How To Handle Social Anxiety

Do you clam up at the thought of meeting new people? We spoke to an expert to find out how you can show social anxiety who's boss.

Social Anxiety

That big event is looming and the thought of walking into a room full of strangers and chatting to people fills you full of dread.

“The main way social anxiety affects people is that they ‘clam up’; mix up their words, blush, perspire, and can appear stand offish and rude,” explains Tony Moore, a counsellor at Relationships Ireland. “This problem can be debilitating and cause the individual to withdraw from social events.”

But if that sounds familiar, there are ways to lessen how it affects you, Tony reassures.

“First off, remember most people, despite what they might say, dislike walking into a crowded room full of people they don’t know. So you are not alone. To deal with it more effectively, you need to learn a way of ‘breaking the ice’ when amongst strangers.”

Tony’s nabbed this five-step technique from the Royal Family.

1. First up, smile. This gives you confidence.
2. Next, when you walk in say ‘hello’, shake hands and give your name.
3. Then say ‘Have you come far for this occasion?’ “This is a very ‘safe’ and neutral question,” Tony explains.
4. Next, ask if the person you’re talking to knows anybody here. If the answer is no, you’re both in the same boat. If yes, ask them to point out who they know.
5. The last step? Keep asking questions and let the conversation flow.

By avoiding these situations you just psychologically reinforce to yourself that you just can’t ‘do’ social situations.

“The ‘trick’ is to start,” says Tony. “Once you have started things will get easier. Be sure to talk in generalities too. Nobody wants to talk about nuclear fusion or the meaning of life.”

Once you’ve settled in, it’s a good idea to begin planning your exit strategy. “Have an exit time,” Tony recommends. “If you want to leave at 11.30pm leave at 11.30. An exit time gives you reassurance that this ‘nightmare’ will end.”

The main thing to remember? “By avoiding these situations you just psychologically reinforce to yourself that you just can’t ‘do’ social situations – which is untrue,” says Tony. Go get ’em, tiger.