Lately, I’ve had a plethora of clients with social anxiety. The main things affecting them are a feeling of disconnection around others, a sense of not fitting in and of being locked into their own thoughts, when they really want to be enjoying themselves, feeling confident, comfortable and having fun.
What these clients have in common, is a flow of negative thoughts that causes physical tension. This exempts them from ease in talking to others, from relaxing or enjoying social activities and events with their peers.
Anxiety is only ever the symptom of something deeper. During private sessions, I work with clients to see what that is for them and to clear it. Also, we see how anxiety has helped them develop resilience and awareness and how they can tune into their body’s wisdom to become powerful and conscious in any situation. Lastly, we look at strategies for managing social situations with more ease. Below are six of these strategies.
STRATEGY ONE: BE INTERESTED NOT INTERESTING
When we focus on getting to know others, they think we are wonderful people. Everyone loves someone who takes a genuine interest in them.
The obvious way to do this is to ask open ended questions, to listen well to the answers and to reflect back what we have heard.
Now this is not an academic exercise, it must be sincerely done. The magic in this is once we lose ourselves in it, we feel like a kind, interesting individual. We not only lose track of ourselves, if we are really present with the other person, we also tend to ease up on our anxiety.
STRATEGY TWO: STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FEARS/INSECURITITES AND SEE WHERE OTHERS HAVE THESE ALSO
Something I’ve noticed frequently when hosting some group social events and becoming friendly with many participants, is that it’s always the chronically anxious members that piss each other off. They get annoyed when another person didn’t acknowledge them, or put them at ease.
At first I found this annoying, but then I realized it was enlightening. What I discovered, was that each person was so needy and locked into their own pile of poop, they blamed the other, when each was going through exactly the same thing. Instead of helping each other or displaying empathy, they were judging one other, projecting insecurity at each other and feeling angry and fearful.
Be brave enough to be empathetic. I am aware that all the years I was anxious, I was either rude or made others feel uncomfortable with my behavior. It wasn’t my intention, however anxiety made me a selfish asshole who was oblivious to other’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. I thought how I was feeling was more significant than anyone else’s right to a good time, or to enjoy a special occasion and I was totally wrong.
Now I don’t say this to belittle or embarrass you if you are an anxious person, however there comes a time when we want to be well, more than we want to be powerless to our symptoms and this is one attitude adjustment that can support this change.
STRATEGY THREE: PROJECT THE BEST (FUTURE) VERSION OF YOU INTO EVERY SOCIAL SITUATION NOW
Try to imagine how the best version of you would behave if you weren’t anxious. How would you take charge of your behavior and the situation? How much would you be able to care for others? How much would you be aware of everyone else in the room? How much sparkle, fun, humor, great conversation and good times could you create and enjoy? I guarantee your anxious experiences have equipped you to feel out others and contribute to them effectively.
This is a heart centred approach that allows you to connect energetically with who you know you can be and also with others. If we can perceive a future possibility, it is something that is available to us, if we do the work. Bringing in aspects of the future you, allows you to thrive in a social setting now, based on what you bring to it. This then gets enhanced and projected back at you by other’s responses to us, and that positive feedback assists you to feel amazing and to get free and stay free.
STRATEGY FOUR: STOP ALLOWING OTHERS TO DICTATE THE COURSE OF THINGS AND TAKE CONTROL
Instead of giving your power away and wondering what others are thinking negatively about you, take a radical paradigm shift and wonder who you are drawn to instead. One of the traps of having a ‘disorder’ is that we start to become a chronic victim and to forget we are powerful at all.
This is never true. Anxiety is always, always a source of information that the body is giving us. Learn to work with that to become powerful and you will save yourself years in the therapist’s office. Look for the energy in the room that feels expansive to you, see who looks/feels interesting to get to know. Gravitate towards that…
If we can just take a breather from our anxiety for long enough to connect with our preferences, what we invariably find is that they are an indicator of what is a safe, happy and interesting in a situation for us.
STRATEGY FIVE: CONNECT DIFFERENTLY WITH THE SITUATION THAN YOU HAVE BEFORE
Take something nice with you and enjoy sharing/gifting this – It is a starting point for conversation. It also sets up a beautiful energy for people to receive you and for the evening ahead. Now, I know if you have social anxiety, taking a gift and giving it (and drawing all that attention to yourself can be cripplingly terrifying). Think about how awesome the other person will feel receiving your offering instead of focusing on terrible you feel giving it.
If you hate small talk, change your attitude to it. Instead of seeing it as something trivial and irritating that is forced on you. Think of it as a social lubricant and an art form that you can become good at. Wonder what you can say that would make others comfortable or to make them giggle. Imagine what it would be like to be so adept at it, you shined whenever it was required.
When my anxiety was bad, I utterly hated small talk and everything it represented. Somewhere along the journey of healing me, I remembered that I love to talk and never shut up. As a business woman, I realized I would be well served by learning to enjoy others in all social settings. If I can make this transition and fall in love with talking up a storm, socializing and being around others, anyone can.
STRATEGY SIX: STOP GOING INTO CONCLUSIONS AND ASK QUESTIONS INSTEAD
Your awareness is a kick ass weapon. When we are in an anxious state we tend to be closed and concluding and deciding things and blocking all inwards or incoming sources of information.
Questions open things up and change where we function from in our minds. For example “I’m no good at this, no one wants to speak to me”, could become “What a lovely party, I wonder how many interesting people I can meet tonight”?
“I wonder how great I really am at interacting with others”? “How kind and funny am I really, that I have never perceived before”? “What can I do to make this the most fun evening ever for me and everyone else too”?
These questions are only examples and this is a more advanced tool for someone who is getting a handle on things. However it’s good to have many tools in our toolbox when it comes to dismantling something like anxiety. Sometimes trying something new out in an easy moment, and sensing that it may work for us, allows us a sense of freedom and empowerment, that wasn’t there before.
As you can see, there are many tools and strategies to change the space we hold in a social setting, to intervene in our typical/ingrained chemistry and default responses to things. If you would like to discuss your anxiety or how any of these or other strategies could help you and open up new possibilities, please connect here.