How to Stop Being Shy

Shy social settings

This is the complete guide on how to not be shy. Some of the methods in this guide are from the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook by Martin M. Anthony, Ph.D. and Richard. P. Swinson, MD.

Chapter 1: Mindsets that quickly can make you less shy

1. Know that people are full of insecurities

Take a look at these stats:

How common are our insecurities?Know that “everyone’s confident but me” is a myth. Reminding yourself of this can help you feel less shy.[6]

2. Focus your attention on your surroundings

Ask yourself questions about what’s around you, people you meet, and conversations you’re having.

A person you see: “I wonder what she might do for a living?”

A conversation you’re having: “I wonder what it’s like to work in accounting?”

Your surroundings: “I wonder what era this house is from?”

Keeping yourself preoccupied like this makes you less self-conscious.[11]

When you notice that you start feeling self-conscious, move your attention back to your surroundings.

3. Act despite feeling shy

Shyness is a feeling like any other feeling: (hunger, tiredness, boredom, etc).

You can stay awake even if you’re tired, study even if you’re bored, and socialize even if you’re shy.

It’s often when we act despite our feelings that we achieve our goals.

Remind yourself that you don’t need to obey the feeling of shyness. You can act despite your shyness.

4. Challenge thoughts about worst-case scenarios

Many social disasters we worry about aren’t realistic. Challenge those thoughts by coming up with more realistic ones.

If your mind goes: “I will go there and people will either ignore me or laugh at me,” you can think “I will go there and there might be awkward moments, but overall people will be nice and I might have some interesting conversations”.

5. Accept your nervousness instead of fighting it

Know that nervousness is normal and something most people experience regularly.

You can overcome your nervousness easier if you simply accept that it’s there – rather than trying to avoid it.

When you accept it, it becomes less of a threat in your head and gets more manageable.[3, 4]

The next time you feel nervous, focus on the feeling, perhaps even give it a name (I named mine Bob) and allow it to be there. When I stopped fighting Bob, he got more friendly and manageable.

6. Act normally if you blush, shake, or sweat

Know that there are many others who shake, blush, or sweat who don’t care what others think of it. It’s your beliefs about the symptoms rather than the symptoms that cause the problem.[5]

If you saw someone who acted completely normal but blushed at times, how would you react?

I wouldn’t give it much thought: If the person acts normally, you would assume they blushed for some other reason: Maybe they blushed or sweated because they were hot. Some people just shake a little sometimes.

Act like it’s nothing, and people will think it’s nothing.

7. Allow yourself to leave a party after one hour

Accept invitations even if you’re not in the mood. Spending time socializing is what eventually will help you overcome your shyness.[7, 8]

However, allow yourself to leave after 1 hour. That’s enough time to overcome the initial anxiety, and short enough to not worry about a never-ending night of awkwardness.[16]

8. Change the way you talk to yourself

Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend you want to help.

Being nice to yourself can make you more motivated to improve.[12]

Instead of saying “I always fail”, say something you know is more realistic. “I did fail now, but I can remember doing well before and therefore it’s reasonable that I’ll do well again”.

9. See shyness as a sign that something good is happening

The best way to overcome shyness is to socialize anyway. Our brain slowly understands that nothing bad happens, and we get less shy.[7, 8]

This means that every hour you spend feeling shy, your brain slowly learns that it’s an unnecessary response.

Don’t see shyness as a sign to stop. See it as a sign to keep going – because you’re slowly becoming less shy.

Think “Every hour I spend feeling shy is another hour toward overcoming shyness”.

10. Ask yourself what a confident person would do

People with shyness or social anxiety tend to be overly worried about making mistakes.[9, 10]

Make a reality check: If a confident person did the mistake you did, would they mind?

If you came to the conclusion that they wouldn’t mind, it can help you see that your mistake was less of a deal than it felt like.

What’s a confident person you know that you can think of? You can pick someone you know or a celebrity. Then ask yourself “What would Jennifer Lawrence think if she made the mistake I just did?”

11. Remind yourself that people can’t know how shy or nervous you are

We think that people see how nervous, shy, or uncomfortable we are. In reality, it’s hard for them to tell. When people are asked to rate how nervous they think someone is, they rate much lower than the person rates themselves.[13]

Just because you feel nervous doesn’t mean that anyone else sees it that way. Scientists call this the Illusion of transparency: We think that people can see the feelings inside of us, but they can’t. Remind yourself of this. It’ll make you feel less nervous.[14]

12. Remind yourself that you stand out less than it feels like

We tend to feel like we are more noticeable than we really are. This is called the spotlight effect: It feels like we have a spotlight on us, but we don’t.

Remind yourself that you don’t stand out, even if it feels like that. It can be comforting to understand that we’re quite anonymous.[15]

Chapter 2: Overcoming your shyness permanently

1. Figure out what made you shy in the first place

Ask yourself if there was a certain experience that made you shy.

Some were bullied when they were young, got rejected, had parents who kept them from socializing, or had abusive relationships.

Realizing the root cause of your shyness can help you decide to not let those past experiences affect your future life.

2. Take responsibility for your situation

It could very well be that your upbringing has caused your shyness. But at the same time, you are the only one with the power to change it.

While your parents, upbringing, society, etc have affected you, you are fully responsible for what you choose to make of the cards you’ve been dealt.

Instead of thinking “I had bad parents so that’s why I’m this way”, you could think “What can I do to make the most out of life despite my upbringing?”

Viewing life this way can be harsh, but it’s also empowering to know that you are the one who decides!

3. Stay in uncomfortable social settings longer

Nervosity always decreases with time, it’s not physically possible for our bodies to stay at peak nervosity forever.

Do things that make you uncomfortable until your feelings of nervosity have at least halved. Preferably it’s best to stay in an uncomfortable social setting or situation until your nervosity has decreased to around a 2 on a scale where 10 is your worst level. This can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the situation.[16]

Having several experiences like these, (that start off scary but feel less scary when you leave) helps build your confidence. The key is to prolong how long you stay in these situations to decrease your shyness as much as possible.

4. Do what’s challenging, not terrifying

If you do terrifying things, the risks are that you can’t keep it up long enough for a permanent change to happen.

If you do challenging things that are scary but not terrifying, you’ll be able to stay in those situations long enough.

Ask yourself what social settings or situations are challenging to you, but not terrifying.

Example: To Courtney, mingles are terrifying. But going to a friend’s dinner is only challenging. She decides to accept the dinner invitation but declines the mingle invitation.

5. Grade how scary situations are so you don’t get overwhelmed

List down 10-20 uncomfortable situations with the most scary at the top and least scary at the bottom.

For example: 

Speaking in front of people = high scariness

Answering the phone = medium scariness

Saying “how are you” to the cashier = low scariness

Make it a habit to do more things that are low to medium scariness. After a few weeks, you can try working your way up the list.

Grading situations like this helps you improve your shyness without overwhelming yourself.

6. Identify and avoid your safety behaviors

Sometimes, we avoid scary things without even knowing.

It could be:

  • Helping with the dishes at a party to not have to talk to anyone
  • Not talking about yourself to avoid people’s attention
  • Drinking alcohol to feel more relaxed
  • Wearing makeup against blushing

We can get addicted to these behaviors because we think bad things happen if we don’t do them. But you want to get rid of them to overcome your shyness.

Pay attention: What are your safety behaviors?

Go for a change: Go out without drinking, share something about yourself, avoid makeup, etc.

See what happens: Did your worst-case scenario come true? Or was it less scary than you thought it would be?

7. Practice making small social mistakes

Shyness can come from being overly afraid of making mistakes.[9, 10]

To overcome this fear, practice making small social mistakes. Doing that and realizing that nothing bad happens makes us less worried about making mistakes.

Examples: 

Walk through a mall wearing your T-shirt in and out.

Make a statement you know is wrong

Wait at a red light until someone honks.

8. Look for ways to get to know new people if your current friends are toxic

See if you can make new friends if your current ones are putting you down.

Having supportive friends can make a huge difference when it comes to confidence.

