Are you struggling with social anxiety? Do you avoid social gatherings or events like parties or weddings, having to go places where you don’t know people and feel like tonnes of efforts to make friends?
Do you tend to shy away or feel anxious, with palms sweating when entering the hall or room full of people who seem to get it but you’re left all alone standing in a corner, and then not knowing what to say when people come close and approach you and you just want to run away?
Some of us are naturals, but there are also those of us who have been there. And, it is daunting at first because we have little exposure to such environment and we seem so little in front of so many people so we tend to feel very self-conscious, how we look, what we do and say, and even how we eat!
Thankfully, there are ways to tackle these anxieties and win over them. 
You can experiment for yourself the next time you’re left with no choice but to attend some events that you can’t don’t go.
1.     Nobody wants to be seen standing alone, and no one wants to arrive at the event and having to see groups already there chatting away and feel left out. 
If you arrive at a public event where you have no common friends, you can take your time to look around for the most viable group to ‘join’ in. Chances are those people who were there in the group may have joined in the middle of two person’s conversations. As you get closer to the group, pay attention to their topic of discussion. If the topic catches your interest, you can choose to mingle in slowly and pay attention to the speaker. If there is a chance, introduce yourself to the group and ask if you can join in.
If their topics are not interesting to you, look for another one. There is no worse feeling than having joined a group only to feel bored and want to move away again.
Tips: You can choose to invite a friend over but be mindful of seeking the host approval first, and if your friend feels comfortable going. I’ve attended events when my friends invited me, but the host didn’t know and it was a-w-k-w-a-r-d….
2.     Have some conversation topics in hand for ice-breaking sessions.
If you’re alone and you spot someone who’s also alone and look bored, maybe you can attempt to introduce yourself. Two person in a group is better than you getting anxious standing around all by yourself.
Tips: Look at the person in the eye (not stare at them though!). When you maintain eye contact, you feel more connected and confident, the other party will pay more attention to what you’re saying as well.
And speak slowly, be articulate. You have an entire evening ahead of you, and you’d want to deal with as fewer people as possible. It’s better to get acquainted with a few and keep the conversation going than to constantly move around trying to introduce yourself and rack your brains for new topics all over again, which is energy draining.
The only way is to maximise your interaction with a few handful of people you’ll meet.
Some conversation starters may be:
  • Introducing yourself.: Your name, if it’s difficult then elaborate on how to remember your name, where are you from, what are you studying, etc. 
  • Weather: It’s fine, but it does not really have a continuity. If you ask about the weather And they say it’s fine, been hot but some showers or winter is coming and Christmas is coming and may bring to a new topic of discussion like if you’re going on holidays, how excited you get, and so on.  What’s next? 
  • Maybe you can ask them where they are from if they are not local. Ask them about interesting stuff happening or news that’s going on. It was interesting for me to find that not only Thais celebrate Water Festival for their New Year. People in Myanmar do too. 
  • Depending on the type of event you’re attending, it may sound boring to talk about school if you’re attending a party, but if you’re at a gathering, you can talk about a project or assignment that you’re doing, and how you’re doing if you are still in school. If you are struggling with some subject and the other person is alright at it, maybe they can give you some guidance. 
  • If you love movies or music, talk about the latest release and who you adore. If you love to paint and draw, let people know. 
  • You can actually talk about anything under the sun that you know, there are not really many restrictions if both of you are interested in that topic.However, do take care not to overstep boundaries and keep topics of politics, religion and gender to very small scale.
3.     Listen

Listening in itself is a skill to master. 
Most of us hear but don’t listen.
A question for you, when someone else is talking to you, do you really pay attention to what they’re saying?
Or, are you already trying to think of a reply to what they haven’t even finished saying? (That’s hearing, you hear someone talking, but you don’t understand the message they want to deliver actually)
When you ‘listen’, you can engage people more without talking. 
Some people listen to conversations so well that they understand what you mean, see and how you felt when you describe something that happened to you.
You would feel understood. 
Listen actively. It means, doesn’t think of a comeback, or a reply when the other person is talking. 
Just listen to the other party’s story, be in that story and understand what they’re trying to say.
When they finished, you can ask them questions that you probably wouldn’t know you’d ask in the first place.
And you can also rephrase what they said to ensure your understanding. They will feel like someone (you) is interested in their story and they’d be more willing to share more.
Sometimes, you don’t need to talk a lot or make a lot of smart comments to make people want to be around you.
You only need to listen. Not many people know how to do that well.
4.     Maintain basic respect and understanding. 
Be polite and neutral.
Keep things light and simple. Not too much of personal information divulged. You know, like personal privacy stuff.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it, try changing to another topic or just tell them that you’re not comfortable with that topic.
Some people have strong opinions about certain topics. If you disagree with them, state your stand but don’t get into a heated debate.
Respect is key here. 
Tips: You may meet some people who rebuke everything anyone says. For instance, you’d say something, and they’ll say, “Ya, but… “, “You don’t know… ” or get aggressive and be judgemental on you.
Don’t take it personally, because it’s them, the way they communicate and express themselves. Take it with a pinch of salt, and if what they report is right, you can always tell yourself that you’ve learned something new from them.
Never take their behaviour as a judgement on you. If their behaviour offends you, let them know that you understand where they’re coming from but you would not like to continue the conversation with them because of their behaviour.
Unless you really click with who you’re talking with, there will usually be a point when you both run out of something to say.
If you run out of ideas and feel awkward and the anxiety is coming up, or if you or they are starting to look bored, it’s time for the Exit Strategy. 
How To Apply Exit Strategy
You can simply ‘thank the other person for sharing, and say ‘It was nice to talk to you”, and Excuse yourself to the Washroom or somewhere else.
Breathe in deep and tell yourself ‘Good Job!’. You’ve survived the first 30 minutes or 1 hour.
When you’re ready, head out and try again.
At the end of the event, give yourself a pat on the back.
Yay! You’ve managed it well. It wasn’t so bad after all.
Next time you go to another one of such event or occasion again, practise it again.
Breath, talk, excuse yourself, recharge and repeat. 
Practice lets you get used to the idea of interacting with people you don’t know.
Soon you’ll find yourself more at ease with such occasions.
You probably still won’t like it but it won’t make you feel like running away again
As you get used to it and get better, you can then explore more ways on improving your social skills.
Hope it helps!
Let me know how you’re doing after trying this out, or if you’ve found out some other methods that worked for you and share it with others here. 🙂
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How To Speak Up So Others Will Listen - L³ Hub - Live. Learn. Laugh. · July 28, 2017 at 9:22 am

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