Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects over 15 millions Americans, causing breakdowns in relationships, increases nervous in social situations, and can lead to a life of social awkwardness and loneliness.
Yet the people who generally recover from SAD have greater confidence in their speaking ability, are able to meet new people in a bar or club, and are able to create and sustain longer and more fulfilling friendships which ultimately means a more happier life. And of course for those who do recover from a social anxiety, the chance to not only meet but engage with a potential soul mate.
Data already shows that around 90% of all communication is done non-verbally anyway, which includes body language, tone and eye contact.
So it is really important to have coping mechanisms so that next time you are in a social situation, you are not feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of trying to meet new people.
While it can be useful to help heal the anxiety by using some form of self-hypnosis, studies do say that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is still one of the best ways to recover to get in control of your social life again.
You can also try EFT, a therapy based on touching parts of your face and chest, so you can reduce the feelings of anxiety that can arise when you think or imagine a possible social situation, and NLP will also also allow you to see how your mind is storing the negative imagery, so you can change it to a positive one, making a social situation more inviting rather then scary.
So, you get invited, attend a bar and you see a few people, one of them you recognize. Then what?
Saying, ‘Hi’ and breaking the ice by making a quick passing comment, or a quick complement is a tactic that I sometimes use. Then it is a question of holding your nerves and actively engaging in your conversation.
Naturally it is easier to engage in the conversation, if the topic is something you are interested in. But there are times when the topic of interest will be what will seem like an obscure niche. The trick then, is to ask questions and then just listen.
Asking questions is a great way of keeping the conversation flowing, as people love answering questions about themselves and how they relate to the topic at hand.
Being able to socialize means also means learning to keep eye contact, something that SAD sufferers often dread, so here is a quick tactic when it comes to talking to a group and maintaining eye contact
The easy rule of thumb to follow, when it comes to speaking to a group of people, is to use the, ‘1 sentence per person’ rule. That is to say, as you speak to a group of people in a bar, speak to the individuals one at a time, so that it appears you are speaking generally to the group.
If you have difficulty in maintaining eye contact, try to focus on the persons eyebrows, or if you wish, soften your focus so that you a gazing at the them, rather than looking at them. This should reduce any anxiety that you may be feeling.
Of course, when it comes to communication, we can get lost and caught up with our anxiety when it comes to eye contact. Socially anxious people have a difficult time in keeping eye contact, so it is best to have a protocol when it comes to keeping your cool and speaking to someone.
In general, keep maintaining eye contact around a third of the time when you are talking to someone. This helps take the pressure of thinking you are staring at them.
On the other hand, when the other person is talking to you, try to maintain eye contact around 60% of the time, and try to nod your head a few times (as if you agree with what they are saying). This helps the flow of the conversation, and can also be useful in gaining rapport.
Of course, anxiety may pop up, and you may have to then contend with looking at someone and feeling uncomfortable at the same time. The best way to overcome this is to try belly breathing.
Just breathing through your belly a few times will help reduce your nerves, and will allow you to gain control of your situation, so you don’t loose face. You can also practice being mindful, by being present in the hear and now. This will help reduce the fear given to you by your Amygdala, that part of your brain which is responsible for emotions.
While you are starting out however, it is important to not jump in but to start small. As you have trained yourself (albeit accidentally) to be nervous in social situations, you will need to slowly go back into socializing more fully again. The trick is to try progressive desensitization.
Progressive desensitization is about facing your fear. Start small, by exposing yourself to the fear, and you will begin to slowly desensitize and then overcome your fear.
So in the context of a social situation, you would first aim to going to a bar once a week, and meeting just one or two people there. Then as your confidence starts to grow, you move to 2 bars during the week and meeting a few more people, until you ultimately find yourself being invited or attending other social events. As each week goes on, your confidence gets bigger and your social anxiety gets smaller.
The more you do this, the easier it will become, and your social anxiety should be a thing of the past. Try the above and let me know how you get on.