One way to find new friends is to get involved in groups and clubs related to things that you are interested in. Read more here on how to make new friends.

9. Read a workbook on shyness

A workbook is a book with exercises on how to think differently to overcome shyness.

Many of the tips in this guide has been taken from books here: The Best Social Anxiety and Shyness Books 2019.

Studies show that a workbook can sometimes be as effective as going to a therapist.[1, 2]

10. See a therapist

A therapist can be really good to overcome shyness. I’d recommend it over a workbook if you have the money to spare and you have trouble motivating yourself to work on your own.

References

  1. Hirai, M., & Clum, G. A. (2006). A meta-analytic study of self-help interventions for anxiety problems. Behavior Therapy, 37(2), 99-111.
  2. Gellatly, J., Bower, P., Hennessy, S., Richards, D., Gilbody, S., & Lovell, K. (2007). What makes self-help interventions effective in the management of depressive symptoms? Meta-analysis and meta-regression. Psychological medicine, 37(9), 1217-1228.
  3. Forman, E. M., Herbert, J. D., Moitra, E., Yeomans, P. D., & Geller, P. A. (2007). A randomized controlled effectiveness trial of acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive therapy for anxiety and depression. Behavior modification, 31(6), 772-799.
  4. Campbell-Sills, L., Barlow, D. H., Brown, T. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2006). Effects of suppression and acceptance on emotional responses of individuals with anxiety and mood disorders. Behaviour research and therapy, 44(9), 1251-1263.
  5. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 162. Oakland, CA
  6. Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., Dweck, C. S., Lovett, B. J., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2011). Misery has more company than people think: Underestimating the prevalence of others’ negative emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 120-135.
  7. Hofmann, S. G. (2008). Cognitive processes during fear acquisition and extinction in animals and humans: Implications for exposure therapy of anxiety disorders. Clinical psychology review, 28(2), 199-210.
  8. McNally, R. J. (2007). Mechanisms of exposure therapy: how neuroscience can improve psychological treatments for anxiety disorders. Clinical psychology review, 27(6), 750-759.
  9. Buzzell, G. A., Troller-Renfree, S. V., Barker, T. V., Bowman, L. C., Chronis-Tuscano, A., Henderson, H. A., … & Fox, N. A. (2017). A neurobehavioral mechanism linking behaviorally inhibited temperament and later adolescent social anxiety. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(12), 1097-1105.
  10. Nelson, T. (2007). “To err is human”: The effects of anxiety and contextual emotion on error-related negativity (Doctoral dissertation).
  11. Derryberry, D., & Reed, M. A. (2002). Anxiety-related attentional biases and their regulation by attentional control. Journal of abnormal psychology, 111(2), 225.
  12. Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133-1143.
  13. Savitsky, K., & Gilovich, T. (2003). The illusion of transparency and the alleviation of speech anxiety. Journal of experimental social psychology, 39(6), 618-625.
  14. Macinnis, Cara & P. Mackinnon, Sean & Macintyre, Peter. (2010). The illusion of transparency and normative beliefs about anxiety during public speaking. Current Research in Social Psychology.
  15. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 211.
  16. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 156. Oakland, CA

How to Stop Blushing

stop blushing

This guide is for you if you tend to blush in any of these social situations:

  • When you make a social mistake
  • When you hear a naughty joke
  • When you talk to a cute guy or girl
  • When you talk to new people
  • When you’re angry or provoked[9]
  • When you hold a presentation
  • When you speak in public

1. Take pride in your chameleon-like superpower

When you’re openly showing that you know you’re a blusher, nobody can use it to hurt you.

Personally, I’m bald, I started balding at age 16. And I’ve always been the first to joke about it. You’d be awestruck by how brightly my baldness shines 😛

And that’s why you need to take ownership of your blushing. You blush easily, so what?

It’s not a big deal unless you make it so. (+ When you’re no longer ashamed of it, you will actually blush less.)

2. Make a joke about your blushing to get over your embarrassment

Here are 3 funny jokes about blushing you can use:

  1. Now you’ve seen my superpower. My face can turn redder than a tomato in any situation.
  2. Hey, look! You can warm your hands on my cheeks if you’re cold.
  3. You know why they call me the chameleon? I can turn red as a beet in a second!

When you make a joke about it first, you take control of your blushing so that nobody can make fun of you. And also, you stop being embarrassed by it because you’re no longer trying to hide it or suppress it. When you’re no longer embarrassed, you’ll also notice that you won’t blush as much.

3. Play along if people make fun of your blushing or messing up

One of the quickest ways to get people to shut up about you blushing or messing up is to play along with it. If they make a joke – acknowledge it and share a laugh about it.

Example of how to play along:

+ Haha, you look like a tomato!

– Yeah, my superpower is turning red in less than 1 second!

And then you will probably both share a laugh at your funny joke and then you move on with the conversation.

4. Play along sarcastically to shut down someone who is mean

When you don’t feel like laughing at your own expense, you can use a sarcastic shutdown.

Example of a sarcastic shutdown:

+ Haha, you look like a boiled lobster!

– Yeah, I look exactly like a boiled lobster when I blush. *poker face* (DON’T laugh here)

Showing that you heard their joke, but showing with your face and tone that it’s not funny takes the fun out of the joke. The other person will often feel stupid and stop laughing.

Click here to read more about how to deal with someone who makes fun of you.

5. Focus on the situation instead of your blushing when you blush

Normally, when you blush, you start to focus on how embarrassing the blushing is and that you want it to go away. This leads to a negative spiral:

You blush -> you get anxiety about the blushing -> you blush even more.

But when you instead focus on what you are doing at that moment, you break this spiral:

You blush -> you focus on the situation -> everything goes back to normal

Here’s a guide on how to practice focusing on the situation.

6. Use a breathing exercise to relax and reduce blushing

A simple exercise you can do in most situations:

  1. Breathe in deeply through your nose.
  2. Feel your belly fill up with air.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth. Purse your lips slightly when the air blows out.
  4. Repeat 3 times.

Breathing exercises can help you stop focusing on your blushing. And when you’re not focused on your blushing, it will naturally go away.

Go here to learn more breathing exercises: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uz2255

7. Seek out situations where you blush to stop caring about it

To stop caring about blushing, you need to “teach” your brain that it’s not a big deal. This is called habituation and it’s a well-researched method of removing fears, including blushing.

You can do this where you can find a safe place where you know you will blush, but it’s not too big of a deal if you do it.

Maybe introducing yourself at a networking mingle or some other type of social event where you meet new people you don’t care about. That way you can practice exposing yourself to blushing where you meet lots of people you don’t really care about.

8. Say to yourself what you would say to a friend who blushes

What would you tell a good friend who told you about that they easily blush?

Maybe something along the lines of this:

“I’m sorry you suffer so much from your blushing. But blushing is a human and normal reaction and I think it makes you more likable. I don’t think you need to hide your blushing because it’s a part of what makes you special.”

Speaking more like this to yourself is called self-compassion. It helps against blushing because it lessens self-critical thoughts, and self-critical thoughts often cause blushing because they make us hyper-aware of our social mistakes.[1]

9. Blushing is not as noticeable as you think

We tend to overestimate how visible our blushing is.[2, 4] In reality, blushing is not that noticeable, especially not for someone who doesn’t know you.

I’ve had clients excuse themselves because of their blushing when I’ve never even seen them blush. Blushing feels more noticeable than it is.

10. Others think blushing is either cute or they don’t care

The only person who thinks your blushing is a problem is usually yourself.

Blushing makes you seem more human and relatable and less intimidating. Most people think it’s cute and endearing and the rest don’t really care either way.

11. Medications can help get rid of chronic blushing and social anxiety

If nothing else helps, consult with a doctor about appropriate medications. There are some medications and other medical interventions that are effective against blushing:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353567

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/blushing-and-flushing

12. Coffee and alcohol can cause blushing

Alcohol[10, 12] and hot (not cold) coffee[11] are both common triggers for blushing. Avoiding them can help if you want to prevent facial blushing.

