How do you overcome social anxiety? Top Tips to Start a Conversation

How do you overcome social anxiety when you need to start a conversation?

brain thinking how to overcome social anxiety

What will I talk about? What will I say? What if they think I’m boring? What if they don’t like me?…..What if I’m blushing again?

All of this is fear, created in your own mind, by you!

Studies have shown that people suffering with social anxiety have a tendency to focus inwards on themselves. study

Worrying about how they’ll come across, telling themselves that they are not ‘interesting’ and have nothing to say….you know the sort of negative inward self-talk and focus. This unfortunately keeps adding fuel to the fire of social anxiety. However by turning your focus outwards into the room/situation, can help diffuse the rising panic. panic attacks

Use your 5 senses to notice the things and people in the room whilst taking some long deep breaths slowly in and slowly out and dropping those shoulders and standing tall. focus externally

Shyness may have gotten you into the habit of always waiting for the other person to start a conversation. But what if they are shy too? That then makes two of you trying to overcome social anxiety and so creating a lot of nervous energy!

So instead of allowing the conversation to fall flat, you can overcome social anxiety using the following tips and become a great conversation starter:

  1. Smile and the world smiles with you! Research shows that people are more likely to want to talk to you if you are smiling. And, don’t forget good eye contact with the other person. The added benefit of smiling is that this sends a signal to your body to relax and moves your focus outwards away from your internal dialogue. A definite win-win!
  2. Remember, having a conversation is a mutual experience. It is not all down to you! So you are not in this alone, there are two brains providing input. It is a case of what are we going to talk about, not what am I going to say. Be curious about what they are going to talk about.
  3. Show interest in the other person. Ask some open questions so they can elaborate. (research shows that people find interested people interesting because people like to talk about themselves!)

Start by asking them about themselves related to the situation you’re in. For example if you are at Tina’s party, you could ask “So how do you know Tina?”.  This could then open up a conversation.

  1. Keep the conversation going by asking open questions that require more than a yes/no answer. Be gentle in questioning, keep it light and not too personal, it should not be an interrogation!
  2. Self-edit. When you’re talking, leave out the small detail as this can get boring. So edit, don’t bore with detail. Ask yourself, what does this person need to know to get my message/story/opinion across?
  3. Use humour. If you find something funny/ironic, then comment on it. A quick quip about something going on in the room or about something you know about the person you’re talking to often breaks the ice. Laughing together builds a sense of intimacy and releases feel good hormones that help you both to relax.
  4. Don’t rely on alcohol. A first drink or two may help you relax, but remember that beyond a certain point, more alcohol will not make you more socially adept, it is quite the reverse!
  5. Don’t take it personally. If after you’ve attempted to get a conversation going, the other person really doesn’t seem to want to talk, don’t take it personally. Maybe they’re having a bad day or perhaps they need to learn a few conversation skills themselves. But most of all, do not internalise the experience and blame yourself. You tried. Move on.
  6. Get your conversation starter mind-set. To have the confidence to start conversations, it is a good idea to train your brain before hand. Use self- hypnosis to visualise and so instil the pattern in your mind of yourself being calm, relaxed and friendly. Imagine the scenario in your mind and mentally rehearse being there and chatting to people, smiling, looking relaxed and giving eye contact.

Don’t forget to use your body language to help overcome social anxiety.

Take a few long slow deep breaths in and out before entering the room or situation and tell yourself in your mind, “I am calm and relaxed, I’ve got this, I can do this”. It can also help to practice a big smile just before you enter the room/situation, as this will release relaxing hormones and relax any frown that has crept up on you:)

Stand tall, walk into the room or situation with your shoulders down, your head up and use eye contact with people.

Smile and give a simple friendly greeting. By greeting others first, you’ve taken the first step and it may even open up a conversation!

The more you relax with starting conversations, the more self-confident you will be generally. A simple starter with a complete stranger can be:

“Hi I’m (name), nice to meet you…and you are?” Followed by a simple comment upon the situation you are in and a few gentle questions about the other person.

                                           “Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet” Friends with speech bubbles