Owning the room in any social setting requires confidence, and a few other skills, especially if you think you have social anxiety. Thankfully, these are skills anyone can learn.
Every person on the planet at some point or another has walked into a room or had to engage socially in some setting where they felt completely uncomfortable. Worse yet is when you anticipate how uncomfortable you’ll feel for a social event and you allow it to turn into a monstrous thing in your brain worrying about how to act or if others will judge you. Then it just becomes a huge fear. And the more you ruminate on it, the worse it becomes.
So what do you do? How do you handle it?
Let’s talk practical tips to overcoming social anxiety. By the time you finish reading this, I hope you’ll have the tools to “own the room.”And by that I mean making other people feel confident and comfortable. Not dominating people. This is about having the confidence to walk into any social setting, whether it’s two people or two hundred.
Practical Tips to Overcoming Social Anxiety
1. Prep for the unknown.
Scope out where you’re going to know the directions, the space and location. It calms my nerves to know where the building is or know I won’t get lost. It also helps me not be late. I go to Google maps, check Waze or even do a drive by in advance. I also check Yelp for reviews and look for photos of the venue, and then visualize the things I want to experience. And, I have ADHD, so this definitely helps me get my thoughts in order.
2. Create the narrative.
Start thinking in a positive way. Put a narrative on what you want to experience. Recently, I went to lunch with someone I barely knew. I really wanted to get to know this person and hoped we’d develop a friendship. So, I drove past the place where we were going to be eating for lunch to make sure that I timed it properly, and then I thought about what I would wear and how we would chat. I imagined a positive experience and visualized it. This calmed my nerves and created a lovely environment for us to get to know each other better.
3. Make it about them.
No one really cares what you have to say. Sorry, but it’s true. They want to know how interested you are in them. That makes you incredibly attractive and makes you appear more confident. And you can’t fake this! You must be genuinely curious about other people. And in order to be sincerely and genuinely curious about other people, you have got to get out of your own head. Most people hate small, benign chitchat. So get creative and think of good questions in advance.
The best way to think of questions is to ask ChatGPT. Put in a prompt and AI will spit you back amazing answers within seconds.
4. Look confident with your body language.
In a study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that individuals who exhibited competent behavior were more likely to be perceived as attractive. Another study published by the Journal of nonverbal behavior found that individuals who displayed competent nonverbal skills, like standing up straight, maintaining eye contact, and having good posture, were perceived as being more attractive by their peers. So what does that mean? Well, I know it seems like common sense, but just stand up straight, look people in the eyes, and know when to look away. Don’t be creepy or weird. Simply pay attention your body language.
5. Wear something that makes you feel amazing.
Not to be vain, but if you look good, you feel good (or at least better!). I would so much rather be overdressed than underdressed. I get anxious if I show up and feel out of place with my attire. If that’s you too, know that about yourself regardless of what any invitation says. Regardless of how they tell you to dress, just know if you’re more comfortable being underdressed or overdressed, then do that. Also, don’t wear something new that you’ve never tested out before. If you’re falling out of your shirt or have a pencil skirt that prohibits sitting, you’re not going to feel relaxed. Don’t wear shoes you can’t walk in (so test them around the house first!).
6. Resist the urge to “one-up.”
If you accidentally “one up” in order to relate, allow me to stop you right there. You know people who do this. Every conversation comes back to themselves, and in a semi-bragging way. Please recognize it comes across as either one upping, or even worse, turning the subject back to you. So, the right thing to do is to say, “Oh, that’s amazing.” Or follow something up with another question instead of saying, “Oh me too, but I even did XYZ better.” Because relating by bringing things back to you doesn’t make others think more highly of you. Yes, it’s okay to acknowledge things you have in common, but refrain from bettering others or constantly circling back to yourself. Get interested in what they say, and ask more questions. Hopefully, they’ll have the same etiquette and you will be able to share a bit about yourself.
7. Skip the advice.
If you just meet someone, avoid offering “know it all advice.” I tend to be bossy this way, so I have to check myself in this department. It comes off as unsolicited and can be off-putting. So unless I’m asked, I try to not butt in to people’s problems.
8. Practice makes perfect.
If you do struggle and feel shy in situations, like everyone is looking at you and they can pick up on how uncomfortable you are, or you stumble over words, then start with baby steps. I’m telling you, it’s just a matter of practicing it over and over and over again, sometimes in really benign environments, like going to the grocery store or going to pick up coffee. Use these as a means to desensitize yourself to those social settings. And here’s what it boils down to: getting out of your own head and thinking about the other person. The second you turn things around, and it’s not about you, the more calm you’ll feel. It’s so much more comfortable knowing your job is to make somebody else feel like they’re really interesting. And you do that by active listening; not listening and waiting for them to pause so you can tell them something about you. But listening and being present. You must be present. And listen to what they’re saying.
Comment below and let me know which of these tips helps you the most!
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