13. Blushing can help you make friends faster

Blushing can help you make friends faster because it makes you seem genuine and kind. It makes people forgive your mistakes and mess-ups easier when they see that you’re regretful thanks to your blushing.[13, 6, 5]

Blushing gives you many social advantages compared to not blushing.

14. Top 4 worst tips to avoid blushing

  1. Use makeup to hide your blushing
  2. Step out of the room/avoid the situation
  3. Distract people to look at something else
  4. Close your eyes for a minute

The reason tip 1-3 are so bad is that they are what’s called avoidant behaviors. Avoidant behaviors actually reinforce our fears because each time we avoid something we maintain or increase our fear of it.[3, 7]

Tip number 4 is bad because it’s impossible to use in a social setting without seeming super weird. You can’t just close your eyes and forget about your red cheeks in the middle of an embarrassing situation.

15. Need more help or advice?

Comment below and describe your situation and what your blushing-related problem is. I will 100% respond to the first 10 people commenting and give my best advice. Describe your problem as detailed as possible.

References:

  1. Buzzell, G. A., Troller-Renfree, S. V., Barker, T. V., Bowman, L. C., Chronis-Tuscano, A., Henderson, H. A., … & Fox, N. A. (2017). A neurobehavioral mechanism linking behaviorally inhibited temperament and later adolescent social anxiety. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(12), 1097-1105.
  2. Dijk, C., & de Jong, P. J. (2012, February). Blushing-fearful individuals overestimate the costs and probability of their blushing [Abstract]. Behaviour research and therapy, 50(2), 158–162. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796711002646
  3. Antony, MM, Stein, MB. Oxford handbook of anxiety and related disorders. New York: Oxford University Press; 2008.
  4. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 211.
  5. Crozier, W. R. (2007). In praise of blushing. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 6(1), 68-71.
  6. Keltner, D., Capps, L., Kring, A. M., Young, R. C., & Heerey, E. A. (2001). Just teasing: a conceptual analysis and empirical review. Psychological bulletin, 127(2), 229.
  7. Piccirillo, M. L., Dryman, M. T., & Heimberg, R. G. (2016). Safety behaviors in adults with social anxiety: Review and future directions. Behavior therapy, 47(5), 675-687.
  8. Dijk, C., Voncken, M. J., & de Jong, P. J. (2009). I blush, therefore I will be judged negatively: influence of false blush feedback on anticipated others’ judgments and facial coloration in high and low blushing-fearfuls. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47(7), 541-547.
  9. Drummond, P. D. (1999). Facial flushing during provocation in women. Psychophysiology, 36(3), 325-332.
  10. Mizoi, Y., Ijiri, I., Tatsuno, Y., Kijima, T., Fujiwara, S., Adachi, J., & Hishida, S. (1979). Relationship between facial flushing and blood acetaldehyde levels after alcohol intake. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 10(2), 303-311.
  11. Wilkin, J. K. (1981). Oral thermal-induced flushing in erythematotelangiectatic rosacea. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 76(1), 15-18.
  12. Suwaki, H., & Ohara, H. (1985). Alcohol-induced facial flushing and drinking behavior in Japanese men. Journal of studies on alcohol, 46(3), 196-198.
  13. Dijk, C., De Jong, P. J., & Peters, M. L. (2009). The remedial value of blushing in the context of transgressions and mishaps. Emotion, 9(2), 287.

10 Best Social Anxiety and Shyness Books 2019

Best Books for Social Anxiety

These are the best books on social anxiety and shyness, reviewed and ranked 2019.

This is my book guide specifically for and shyness social anxiety. Also, see my book guides on social skills, self-esteemmaking conversation, making friendsself-confidence, and body language.


Top pick overall

1. Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven, Step-by-Step Techniques for Overcoming your Fear

Author: Martin M. Antony PhD

This is my favorite book for shyness and social anxiety. Unlike many other books on the topic I’ve read, it isn’t trivializing. It’s shows understanding of wherever your current starting point is. It won’t force you to do things that make you feel too uncomfortable.

The book is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) which is well-supported by science.

I like books that are to the point, but I can imagine that some think this one’s too dry: There are no anecdotes from the author’s own life and no storyline, only exercises and explanations for why the exercises work.

The book is not written from the perspective of a “former shy person” like many other books on this list, but by a clinical physician who knows a lot about the topic. (In other words, it’s more like talking to a therapist than talking to a friend).

It comes down to what flavor you prefer.

Do buy this book if…

  1. You are prepared to put in work and do exercises, as this is a workbook and not a storybook. (Exercises are well adjusted to your level, though, no crazy “out-of-your-comfort-zone” stunts).
  2. You like to-the-point, actionable advice that is based on science.

Do NOT buy this book if…

  1. You want something with more focus on low self-esteem. If so, read How to Be Yourself.
  2. You don’t like the workbook-format but want something you can glance through. (If so, I recommend Good-Bye to Shy. It has less effective advice in my opinion but is an easier read.)

4.4 stars on Amazon


Top pick for low self-esteem

2. How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety

This is a GREAT book written by a clinical psychologist who’s had social anxiety herself.

It’s a shame that the cover makes it look like it’s a book for party-girls (Might have been the publisher’s idea). In reality, this is an extremely helpful book and as valuable for men as for women.

Compared to Social Anxiety and Shyness workbook, this one is less clinical and more about how to deal with a negative self-image and overcoming low self-esteem.

Do buy this book if…

  1. You have a negative self-image or low self-esteem.

Do NOT buy this book if…

  1. You primarily want exercises for overcoming shyness or anxiety in social settings and not so much focus on low self-esteem. If so, get Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook.

4.6 stars on Amazon.


3. Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques

Author: Gillian Butler

This book is very similar to Social Anxiety Workbook. Both are workbooks (Meaning, a lot of exercises and examples) and both use CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) which is shown to be effective against social anxiety.

It’s a great book by all means, but not quite as sharp as the SA Workbook. You won’t be dissatisfied, but you might as well get the SA workbook.

4.2 stars on Amazon


Honorary mentions

Books that I wouldn’t recommend as a first read, but that are still worth looking into.


4. Good-Bye to Shy: 85 ShyBusters That Work!

Author: Leil Lowndes

Like The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook, this book advocates gradual exposure to things that make you uncomfortable. This is, in my opinion, the best way to be less shy.

However, I think the actual advice is sometimes off-beat. The exercises are not at all as well-made as in the SA Workbook.

The only benefit of this book is that the author has personal experience on the topic. My feeling is that she never was SUPER shy, though.

Do buy this book if…

  1. You prefer list-formats.

Do NOT buy this book if…

  1. You are OK with a more clinical, professional approach. (If so, get the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook)
  2. You don’t like list formats (It’s basically a list of 85 ways to be less shy)

3.9 stars on Amazon


5. Thriving with Social Anxiety: Daily Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety and Building Self-Confidence

Written by someone who’s had social anxiety and describing her way out of it. Not at all as actionable as the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook or How to Be Yourself. But I still mention it here, as it has a more personal flavor than those books.

4.4 stars on Amazon


A little too common sense and out of date

6. Talking with Confidence for the Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Nervousness, Speak-Up, and Speak Out in Any Social or Business Situation.

Author: Don Gabor

Not my favorite book, but I mention it here because it’s widely known.

It was written in 1997 and many examples feel dated. The psychological principles are still relevant, but much of the advice feels common-sense. A lot of business focus.

Do buy this book if…

  1. You want something that covers the absolute basics, you have moderate shyness and you are primarily interested in business-applications
  2. You don’t like workbooks

Do NOT buy this book if…

  1. You have crippling social anxiety. It does say that it’s for the painfully shy, but it’s still trivializing severe shyness or social anxiety.
  2. It’s important to you that examples feel relevant today.

3.8 stars Amazon


Focus on making conversation

7. How to Communicate with Confidence

Author: Mike Bechtle

Opposed to the other books, this is written from the perspective of how to make conversation with social anxiety. However, it doesn’t really hold the same quality as the other books and it isn’t as scientifically focused.

NOTE: See my guide with books on how to make conversation.

