Do you feel like you can’t speak up when you want to? Do you struggle with meeting new people and don’t know what to say? Is it your anxiety or shyness that is getting in the way?
Today I’m going to talk about techniques you can use to allow you to be more confident in these types of situations.
I used to be so terribly shy at school. I’m not talking just a little bit of shyness, I’m talking a full-on sweaty, shaky mess would be stood in front of you if the moment ever arose.
Speaking in front of class caused a huge amount of anxiety for me and I never knew why.
I couldn’t speak to boys either. I went to an all-girls school until I was sixteen so any form of communication between me and boys never happened.
Honestly, it’s embarrassing now I look at it. Why did I act in such a way that I couldn’t speak to people? What made me so afraid? How did I overcome it?
Trust me, I’ve been there. But I’m also much more confident now and can happily chat to people at bus stops or in queues when paying for my shopping.
In fact, I actually like striking up a conversation now. Yes, I am now that person! Oh, how things change.
So I now sit before you, able to help you out. I know those with anxiety or depression might feel like there is nothing worse in this world than trying to speak to people.
After all, why would they be interested in us?
But you’re wrong on this. Everyone likes to have a bit of a natter, even if it is just about the weather! Let’s talk about this in a bit more detail.
Why is being social important?
Being social is often overlooked. We have such busy lives that we can neglect our relationships. We have our mobiles and tablets; these take us away from the outside world.
We spend only the necessary amount of time together, in an effort to keep our lives simple.
As you know, things are different now. We communicate over different channels. Gone are the days when kids play and run in the street.
When we would go on bike rides with friends around a local park.
I miss this. It is only when face-to-face interactions are gone, that we miss them and we yearn for them.
“Okay Jess, what are you getting at?” You are probably thinking.
Are you surprised to know that in a recent study, social ties and increased contact with family and friends are associated with a lower risk of death in young women with breast cancer?
How crazy is that? Lowering your risk of cancer can be helped by staying in contact with people!
I can sit here now and help you out because I understand how hard it can be to speak to people, especially for those with social anxiety/depression/general anxiety.
Here are some useful pointers to think about and bear in mind the next time you’re feeling brave.
They aren’t going to judge you as you imagine they will
A lot of us worry and care deeply about the perception of others. How might they view us? Do they think I’m weird? Did I say the wrong thing?
I’m not going to tell you the same old thing about not caring what others think because that has been said a million times. It’s much easier said than done.
What I’d like you to do is consider turn those negative thoughts into something positive.
For example, rather than thinking about how weird you think they might perceive you, turn it around. Their positive body language will speak louder to you than their words.
Consider that you made an impression, that’s a good thing. Maybe they were smiling along with you which will mean they were enjoying that little chat.
Those are much more positive, and healthy, thoughts, aren’t they?
I focus on positivity a lot on this blog, only because I know how powerful your thoughts are.
Practice these thoughts on a regular basis and it will help you to overcome your fears with speaking to others.
Part of the conversation cycle is to ask questions. Asking questions help to build up a rapport with your fellow humans and allows you to get to know each other.
Having a one-sided conversation is awkward and clunky. Why not try asking someone how their day went?
It’s such a simple question but it can really allow someone to open up.
You could probably think of better things to do, but you may end up making someone’s day. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it’ll become.
A smile is something so simple, yet so meaningful! I was told once that I smile too much. I was working in a local shop and an old lady told me that.
It made me question myself, if only for a few minutes, but it made me think.
Why did this matter? Then I realised that it didn’t matter. I would never get bored of seeing people smile, nor would I stop smiling.
Smiling actually has a lot of positive benefits for you and those around you. Endorphins are released when you smile, reducing stress and making you happier.
Not only this, but it has the same effect on others.
In addition to this, someone who smiles a lot is perceived as being more approachable and more attractive, and, is contagious!
If you are ever feeling nervous about talking to people, remember to smile, honestly. It’ll make the world of difference to you, and those around you.
Consider where and who you want to speak to more
In your mission to overcome your shyness/anxiety/social anxiety, consider how and where you want to start to overcome your fear.
It is large public spaces that bother you? How about on the bus maybe, or at your local shops? Thinking about this will help you feel more prepared when the time comes.
By the way – I really don’t want you to be in a position where you’re having a full-blown panic attack at the thought of talking to someone.
Know your limits and if you feel like it might be too difficult, don’t.
All I would suggest is work your way into it. Little steps are much more manageable than huge-jump-off-the-cliff-type moments.
A quick smile here and there will suffice, then maybe a hello or hi.
Isn’t it funny? These tiny little gestures carry so much feeling and emotion! But they can make a good day a good day, and a bad day a bad day.
But honestly, this is how I started doing it. Eventually (now) I was able to have a quick chat with someone, knowing full well I could leave at any moment if I felt awkward.
You can’t just ‘get over it’
This is a big one. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should just ‘get over it’. That’s like saying the same thing to someone with anxiety.
Like, someone with a broken leg being told to just get up. It’s NOT possible and it’s not that simple.
For those with social anxiety, this is a major step to be taking. You should be proud of yourself for even considering your plan in hand.
After all, social anxiety is the need to be alone, but getting lonely at the same time.
You crave a bit of company, but only on your terms.
Being pushed out into the wide world will not help you in any way. If anything it might make the task at hand even harder.
Don’t put yourself down if you don’t manage to talk to a stranger. The last thing I want you to feel is bad about not doing it.
There’s no pressure, promise!
Keep a diary
I’ve just had this fantastic idea that I wanted to share with you!
Why not keep a diary of all of your achievements? This would be a great way to record your progress and allows you to see how far you’ve come.
When I was younger, I always kept a journal. Even if I had nothing to say, I would still write in it. I would always flick back through the pages and read it.
Sometimes I’d wonder how I actually got through life!
My point is that without a record of my achievements, I wouldn’t have anything to be proud of.
Why not do the same for this? Overcoming your anxiety around talking to people requires courage and a lot of it.
Use a pen and paper (or computer if you wish) and write every little step, down.
You’ll be able to look back over this later on in life and marvel at your progress
Heck, you could even stick your notes as a nice reminder for later on. It’ll keep that flame going when you might need it most.
It’s about pushing your boundaries
My last point on overcoming your anxiety and fear about talking to people is accepting that you’ll be pushing your boundaries.
It’s not going to be fun, nor is it going to be easy.
You will be challenging yourself in an area where you know full well you will struggle with.
The great thing is that you’ve recognised you want to take it further. Your next steps are to go and do it.
Every time you reach one of your milestones, push it a little further. Keep pushing (at a comfortable rate) until you are happy with your progress.