Everything we want involves people so we can’t let social anxiety get the best of us. But if you’re shy or a reluctant socializer, how do you put yourself out there without feeling awkward about it? With practice. You practice habits and model behaviors that will help you to beat social anxiety. As with all habits, we have to build them before we need them so I will also add ideas to help you practice.
Smile and look people in the eye
It’s not a staring contest, so looking people in the eye shouldn’t feel weird. Do it with warmth and genuine interest in the other person. If you do, it won’t feel weird. Looking at people will minimize your fears because usually, it’s trying to avoid others that heighten our fear of them. We think we’ll be judged so we don’t look for fear of what we’ll see. But ironically, by looking people in the eye, they are less likely to judge you. You’ll come across as more confident than you feel… and more trustworthy too.
Practice by looking yourself in the morning for one minute every morning…and smile while you’re doing it. Look into your eyes and really see (and accept) yourself.
Listen twice as much as you speak
By trying so hard to find something to say, we put pressure on ourselves to carry a conversation and will get anxious when there is a pause. But silence can leave ’em intrigued. It can make others feel heard, and it means less work for you if socially awkward. In her book, How to Listen so People Can Talk, Becky Harling shares some good listening advice and has a chapter about asking great questions.
Practice by taking an acting improv class.
Really SEE people so you can give genuine compliments
One of the nicest gifts we can give someone—especially someone who already has everything—is to really see them. While everyone else at the party is preoccupied with “What do you do for a living?”, you can skew your conversations toward the things genuine people really care about — their interests, kids, pets, TV, and pop culture. Try to find things you have in common. Look to learn.
Practice by striking up a conversation with everyone you interact with. One of the most enigmatic people I ever met would, whenever he walked into a room (or elevator, or store), ask with undeniable magnanimity, “How’s it going?”
Appreciate the little things
Pay attention to your surroundings and start appreciating the little things. The act of appreciation gets you out of your overthinking, overly critical mind to busy yourself with being…just being here. When you’re in an appreciative headspace, you are more likely to have something positive on your mind and more aware of others.
Practice by having beautiful things around you like flowers on your desk, beautiful scents, and great music in the background.
Check-in with yourself every 2 hours
You’re human, with feelings… and yes, insecurities…own them. By acknowledging your insecurities you make them less frightening and easier to work on.
Practice by checking in with yourself often to see how you’re feeling. This will help you more quickly identify when your mood switch and what you need to address.
Read more than you watch TV
Not only will this habit make you a more interesting person with more things to talk about, it will also improve your vocabulary and communication skills.
Practice by committing to reading a book a month. Mainly read books you’re really interested in… there are too many books out there to force yourself to read any one book for the sake of whatever. But you also want to read some bestsellers… they’re bestsellers for a reason and give you that to potentially discuss with others. Don’t lie if you didn’t read the whole thing. Share what you liked and what turned you off. That in and of itself can be the conversation starter. You give the other person the opportunity to share something you missed.
Put only “must-dos” on your to-do list
Stressed people are uptight. Cut down your to-do list and you’ll be a more relaxed person to talk to. Not to mention, you’ll have more time to do the things above that will make you more interesting.
Exercise daily and do physical activities
Energy is felt. People who exercise have a more energetic and vital aura that others find appealing. You will also
Learn good posture
How we stand and hold our bodies not only communicate how we feel, it affects how we feel. Learn good posture and you’ll breathe better, which will make you feel better.
Talk about feeling better and feeling good about yourself.
To beat social anxiety, don’t just read this article and put the ideas away. Create a plan to work on each habit until you have a few of them down cold. Beat social anxiety by not letting it keep you from engaging with the world. Be okay with maybe being a little embarrassed now, to be happier and more confident later.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. Using systems, routines, and some psychological trickery, she can help almost anyone hack their mind and life for greater productivity. Email email@example.com to find out if she's available for one-on-one work.