Do buy this book if…

  1. You want to improve your social skills but are being held back moderate levels of nervosity or introversion.

Do NOT buy this book if…

  1. You have more severe shyness or social anxiety. If so, I’d recommend the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook.

3.82 on Goodreads. Amazon.


8. Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life

Authors: Barbara Markway and Gregory Markway

It’s not a bad book. It covers self-consciousness and worrying about what others think. But it could be more actionable. There are much better books on the topic – I’d recommend the books earlier up in this guide, instead.

3.6 stars on Amazon


Only if you’re a guy and have moderate social anxiety

9. The Solution To Social Anxiety: Break Free From The Shyness That Holds You Back

Author: Aziz Gazipura

I thought I’d mention this book as I see it recommended so often.

This book doesn’t hold the same quality as the books by the beginning of this guide. It’s written from a guy’s perspective and is mainly focused on how to talk to women – not overcoming a negative self-image or dealing with the underlying causes of social anxiety.

Do buy this book if…

  1. You’re a guy, have mild social anxiety and talking to women is your primary struggle

Do NOT buy this book if…

  1. You’re not a heterosexual man.
  2. You have moderate to severe social anxiety.
  3. You want something more comprehensive. (Instead, go with SA Workbook or How to Be Yourself)

4.4 stars on Amazon


Too trivializing

10. Shyness: A Bold New Approach: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Your Fears and Gaining Control of Your Life.

Author: Bernardo J. Carducci

I wasn’t too impressed by this book. It doesn’t show the same understanding for the struggles of the reader as other books do. Get any other book by the beginning of this guide.

3.53 stars on GoodReads. Amazon

Quiet voice? – 16 ways to make yourself heard when socializing

Quiet voice

Have you ever been in a social situation where you felt like no one could hear what you had to say?

Or maybe you felt like they weren’t listening to you over all the loud stimulants surrounding your conversation.

I have a quiet voice and it gets strained in loud environments, so there have been many times in my past where I’ve felt like the group can’t hear what I have to say.

I would have something witty, or interesting to contribute, but my voice wouldn’t carry enough volume to be heard. Other times it felt as though there was never a break in the conversation for me to interject my thoughts.

Sometimes people would even talk over what I was saying when I would speak. Or they would ask me to repeat myself 2-3 times before finally acknowledging what I had said.

Needless to say, this was disheartening and made socializing feel like a pain.

After feeling left out, I began to research how to make myself heard, and am happy to say I found some great tips that I have tried out in real life, and they have improved my social interactions immensely!

1. If your voice is quiet because you feel nervous, do this first

Ever noticed how, when you feel anxious around strangers, your voice gets softer? (And it only gets worse when someone says “Speak up!”)

This is our subconscious trying to help out:

Our brain picks up on nervosity -> Assumes we might be in danger -> Makes us take up less space to minimize risk of danger

The only way to fight our SUBCONSCIOUS is to bring it up to a CONSCIOUS level. So what helped me was to tell myself: “I’m nervous, so my voice will be softer. I’m going to CONSCIOUSLY speak with a louder voice even though my body is telling me not to.”

Nervosity is a big topic. I recommend you to read my guide How to Not Get Nervous Talking to People.

2. Learn from actors – PROJECT your voice

If your tone of voice doesn’t carry, try what actors do – PROJECT. To project your voice you need to speak from your diaphragm. To really understand where you should be speaking from, let’s visually picture where, and what your diaphragm is.

Diaphragm - quiet voiceThe diaphragm is a thin muscle that sits at the bottom of your chest. It contracts and flattens when you inhale. You can think of it as a vacuum, sucking air into your lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes as the air is pushed out of your lungs.

Now close your eyes and imagine exactly where your diaphragm is. Place your hand below your chest, and above your abdomen. Yep. RIGHT there. That is exactly where you should be speaking from to have a louder voice.

3. How to speak with a loud voice without turning into a loud, annoying person

I wondered how I could project my soft voice without turning into one of those loudmouths I’ve always been annoyed by.

The secret is to not over-do.

Just because I tell you to project your voice doesn’t mean that I want you to speak your loudest all the time.

Our goal here is to be loud enough to be heard, but not louder.

When you practice speaking from your abdomen, try doing it at different volume, so you can match what’s suitable to the situation.

4. Practice deep-breathing to make your soft voice stronger

There are many ways to practice speaking louder. Often times, actors will partake in breathing exercises as this strengthens their diaphragm, and allows their voice to project loudly and really fill the theater up.

In fact, I have an exercise that I use to make my diaphragm stronger. This is an exercise you can do right now:

Take a deep breath. Imagine filling your entire stomach. Don’t stop breathing in until you feel completely full- Now, hold your breath inside. Count to 4 or 5, whichever is more comfortable for you. Now you can slowly release. As you breathe out, imagine the air is coming directly from your belly button. This will put you in the habit of practicing talking from an “expansive area” as voice coaches call it.

5. Use your quiet voice in new ways to build up its strength

When you have some alone time, play around with your voice. You may feel a little silly, but these types of exercises are exactly how actors, public speakers, and speech therapists practice making their voice louder, and stronger.

The next time you have some alone time, sing the ABC’s. As you sing, try to increase in volume. As you get louder, practice going up and down octaves. Don’t be afraid to be silly, you are alone after all!

Disclaimer: This isn’t easy. People spend their entire careers on vocal development. Think of your voice as an instrument. You have to practice to see improvements.

6. Explore your voice

If you have time, and really want to focus on exploring your own voice, watch this Ted Talk! It’s less than 20 minutes long and incredibly helpful for those of us who want to improve our voices.

In this Ted Talk you will learn:

  • How to make your voice sound FULL
  • What makes someone vocally aware
  • Positive vocal habits to engage in

7. How to speak up in real life

Now that we’ve gone over ways to train your voice in speaking louder, it’s time to focus on actually speaking up during your conversation.

You want to practice the exercises I’ve talked about so far. But you also want to think about your volume during your conversations so you can immediately feel better about your social interactions!

While you are having a conversation, try the following for automatic results.

  • Hold an upright posture (This opens up the airways)
  • Open your throat, imagine speaking from your belly
  • Avoid shallow breaths (Breath down through your belly instead)
  • Pronounce words with emphasis

Use these tips for immediate changes along with repeating breathing exercises, and playing around with your voice will result in long term change in the way you speak!

8. Lower your pitch slightly

If you’re like me, you’ll automatically get more high-pitched when you try to speak louder.

You can counteract that by bringing down your pitch consciously. Too much, and it will sound odd, but try recording yourself and hear what different pitches sound like. As you know, the voice always sounds darker to you than it really is.

On top of that, a lower pitched voice has another benefit: People tend to pay more attention to someone with a slightly lower pitched voice.

9. Make sure to not speak too fast

Because my voice was too quiet for group conversations, I developed a bad habit of speaking too fast. It was as if I tried to say whatever I wanted to say before someone would come in and interrupt me.

Ironically, we tend to listen LESS to people who speak too fast.

Instead, take your time. It’s not about speaking as slow as you can. That will just come off as sleepy and low energy. But dare to add pauses and changing your pacing.

I learned a lot from paying attention to how socially savvy friends talked. Analyze people who are good at telling stories, and notice how they don’t stress to get out what they are trying to say!

10. Use a subconscious signal that you’re about to talk to make people listen.

How do you enter an ongoing group conversation if you have a quiet voice?

You know that you’re not supposed to interrupt, so you wait for whoever talks to finnish, and then, just as you’re about to say your thing, someone else starts talking.

The game changer for me was using a subconscious signal. Just before I’m about to start talking, I raise my hand so that people react to the movement. At the same time, I breathe (The type of breathe in we do just before we’re about to start talking) loud enough for people to notice.

This is magic for someone with a naturally quiet voice: Everyone knows that you’re about to say something, and the risk is lower that someone will speak over you.

David gestures to enter a group conversation

These are some frames from an actual dinner I hosted a while back. See how everyone looks at the guy in red t-shirt on frame 1 who’s just done talking. In frame 2, I raised my hand and breathed in, which turned everyone’s heads toward me. In frame 3, you see how I have everyone’s attention as I start talking.

