How to Reduce Social Anxiety

Are you shy? Do you know someone who dreads exposure to any social situation? Over 13% of Americans experience some sort of Anxiety disorder. Social anxiety occurs when an individual feels anxious prior to or during social interactions with individuals.

Additionally, these individuals avoid any social situations or experience them under intense anxiety. These occurrences can be manifested physically, like sweating, blushing or trembling or cognitively like negative thoughts about themselves.

SHYNESS VS. SOCIAL ANXIETY

Understand that there is a difference between shyness and social anxiety. Shy people may not dread engaging with new or familiar individuals, while the social anxious people do. We all, at some point or another, tend to be more reserved. When we do so, unconsciously we can send messages or cues to the people that we are engaging.

These messages may be perceived by people and think the shy individuals as “odd” or “peculiar”. In general, after individuals are labeled as “strange” their interactions with other people are likely to decrease. So what are these cues that may seem odd or peculiar?

NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Research suggests that one of the cues is self-presentational concerns. Anxious individuals tend to increase self-focus in a negative way. During conversations with other individuals, they are constantly engaged in a negative evaluation of themselves. If we are constantly thinking about how we are doing, then we cannot actually pay attention to the conversation.

Tip #1 – Enjoy what people are saying and not what they are thinking.

PASSIVE CONVERSATIONS

Shy people may wish to disclose as little as possible about themselves. But sometimes they find themselves answering more that they initially thought. This paradox is in part due to shy individuals being less likely to direct conversation and may find themselves answering more questions and revealing more personal information. A conversation is a dance between two individuals. The same rhythm, steps and beats are expected from each individual. As the conversation evolves, each of the participants takes the lead. Have you ever tried to dance with someone who does not want to? Likewise, have you to tried to talk to someone who does not want to? Right?

Tip #2 – Ask questions and dance!

POSITIVE EFFECT

Because we are thinking of negative thoughts during the conversation, we forget to enjoy the topic and the interaction. The constant thinking in negative things about one’s self increases anxiety. The increase in anxiety can result in a reduction of smiles, specifically smiles of pleasure. Remember that while we might be saying one thing, our body language says another.

Tip #3 – Smile!

While social anxiety can be a difficult experience, we can all benefit from these tips. Next time you feel anxious to talk to others, approach them and apply them.

What are your thoughts? Are you shy? What have been your experiences with shy people?

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