Rather Spew Than Schmooze? Three Tips for Beating Social Anxiety

Social anxiety: we’ve all suffered from it. In fact, for most members of the Art of Charm community, this is the single most common challenges that dogged them long and hard enough to make them go looking for a solution. Here are three tips for beating social anxiety that you should keep under your hat for a rainy day.

The Shocking Truth About Social Anxiety and How to Beat It

There you are. You’re in a social setting — maybe halfway against your will. You’re nervous. You’re in your head. You’re thinking (okay, overthinking) about how you’re doing, how you look, how you sound, how everyone else perceives you. You’re holding back, half paralyzed by the discomfort, wondering why you ever agreed to go to this thing in the first place. You know you won’t actually die, probably.

Social anxiety: we’ve all suffered from it. In fact, for most members of the Art of Charm community, this is the single most common challenges that dogged them long and hard enough to make them go looking for a solution.

The bad news is, most people never figure out how to conquer their social anxiety. It can be so debilitating that they miss out on everything — from friends to work to romance.

The good news is, you’re not most people. You’re already looking for solutions. You’re not just sitting there wishing you could be better in social situations — you’re ready to find a better way to beat the discomfort. You might even be in the Art of Charm 30-Day Challenge. (If so, keep going — even when it pushes you outside your comfort zone! Complete that bad boy so you come out on the other side stronger than ever!)

More good news — with conscious effort and commitment, you can beat social anxiety and finally learn how to meet new people, make a stellar first impression, and put your best foot forward. Of course, it’ll never go away completely. It’s part of being human. But you can learn how to become comfortable in your own skin as you interact with others — and it’ll make all the difference in your life.

Here are three simple tips you can follow right away that’ll help you feel less like puking and more like a pro when it comes to socializing. They’ll work well for you whether you’re at a networking event, meeting friends, or talking with someone you’d like to ask out.

Social Anxiety Buster #1: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Feel like you might actually die from awkwardness? Stop. Put on a smile. Just smiling can help get the good, positive chemicals flooding through your body. Your body doesn’t know the difference between excitement and freak-out — so use the chemicals to your advantage.

When you start getting self-conscious, it’s easy to end up accidentally making everyone else around you uncomfortable — just because of your facial expression. You might get what we call Processing Face — you know, tight lips, vacant look, sooooo serious? You’re lost inside your mind, not engaged with the people right in front of you. They might not know you’re just nervous. Their experience of being with you will be that you’re aloof, absent, even cold. Their most natural reaction? To find someone else to talk with — fast.

Remember, everyone’s at least a little bit nervous in social situations. Instead of climbing up inside your own head to hide because you feel self-conscious, engage with them and make it easy for them to talk with you. Then you’ll go from feeling out of place to becoming someone others seek out because they know they’ll feel more comfortable at your side. Smiles are contagious and you can use this simple bit of body language to put others at ease. In the process, you’ll feel your own tension melt away.

Social Anxiety Buster #2: Be Present and Listen

When we’re feeling anxious, the automatic response is to focus inward. By definition, that means you’re not paying attention to the people around you or engaging with them. Don’t do that.

Instead, take an active interest in them. Be present. Be curious. Ask questions and listen — really listen — as they talk to you. When you shift your focus away from your nerves and onto learning about the other person, you’ll see your own anxiety fade away.

Of course, all that listening will throw a wrench into your prepared conversation script. You know the one. “They’ll say this, and then I’ll say that!” Throw that script out the window. You don’t need it, and it wasn’t going to work anyway. Like Mike Tyson says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Just be natural. Ask questions. Listen. They’ll leave feeling like they were just in the presence of someone who’s real, who really got them, someone they’d like to hang out with more.

Social Anxiety Buster #3: Mind Your Body Language

Even beyond the smile, there’s more you can do to arrange your body in a way that melts tension and invites conversation. Without realizing it, the way you stand may be off-putting, like you’re ready for a fist fight instead of a good chat.

Think about how what happens in an elevator. You walk in, facing everyone in the elevator. You find a spot to stand, turn around to face the door, maybe chit-chat about the weather. You don’t stand face-to-face like some kind of menacing lunatic.

It’s the same in social situations. Standing nose-to-nose is like assuming a fighting stance. Nobody can relax like that. It might be counter-intuitive, but this will make everyone more comfortable. Use your body language to everyone’s advantage. Greet people face-to-face, then turn your body so you’re both facing the same direction. This creates more of a “we’re on the same side” feel and helps to deflate everyone’s nervous energy.

All in all, just keep it simple. Don’t try to complicate the situation. Focus on being yourself, enjoying yourself. If you’re not having a good time, chances are good that people around you aren’t either. Just follow these three tips and you’ll feel more comfortable while also putting others at ease. Sure beats spreading anxiety wherever you go!

Easy does it! Charm is not about trying to pile on a bunch of techniques or manipulating people. It’s actually the complete opposite: letting human nature do its thing. Most people are naturally a bit anxious in social situations. You’re never going to be totally anxiety-free; it’s part of being alive! But you can work with your natural chemical reactions and steer them so you nail that first impression and help others around you at the same time.

Johnny Dzubak - author of 56 posts on The Art of Charm

Johnny happened upon the field of Social Dynamics and dating coaching quite by accident. Having been a touring musician much of his life, he felt the need to contribute positively to the world and was interested in the power of personal transformation. Johnny began educating himself about Social Dynamics and incorporating the concepts he learned into his day-to-day life. Soon after, he began coaching for a small Social Dynamics company out of Washington, DC; it was then that he met AJ & Jordan.

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