Here’s my full guide on how to join a group conversation.

11. To be heard, make eye contact with the RIGHT person

I was puzzled that sometimes when I talked, people talked right over me. It was like they didn’t even hear me. After a while, I realized my mistake: I looked away while taking, instead of looking the listeners in their eyes.

Here’s a trick to make sure that people listen to you: Make eye contact with the person you feel has the most influence over the group. That way, you’re subconsciously signaling that you are part of the conversation (even if you don’t say anything and even if you have a quiet voice!)

By making eye contact with the most influential person, you are making yourself present in the group.

Whenever you’re talking, keep eye contact with the influential person and other listeners. Keeping eye contact like this “locks” people into your conversation and it’s harder to blatantly speak over you.

12. Acknowledging an ongoing conversation rather than trying to steer makes it easier to be heard

One of the best ways to insert yourself into the conversation is to go along with what is already being said. I make sure to comment on something that has already been a topic of interest. This takes the pressure off to say something extremely meaningful or interesting.

And also, the group is more likely to listen to you, even if you have a quiet voice.

You can simply comment, or agree with what’s already happening. We all need to feel validated, so it’s likely you will be received very well if you positively reinforce what is already being said. Once you use the power of positive reinforcement you become part of the conversation. At this point, where you already have their attention, you can speak your mind in a more opinionated way.

So here’s how I enter a group conversation to make sure that people listen:

“Liza, you mentioned before that whales are not risking extinction any more, that’s so good to hear! Do you know if that’s the case for the blue whale, too?”

Entering a conversation in this agreeing, acknowledging, probing way helps you make yourself heard, even if your voice is quiet.

13. Visualize yourself as a person who acts in a way that’s being heard

The most intimidating conversations happen when we view ourselves as an outsider to the social group we are with. It may be partly true, perhaps we are at a social gathering and only know 1-2 people. But it is a HUGE mistake to view yourself as an outsider to the conversation. Rather, think of yourself as NEW.

It took me a long time to realize EVERYONE experiences a nervousness of sorts when interacting with new people. Those that come across confidently have “faked it” until they made it.

A key component in faking it is to view yourself as part of the conversation.

If you have the mindset that you don’t belong, you will externally communicate that through your body language, so even when you DO work up the nerve to say something, people aren’t going to pay attention because it seems like you don’t want to be part of the conversation.

Instead of writing yourself off, replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you commonly think to yourself, “Why am I here, no one cares who I am or what I have to say.” Thinks this instead, “I don’t know many people here, yet, but I will after the night is done.”

Put a positive twist on your expectations for the evening, and you’ll be surprised how this affects your conversations.

On your way to your next social interaction, visualize yourself as vividly as you can as a socially savvy, popular person who can make yourself heard.

14. Move to the middle of the group

Because I have a naturally quiet voice, it used to feel the safest to be in the outskirt of the group, but that’s the last place you want to be!

Even if you are speaking, it’s going to be hard for others to hear you, and this is where you will get into everyone asking you to repeat what you just said, or worse ignoring what you said because you’re just too far away.

Move your body literally towards the center of the conversation. This is such an easy way to automatically be part of the conversation. People will notice the movement, so act naturally, and genuinely interested in what is happening. Once they make eye contact with you it’s time to insert your thoughts into the conversation.

Here’s my trick to reposition without coming off as odd: Wait to reposition until you are talking. That’ll make your move look natural.

15. Talk with your body

If your voice is naturally quiet, be bold with your body. Use your arms, hands, fingers, to make gestures to emphasize the words you are saying. Confidence is exerted through body movements, so move!

Think of your body like an exclamation point. It can bring excitement to the words you speak, and spark interest in those around you. By using gestures to emphasize what you say, you draw attention to yourself, and people will want to listen up and hear exactly what you have to say.

It’s important not to go overboard with this tip. It’s an easy one to overdo, so be cautious of your surroundings as you move boldly.

16. Don’t overcorrect

After reading and digesting these tips, make sure you don’t take any of them too far. Nothing is more annoying in a group conversation than that one person who insists on making some loud comment about every single thing that is said. Typically those comments have little substance and detract from the conversation flow.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

30 best jobs for people with social anxiety in 2019

Jobs for people with social anxiety

Welcome to the Internet’s most comprehensive list of good jobs for people with social anxiety.

We’ve divided the jobs into the following categories:

  1. Jobs you can learn on your own
  2. Jobs that don’t require experience or education
  3. Jobs that require formal education

Jobs you can learn on your own


Media and design

Graphic designer

As a graphic designer, you can work from home and would only need to contact your clients via email, skype or IM. Even if you work from an office, the majority of the time will be spent working on your own, with the exception of breaks and briefings. Because of this, it’s a popular job for people with social anxiety or introversion.

Average pay: $48 250 / $23 per hour. (Source)

Competition: The field competitive, because there’s no formal education needed and a lot of people offer their services. The secret to finding work is to a) make great content and b) focus on a niche.

My recommendation: First, try your wings by offering your work on sites like Fiverr or Upwork. That way, you can see if you can sell your services before quitting your day job.

  • This article helps you decide whether to study graphics design yourself or get a formal education.
  • Here’s an overview of free sites where you can learn graphic design.
  • See where to get a formal education here.

Web designer

A web designer designs websites for clients. Often, they work together with a web developer who does the actual coding.

In some cases, the same person does both the design and the coding, but that’s rarer. In either case, you want to have a basic understanding of how the underlying code works.

Websites need to work both on desktop and on mobile devices, which means that web design is less straightforward than graphic design.

Average pay: $67,990 / $32 per hour. (Source)

Competition: Anyone can learn web design at home, so finding jobs regularly might be tough. However, while there are many web designers, there are fewer GREAT web designers. If you can provide better design than your competition, you’ll be able to carve out a niche.

My recommendation: Check out this great article from Hubspot on the principles of website design. As a designer, you want to read up on how to make a site convert, meaning how to turn visitors of the site into subscribers and customers.

This article helps you decide whether to study web design yourself or get a formal education and has an overview of more free sites where you can learn it at home.

Video editor

Video editing is something you can learn on your own, and there are plenty of freelancing opportunities. You can start editing Youtube videos after just a few hours of training, but editing for film and bigger projects takes a name and years of experience.

  • Here’s an overview of a few sites where you can learn video editing
  • See where to get a formal education here

Average pay: $60,401 / $29 per hour.

Competition: The level of competition varies drastically with video editors. Big budget productions are the most difficult jobs to get, as those are what most people strive for.

My recommendation: Download a free video editing program. Search on Youtube for starter guides to the program you choose, and you can start editing test footage. When you feel ready, you can start a profile on Fiverr, where you can offer your service.

Then, when you feel that you master the trade, you can apply for jobs and use the Fiverr works as your portfolio.

Creative

Musician / Artist

Though being an artist can mean many creative expressions, we’re mainly focusing on music here.

The type of music artist that suits best as a job for someone with social anxiety is producing music at home (Rather than standing on a stage). Few become famous musicians, but a lot of people can make their living producing jingles or music for ads or movies.

  • Here’s an overview of a few sites that can help you get started playing an instrument
  • See where to get a formal education here

Average pay: $41,217 / $19 per hour.

Competition: Becoming a leader of a famous live band doesn’t happen to many people. On the other hand, being a session player or a freelancer of some sort, you would be able to secure a fair amount of jobs. It’s common for artists to have a second job to secure their income.

My recommendation: Create a gig here to see if there’s a demand for your services as an artist. If you want to create your own music, do it as a side project before you know that it can pay the bills.

Writer

Being a writer, you could be doing anything from writing your own books to ad copywriting.

Writing is a solitary job which makes it popular for people with social anxiety.

  • Here’s a list of a few sites that you can use to strengthen your english language and writing skills
  • See where to get a formal education here

Average pay: $55,420 / $27 per hour.

Competition: While writing your own books often means very uncertain income, freelance writing can provide you with ongoing work with payment upfront.

My recommendation: Because the income is so uncertain, don’t quit your day job before you make money as a writer.

