idea to others. When people see that you’re scrolling on your smartphone, they think you’re very busy and don’t want to distract you. How will they know you’re just shy to come up and talk to them? In short, determine how exactly you avoid communication and give up these bad habits.
5. Say no to perfectionism
Contrary to a common stereotype, perfectionism is not a desire to do everything perfectly. It’s a fear of not being good enough. Perfectionists live in a world of extremes: all or nothing. They think: either I will make a stunning presentation, or it will be a failure. Instead of both options, let yourself make mistakes, learn from them and make new attempts. Thus, you will quickly acquire the necessary social skills.
6. Follow the 1 minute rule
This principle works perfectly in all spheres of life, for example, in sports. When you think about the upcoming hour-long workout, the brain resists it in every way, and in the end you stay at home. But if you promise yourself to do a plank or sit-ups for one minute, then this task seems easily feasible.
The same goes for communication. Set a goal to chat with a stranger at the event for 1 minute. It’s no big deal if the palms of your hands will sweat at first or the words won’t come easy. Most likely, in a minute you will notice that you have become much calmer. Moreover, you may want to communicate for longer than 1 minute.
7. Remember that fear is afraid of practice
No matter how hard you try to avoid the things that scare you, you will not become braver if you run away all the time. Face your fears. There is a great phrase: “The fear of public speaking is cured only by public speaking.” Therefore, communicate as often as possible, speak in front of your friends and colleagues. You can join the nearest public speaking club, where they will help you improve your communication and leadership skills.
Sometimes, in order to have new things in your house, you must first throw out the old stuff. The same with the habits: to acquire new useful ones, you have to give up those useless that you have. Instead of being afraid of communication you can be looking forward to it. To make it happen, try to start with these steps:
- Stop focusing on other people and how they will evaluate you
- Ask yourself specific questions
- Develop emotional intelligence
- Define your safety behavior patterns and get rid of them
- Say no to perfectionism
- Follow the 1 minute rule
- Remember that fear is afraid of practice