Being able to “work a room” is a great skill that can help you with that next job promotion, relationship building and gaining confidence. But being a social butterfly doesn’t always come easy. Even for the natural extroverts out there, science-back tips can help ensure you balance your talking skills with your listening skills.
For some of us, anxiety is what holds us back from being outgoing and reaching our social goals. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem and an estimated one in ten Canadians is affected by them. At Psych Company, we see clients who have social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder and are looking for opportunities to overcome the social barriers they may face.
Social anxiety disorder
According to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, social anxiety disorder involves a fear or anxiety about being humiliated or scrutinized in social situations, which lasts at least six months. This fear causes significant distress or impairment in day-to-day functioning. Approximately 7% of people experience social anxiety disorder.
Fears may be associated with social interactions, being observed and/or performing before a group or audience. Behavioural signs and symptoms commonly include avoiding social gatherings, parties, meetings and public speaking.
Sometimes having social anxiety disorder can hold you back from the social goals you’re working towards. Our professionals at Psych Company can provide you with the tools you need to manage your social anxiety disorder and overcome any challenges you may face.
Generalized anxiety disorder
According to the American Psychiatric Association, generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive apprehensiveness and worry occurring for a period of at least six months in connection with upcoming events or activities (such as work or school performance). It is characterized by difficulty in managing stressful thoughts and is accompanied by at least three associated physical symptoms. Physical symptoms may include muscle tension, feeling on edge, restlessness, irritability and sleep disturbance.
Behavioural signs and symptoms commonly include avoiding news, newspapers and restricting involvement in activities due to excessive worries about what might happen, excessive reassurance seeking or over-preparing.
Managing generalized anxiety disorder is not something you have to do alone. Having an understanding of the evidence-based tools that are available to you can help you overcome barriers you may be experiencing. There is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to psychotherapy, so a Psych Company team member can work with you on a personalized approach.
Nine tips for being more social
Everyone feels anxious at certain times, even if you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder. Here are tips that you can follow to perfect the art of socializing. You can start with trying one tip at your next social gathering, or you can try to put as many into use as you please. Try employing a tool that may be out of your comfort zone, but just remember to be mindful while using it and keep in mind that practice makes it a lot easier!
- Remember names. A first impression matters when making a new connection and when you’re able to remember someone’s name, they feel seen and appreciated.
- Maintain eye contact. Don’t underestimate the value of eye contact! It shows that you’re interested and engaged in what the other person is saying and it also keeps you focused on the conversation.
- Keep your phone out of reach. You want to be focused and involved with the people around you when in a social setting. One of the best ways of doing that is by being respectful while in conversation. Being on your phone indicates avoidance and often expresses disinterest even if unintended.
- Practice, practice, practice! Practice your social skills with people you come across in your day-to-day life even if they are just acquaintances. Chatting with the cashier at the grocery store or your nail tech is a great place to start.
- Find a social club that’s associated with your hobby. Do you like gardening, painting or running? Join your local club or community event. By joining a group of people who share similar interests, you’ll have an easy conversation starter. You are also more likely to make authentic connections.
- Relax before going. Trying something new or being in a new environment can be nerve-racking. Practice deep breathing to calm your anxiety.
- Don’t give in to negative talk. Practice positive self-talk instead! Using positive affirmations daily can be a great way of breaking negative self-talk and cycles of negative feelings and thoughts. You can also practice mindfulness to avoid giving in to the negative voices we all have.
- Be an interesting person. Do things that make you feel more confident and interesting such as travel, keep up to date on current issues, take a class, try something new, etc. This way you will feel more confident that you have lots to talk about.
- Listen and ask questions about the thing that excite the other person. People like people who really hear them. Feeling heard and being known is something that all humans value. It makes us feel good and close to the other person. Pro Tip: Instead of focusing on what you want to say next focus on what topics light up the person you are talking to and ask them follow up questions about it. Read more about this below.
Be more social with your existing network
Do you have any surface-level relationships that you want to grow or build on? You may want to strengthen your relationships with your work colleagues, your significant other’s friends or the other parents at your kid’s school.
You already have general social connections with these people, but there’s always room for growth! Here are four tips you can use to dive a little deeper.
1. Be vulnerable
Opening up and being vulnerable makes others feel comfortable and safe with you, which can help deepen your relationship. You may have people that you already know that you want to connect with, but showing your vulnerabilities can make you more relatable to that person and help build trust.