If you want stable writing income, offer your writing services to companies rather than writing your own books (You can still write your own book as a side project).

Upwork is a great place to offer writing services. You can use the reviews you get from there as references if you apply for a full-time writing job in the future.

Freelancer

Here, I include everything from writing, design, accounting, marketing, and administrative support. Those tasks all require different skills, but I put them in one category because you can use freelancing sites to look for jobs. You control your own hours and can work from anywhere.

Here’s an overview of different freelancing jobs.

Jobs that don’t require experience or education


Dog-walker

With apps like Wag and Rover, you can get started with dog walking without any prerequisites (Except for a basic quality check by them). I actually applied for Wag (Because I like dogs so much) and you need to visit them for a initial training. Except for that, everything is controlled through the app. You get access to a key box and will almost never meet the dog owners.

Average pay: $13 per hour.

Fruit picker

Picking fruits or other plants can be done part time or full time. While you’d be working around others, the actual job is quite independent and doesn’t require more interaction than during the daily breaks.

Average pay: $13 per hour.

Go here for current jobs as a fruit picker

Tree planter

Planting trees requires no experience, and you get to spend a lot of time in nature. A few decades ago, this used to be a physically demanding job. Today, you are helped by tools.

People I know who have worked as tree planters say that it’s very rewarding to see direct results from your work.

Average pay: $20 per hour.

Here are current jobs as a tree planter

Delivery driver

Unlike traditional truck driving, local city deliveries for, say, Amazon, don’t require formal education. You only need a car and a driver’s license.

Average pay: $18 per hour.

Cleaner

You can work part time or full time, depending on where you’d be employed.

Here’s a Reddit thread with advice for someone starting a cleaning job.

Average pay: $12 per hour.

Janitor

Janitors are basically cleaners, but with a few more responsibilities and generally a higher pay. Some of those additional responsibilities include maintenance of the facility. You are more likely to be employed full time as a janitor than as a cleaner.

Average pay: $14 per hour.

Housekeeping

Working as a housekeeper, your duties would mainly include cooking and cleaning. The amount of human interaction could vary, depending on your schedule of working and your client’s personality. However, most people choose to schedule housekeeping for when they’re at work which means minimal interaction.

Average pay: $13 per hour.

Jobs, suitable for someone with social anxiety, that require formal education


The jobs below require a formal education, which means that you need to study for it. However, you don’t always need to go to the university, as some edu

Firefighter

While firefighting is a social job, you meet the same people daily instead of having to meet new people all the time. 70% of firefighter calls are for medical emergencies and accidents rather than fires. Therefore, the job can be traumatizing for some.

Average pay: $43,488 / $21 per hour.

Competition: Because each fire station only have a set number of firefighters, new jobs are created only when a firefighter retires. Here are more details on job competition as a firefighter.

Counselor

Counseling does mean meeting new people, but despite that, it’s a popular job for people with social anxiety: It’s rewarding to help others who might have similar struggles.

Average pay: $41,500 / $20 per hour.

Competition: While the field is relatively competitive, the demand for counselors is expected to grow in the following years. Therefore, it’s likely that you’ll get a job as a counselor.

(Source)

Animal-related jobs

Veterinary

Being a veterinary still means meeting people, so it might not be for those with severe social anxiety. But if your social anxiety is moderate, it can be the perfect job.

Average pay: $91,250 / $44 per hour.

Competition: The admission percentages are around 10% for veterinary schools.

My recommendation: A friend of mine works as a veterinary. She says that sadly, most of her job is to euthanize animals. If you want to be a veterinary, you have to prepared to put a lot of animals down for each animal you can save.

Zookeeper

You’re not required to have a degree in biology as a zookeeper, but if you do, it’ll help you get a job. At a zoo, you’ll have people around you all the time, but you seldom need to interact with others than your work colleagues.

Average pay: $28,000 / $14 per hour.

Competition: The field can be fairly competitive if you’re fresh out of school, so it might be a good idea to intern and volunteer in a few places before applying for a job. However, zookeeper jobs are expected to grow the coming years.

(Source)

Nature-related jobs

Gardener / Landscaper

A gardener works specifically in a garden while a landscaper also takes care of an entire landscape, like a park or a private estate. Working as a landscaper or gardener often means minimal contact with others, with a clear set of rules for what to do.

An education is not required, but it will help you find a job if you have a degree in horticulture or botany. However, if you can show experience, that can work instead of a formal education.

Average pay: $25,500 / $13 per hour.

Competition: Jobs for gardeners grow slowly, and to be sure to get a job, you want both experience and an education.

(Source)

Geologist

As a geologist, you often work in a team, but you don’t need to meet new people on a regular basis. Most geology job are in mining. Be prepared to study: You’ll be expected to have a Bachelor’s or Master’s in geoscience and have experience from the lab and field. Most commonly, you’ll get the experience through an internship.

Average pay: $92,000 / $44 per hour.

Competition: Good news for geologists! Their job market is growing, and there’s more jobs than there are geologists.

(Source)

Wildlife biologist

The job of a wildlife biologist can look many different ways. Some work in teams, others by themselves. However, you’re likely to be working in small teams and with the same people over a long time.

Average pay: $60,520 / $29 per hour.

Competition: There is a lot of competition, so landing a job in wildlife biology takes time and dedication.

Botanist

As botany is a rather large field, you may end up working in a laboratory environment, outdoors, or even at home. Either way, you’re more likely to work in a smaller group, rather than meet new people all the time.

Average pay: $66,560 / $32 per hour.

Competition: The demand for botanists is expected to increase, and keep increasing in the future.

Park ranger

You would get to spend a lot of time in nature. You’re likely to encounter more animals than humans in this line of work.

Average pay: $39,520 / $19 per hour.

Competition: National parks applicants face stronger competition than other places, but the demand for park rangers is generally expected to grow.

Archaeologist

While archaeologists work in groups, the work itself doesn’t require constant communication with others.

Average pay: $58,000 / $28 per hour.

Competition: There is a lot of competition in the field, which makes it a good choice only for people who are passionate about it, or those who have connections that could get them in easier.

Business and Administration

Accountant

Being an accountant, you would mainly work alone, but have to come in contact with a limited number of people on a regular basis.

Average pay: $77,920 / $37 per hour.

Competition: While the field is fairly competitive, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a job if you’re good at what you do.

Computers / IT

Software engineer

Coding lets you start off working alone, but gives you an option to gradually branch out into working in a team, once you’re ready for it.

Average pay: $106,710 / $51 per hour.

Competition: Depending on what kind of jobs you would go after, the competition can range from being moderate to very strong. In addition to that, the required skill set is changing constantly, so you have to keep up with the latest developments to stay relevant and employable.

Network engineer

You’d be required to communicate with your employers for the sake of briefing, troubleshooting and any such things, but the actual work would mostly be done by you alone.

Average pay: $85,000 / $40 per hour.

Competition: As with software engineering, the competition can vary, depending on what scale of operation you’d like to be employed by. WIth that said, network specialists are in demand, which is expected to grow further.

Web developer

Doing web-related work, you could be employed by a company, freelance, or even work on your own projects that bring in profit. Whether you work in a team or alone would be up to you.

Average pay: $63,000 / $30 per hour.

Competition: There are a lot of people getting into web development, but if you are fairly able, you should have no trouble getting employed.

Driving jobs

Truck driver

Truck drivers can keep mostly to themselves. The most used form of communication for them is not face to face, but rather through a CB radio.

Average pay: $44,500 / $21 per hour.

Competition: Truck drivers are always in demand, and the competition in the field is pretty much average.

Train driver

The particulars would depend on whether you’d be driving short or long distances. But generally, being a train driver, you’d get to have plenty of alone time on the job. Their contact with other people is rather minimal, and there’s usually options for night shifts.

Average pay: $55,660 / $27 per hour.

Competition: Sometimes there are hundreds of applications per job listing, and with the position requiring no formal education, it can be tough to secure a job.

School bus driver

While you’ll have people around, you won’t need to interact with them very much at all, if you don’t want to. You would most likely be working pretty short days, so it would be a good idea to have another source of income.

Average pay: $29,220 / $14 per hour.

Competition: The demand for school bus drivers is high, and is expected to increase with time.

Industry jobs

Electrician

In most cases, you would have to come in contact with your clients, but other than that, the work itself would be mostly solitary.

Average pay: $52,910 / $25 per hour.

Competition: While electricians are in demand, it can take quite a bit of time to start earning a stable salary in the field.

Carpenter

Depending on the particular project, you could be working completely alone, or in a group.

Average pay: $36,700 / $18 per hour.

Competition: The field is fairly competitive, and you’re likely to be expected to gain some experience before applying for a full-time job.

Plumber

If you chose to do mainly housecalls, your human interactions would be rather limited. If you chose to do city-scale plumbing, you’d be working in a team.

Average pay: $50,000 / $24 per hour.

Competition: There is a high demand for plumbers, which is only expected to grow in the future.

Other guides that can help you with social anxiety:

  1. The best books on social anxiety
  2. How to not be nervous
  3. How to stop being uncomfortable around people
  4. How to stop overthinking

Do you have a job to recommend that suits people with social anxiety? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add it to the guide!

Can you have too little social anxiety?

How social anxiety can help

Hi, what’s up?

I know a guy with ZERO social anxiety.

I think it’s because he lives a yogi lifestyle where he meditates several hours per day. (Meditation lowers anxiety.)

Without anxiety, he must have an amazing social life, right?

Wrong. He’s a living proof that social anxiety has a purpose.

The purpose of social anxiety is this, according to science:

The function of social anxiety is to increase arousal and attention to social interactions, inhibit unwanted social behavior, and motivate preparation for future social situations. (ref.)

In other words, we don’t want to eradicate our social anxiety, because it has 3 important functions when we have it in the right amount:

  1. It helps us stay attentive and interested socially
  2. It helps us avoid negative social behavior
  3. It motivates us to prepare so we can perform better socially (like learning about conversation skills)

Almost everyone experiences social anxiety, and it’s as normal as being tired or hungry. And just like tiredness or hunger, we run into trouble if we can’t feel it.

So, how does this zero anxiety guy run into trouble?

For example, his friend once told him “You reek of sweat. You should take a shower”. He replied, with his calm yogi smile: “That’s OK”. He’s a wonderful person, but a small dose of social anxiety would help him socially.

If we don’t experience any social anxiety, we just don’t care about what others think.

Too much social anxiety causes us to obsess about what others think. But a normal level of social anxiety makes us pay attention to what others think. That helps us succeed socially.

Lesson learned: Usually when I felt anxious, I thought there was something wrong with me. But anxiety is something everyone feels to a certain degree. Realizing that helped me feel more “normal”. If we learn to manage our anxiety, we can even turn it to our advantage.

What’s your experience with social anxiety? Has it ever helped you? Share your thoughts and join the discussion in the comments below.

Ref:
Franklin R Schneier, Carlos Blanco, Smita X Antia, Michael R Liebowitz, The social anxiety spectrum, Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Volume 25, Issue 4, 2002, Pages 757-774

25 Ways to Not be Socially Awkward

This guide is for you who feel awkward in new situations to the point where it makes it hard for you to connect with people.

The guide covers:

  1. Signs that you might be socially awkward
  2. How to not come off as socially awkward
  3. How to not FEEL socially awkward

Let’s get to it!

Signs that you might be socially awkward

These are some common signs that you might be socially awkward.

  1. You feel uncertain of how to react in social settings(1)
  2. You don’t know what’s expected of you or how to act in social settings(1)
  3. People who you’ve met before don’t seem interested in talking with you again or seem to want to get away from the conversation (Not to be confused with if someone is truly busy)
  4. You always feel nervous around new people and this nervosity hinders you from relaxing
  5. Your conversations often hit a wall and then there’s an awkward silence
  6. It’s hard for you to make new friends
  7. When you enter a social setting, you worry a lot about others think of you

We tend to overestimate how much others pay attention to us.(2, 3) Odds are that even if you feel socially awkward, you think you’re more awkward than anyone else thinks.

Let’s look at some ways to avoid coming off as socially awkward.

Chapter 1. How to not come off as socially awkward

This chapter is on how not to ACT in a socially awkward way. The next chapter is on how not to FEEL socially awkward.

1. Be better at picking up on social cues to stop being awkward

Social cues are all those subtle things people do to show what they think. It can be pointing their feet toward the door when they want to get going.

Or, it could be saying things that have an underlying meaning. (“This was really nice” can mean “I’d like to get going”)

If we don’t pick up on these cues, it can get awkward.

When we get nervous and focus on ourselves rather than on others, it’s even harder to notice what people are saying.

My first recommendation to be better at picking up cues is practicing focusing outward, which I talk about here.

My second recommendation is to read up on social cues. I’d recommend the book The Definitive Book on Body Language. (Not an affiliate link. I recommend the book because I think it’s good). Read my review of that book here.

My third recommendation is to study people when you’re not engaged with them. For example, by looking at people in a cafe or paying attention to subtleties in how people interact in movies.

Look for subtle changes in body language, facial expression, tone of voice, or things they say that have underlying meanings.

This will help you be better at reading cues so you can avoid social awkwardness.

2. If you tend to talk more when you’re nervous, remind yourself to ask more questions

When I was nervous, I focused more on me and completely forgot to show an interest in others and ask them questions.

Ask more questions. And more importantly, cultivate an interest in others. 

Focus on others and ask them questions. If you don’t know the subject someone’s talking about, don’t pretend to know. Let them explain and be genuinely interested.

We can’t ONLY ask questions. If we do, we’ll come off as interrogators. Therefore, we also need to occasionally share about us:

3. If you have a hard time talking about yourself, practice sharing more

I had no problem listening to others, but if someone asked me about my opinion or what I’d been up to, I didn’t know what to say. I was afraid I’d bore people and generally didn’t like being in the spotlight.

But to connect with someone, we can’t ONLY ask about them. We also have to share about ourselves.

I didn’t understand this at first. But if we don’t share things about us, we come off as a stranger. It also tends to make people uncomfortable if they have to share more than you.

Share something small about you every once in a while (even if people don’t ask). It can be brief about small things. For example:

Someone: Last year I went to Paris and it was really nice.

Me: Nice, I was there a few years ago and I liked it a lot. What did you do there?

A thing this tiny can seem like it doesn’t matter, but it helps others paint a picture of who they are talking to. It also helps you figure out what you might have in common.

4. Have a few questions lined up so you don’t need to worry about the first minutes of conversation

I used to feel extra awkward the first few minutes of a conversation because I didn’t know what to say.

It helped me to relax a bit by learning a few universal questions that work in most situations.

My 4 universal questions:

Hi, Nice meeting you! I’m Viktor…

… How do you know people here?
… Where are you from?
… What brings you here/What made you choose to study this subject/working here?
… What do you like most about (what they do)?

Read more here on how to start a conversation.

5. Use a posture exercise. It will make you feel more confident and less awkward.

If you have a good posture, you’ll automatically feel more confident and that helps you to not be socially awkward.(4, 5)

In my experience, your arms will also hang more naturally along your sides when your chest comes up, so you don’t have that awkward feeling of knowing what to do with your arms.

My problem was how to keep a permanently good posture. After a few hours, I forgot about it and was back to normal.

Also, if you have to think about your posture in social settings, that can make you more self-conscious.(6)

You want to have a permanently good posture so you don’t need to think about it all the time. I can recommend the method explained in this video. It helped me improve my posture permanently.

6. Don’t try to be liked. That puts pressure on you. Instead, try to make people feel comfortable being around you.

It’s often when we do things in order to be liked (pulling jokes, telling stories to be seen a certain way, trying to be someone we’re not) that we put MASSIVE pressure on ourselves. Ironically, these attempts often come off as needy and can make us less likable.

Instead, make sure others feel comfortable being around you.

If you succeed with that, people will like you.

Here are some examples:

likability chart

Diagram from “Why we become more likable when we stop trying”.