2. Be curious
People are more willing to open up to you if you show genuine interest in them. Did they just get a job promotion that you can learn more about? Are they struggling with an aspect of parenting that you can relate to? Ask questions. Real, thoughtful questions. Avoid asking yes/no questions because that can often lead to a dead-end and the conversation will not move forward. Instead, ask specific questions instead of generalized questions. You may learn something new that can spark a new connection with the other person.
3. Be authentic
People may have already made a first impression of you or feel like they know the type of person that you are. Don’t get into your head about their perception of you. They best thing you can do is to be yourself! When you feel inauthentic, others can feel it too. Instead, build connections that will last by being unapologetically you. Show genuine interest in learning more about the other person and even feel free to tell them that you’re trying to be more social. They may really appreciate the realness of you letting them know that you’re working on yourself.
A good tip when practicing authenticity is to listen to others with the goal to understand them, instead of listening to respond to them. You can repeat your interpretation of what they said to make sure you’re understanding their perspective or comment correctly. This will show that you’re actively listening with the intent of understanding, while showcasing how your train of thinking works.
4. It’s okay to say no
Being social doesn’t mean you say yes to everything. Creating boundaries is important when protecting or managing your mental health needs. If there’s an event that you’ve been invited to but you don’t feel emotionally safe going, it’s okay not to go. If a conversation is going down a path that you’re uncomfortable with, it’s okay to exit the conversation.
Think carefully about if you want to go somewhere and if you’ll be comfortable. Even if you do feel comfortable with the event or environment, but you don’t feel ready to push yourself, it’s okay to take a break. Learning a new skill is about taking steps and constant progress – you don’t need to jump in head first!
Be more outgoing in a new crowd
For a lot of our clients, when they want to be more social, it’s with the end goal of meeting new people or feeling comfortable in a new setting. Kudos to you for being ready to take this step! The seven general tips we offered earlier in this blog will be a great start for you, but here are some other tips for consideration.
Set a S.M.A.R.T goal
What is the reason you’ve decided you want to be more outgoing? Do you want to make new friends? Do you want to expand your network to increase future job opportunities? Make sure you take the time to set a S.M.A.R.T goal to help ensure your goal aligns with your objective. As a reminder, your S. M.A.R.T goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
Create an elevator pitch
Mastering small talk is important when being social in a new crowd, but it can also seem repetitive or mundane. Instead of only talking about the weather, create a list of topics that you’re interested in that can help guide conversation. This is your go-to list of topics to bring up when meeting new people.
As you meet new people, you may learn more and can add new topics to your list. Make sure to include a list of open-ended questions in your elevator pitch. Questions like “what type of advice would you give to someone in my shoes?” or “what are you motivated by?” are a great place to start.
First impressions matter
When you first meet someone, your first impression of them will determine how much your willing to engage with them. Well guess what…people do the same to you. Having confidence is important when learning to be more social and can help you create a great first impression. Find out what interests you may have in common with the other person(s) that you can speak confidently about. Do you work in a similar field, have they binge watched the latest show on Netflix, is there a sport or local activity they like to support? Speaking about interests you have in common can help build authentic connections.
Also, think about who you want to be more social with. Which people have expressed views that align with your values and can help you reach your social goals? How can a relationship with you benefit them? These are questions you can use to help determine who you want to connect with.
Learn how to exit a conversation
Your journey of being more social and outgoing can be an exciting one, but it can also leave you reaching the end of your social tank. Take care of yourself and make sure you take time to fill up your tank. Reminder that learning a new skill is a journey, and will not be reached overnight. Pay attention to how you’re feeling when being social. Are you still engaged in the conversation? Do you feel dread when faced with continuing the social interaction?
When you’re ready to end the conversation, leave on a positive note. Let the person know it was great connecting with them and that you valued their conversation. Show appreciation and if you feel like you made a valuable connection, offer to continue the relationship. You can do this by asking them for an opportunity to meet up again, or by adding them on LinkedIn. Avoid making up excuses to end the conversation. People may not believe your excuse and that can leave a poor impression. Instead, being assertive in your exit is better.
Our life coaches and psychotherapists are here for you. Schedule a consultation with us today if you need assistance in strengthening your relationships or managing your anxiety. We are here to help you reach your social goals.