If you feel the need to entertain, know that it’s OK to not be witty and pull jokes. It will take the pressure of you and, ironically, make you more likable and less socially awkward. 

7. If you blush, shake, or sweat, the best strategy is to act as if nothing strange has happened. People won’t know that it’s because you’re nervous.

If you act normally and with confidence, people might still notice that you blush or shake or sweat, but they won’t connect that to nervousness.(7)

For example, I had a classmate who blushed very easily. Not because he was nervous, it was just the way he was.

Because he didn’t behave in a nervous way, no one assumed he blushed because of his nervousness.

A few days ago, I met someone whose hands were shaking. Because she didn’t look nervous, I didn’t know if it was just some “general shaking” and I wasn’t thinking “Oh, she must be nervous”. I simply didn’t think much about it.

The only time I assume that someone is nervous if they shake or blush or sweat is if they also suddenly change their behavior and become timid or start smiling nervously or look down at the ground, etc.

Remind yourself of this whenever you’re shaking, blushing, or sweating: People won’t assume you’re nervous unless you act nervously. 

Here’s my guide on how to stop blushing.

8. Change the way you view small talk

I used to see small talk as something unnecessary that I just tried to avoid.

Later in life, as I studied to become a behavioral scientist, I learned that small talk has a purpose:

Small talk is the only way for two strangers to “warm up” to each other and figure out if they like each other.(8)

When I learned that small talk has a purpose, I liked it more.

Here’s my guide on how to start a conversation.

9. Don’t mention that you’re socially awkward

I often see the advice that you should disarm awkward moments by commenting on the fact that it’s awkward. But doing so won’t disarm the moment, only make it more awkward.

Here is some advice that does work to make socializing feel less awkward:

10. Sincere positivity makes things feel less awkward

In a study, strangers were put in a group and told to socialize. Afterward, they watched the interaction on video and marked when they felt more awkwardness and when they felt less.

It turned out that the entire group felt less awkward when someone showed positivity toward someone else.(1)

(“Nice weather today” in a stressed voice doesn’t work. You have to show that you mean it.)

If you with a relaxed voice say “I think it was clever what you said before about abstract art”, because you mean it, that will make the group feel less awkward.

Why? Probably because social awkwardness is a type of anxiety. When we show sincere positivity, things feel less threatening.

Don’t fake nice things to say. Rather, if you DO like something about someone, let them know about it.

Just take it easy with compliments about looks, as that can feel too intimate for some.

11. Finding mutual interests to talk about also makes it feel less awkward

In the experiment I talked about above, people also felt less awkward as soon as they found a mutual interest to talk about.

Why? When both talk about something they like, it’s easier to know what to say. Mutual interests help us connect with people.(9)

Because of this, I am on the lookout for mutual interests when I meet new people.

More about how to find mutual interests.

12. Learn strategies to handle awkward silence

Conversations normally get awkward after a while if we get stuck talking about facts and things that aren’t personal.

Instead, we can ask questions that help us get to know what people think and their feelings about things, their future, and their passions.

Those types of conversations tend to be more natural and lively.

For example, if you get stuck in a conversation about how the interest rates are low, that can soon get boring.

However, if you say “Speaking of money, what do you think you would do if you had a million dollars?”, the person suddenly gets more personal and interesting.

Read more on this in our guide on how to avoid awkward silence.

13. Avoid certain topics around new people

Here are some simple rules for what topics to avoid around new people.

I emphasize new people, because once you get to know someone, you can talk about controversial topics without it getting awkward.

Avoid R.A.P.E topics:

  • Religion
  • Abort
  • Politics
  • Economics

DO talk about F.O.R.D topics:

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

Chapter 2. How to stop feeling awkward

If you often feel socially awkward, there might be a deeper reason. It could be because of low self-esteem or social anxiety, for example.

Studies show that we feel awkward when we’re afraid that we might lose the approval of the group. Or, when we don’t know how to react in a social situation.(1)

Here’s how to overcome feelings of awkwardness.

14. If you feel nervous in social settings, it helps to focus more on your surroundings

When we worry about being socially awkward, we often turn “accidentally egoistic”: We are so worried about how we come across that we forget to pay attention to others.

Whenever I walked up to a group of people, I started worrying about what they would think of me.

“Will people think I’m weird?”

“Will they think I’m boring?”

“What if they don’t like me?”

“Where do I put my hands?”

If you can practice focusing on others, you can feel less self-conscious and it would be easier to come up with conversation topics.

Therapists help their clients “shift their attentional focus”.(10)

In essence, the clients are instructed to constantly focus on the conversation at hand (or, when they enter a room, focus on the people in it) rather than themselves.

“But if I’m not in my own head, I can’t come up with things to say!”

That’s what I thought, too. But here’s the thing:

When we focus fully on the conversation, questions pop up in our head, much like when we focus fully on a good movie:

“Why doesn’t he tell her how he feels?” “Who is the real murderer?”

Like that, we want to focus on the people in the room or the conversation we’re having.

“Oh, she went to Thailand! What was that like? How long was she there?”

“He looks like a university professor. I wonder if he is or what he does!”

This was a game-changer for me. Here’s why:

When I focused outward I became less self-conscious. It was easier for me to come up with things to say. My conversation flow improved. I became less socially awkward.

Whenever you interact with someone, practice focusing on them.

15. Accepting nervousness rather than fighting it usually makes us feel less awkward

At first, I tried to “push away” my nervosity. It only made it come back stronger. I later learned that the best way to deal with emotions is to accept them.

For example, when you feel nervous, accept that you feel nervous. After all, it’s human and something everyone feels at times.

This makes nervosity less charged. In fact, feeling nervous isn’t more dangerous than feeling tired or happy. They are all just emotions and we don’t have to let them affect us.

Accept that you are nervous, and act anyway. It’ll make you worry less and feel less awkward. 

16. Rather than avoiding social interaction, make sure to get more of it. That’s the only way to practice and over time overcoming being socially awkward.

When I felt bad socially, I tried to avoid socializing. In reality, we want to do the opposite: Get MORE training to practice what we’re not good at.

If you play a video game or play in a team sport and there’s this one thing you fail at again and again, you know what to do:

Practice more.

After a while, you’ll become better at it.(11)

You want to see socializing the same way. Instead of avoiding it, spend more time socializing. Over time, it will feel less awkward.

If you compare yourself with someone who’s less socially awkward, odds are that that person has had more training than you’ve had.

17. Practice being curious about others and make it your mission to get to know a thing or two about them. Having a mission can make things feel less awkward.

I usually make it my “mission” to get to know a thing or two about a few people, to see if we might have something in common.

When I live-coach people, I ask them, “what’s your ‘mission’ for this interaction?”. They usually don’t know. We then came up with a mission together:

“When I talk to these people tomorrow, I’m going to invite them to an event, get to know what they work with, get to know what their interests are, etc”. 

When they get this coaching, they know what their mission is, and they feel less awkward.

18. Ask yourself what a confident person would do

People with social anxiety often think they are more awkward than they really are.(13) We can make a reality check: If a confident person would do the awkward thing you did, how would they react?

Often, we find that a confident person probably wouldn’t care much. If a confident person doesn’t care, why should you?

This is called “turning the tables”. Whenever you do something you beat yourself up for, remind yourself to make a reality check: How would a confident person have reacted?(12)

19. We assume that people know how we feel when they don’t

We tend to think that others can “see” our feelings. This is called the Illusion of transparency.(14)

For example, we often believe that people can see how nervous we are, when in reality, others often assume we’re less nervous than we really are.(15)

Simply knowing that people often don’t know how you feel can be comforting. Even if you feel super awkward, that doesn’t necessarily mean that others will see that.

Remind yourself that just because you feel nervous or awkward, doesn’t mean that others will feel that way about you.

20. If you often feel judged around new people, it could be that you’re the one who’s judging yourself.

I could feel judged as soon as I walked into a room. I assumed that people would judge me for literally everything: My looks, that maybe I was walking weirdly, or that they just wouldn’t like me.

As it turned out, I was the one who judged myself. Because I looked down on myself, I assumed that everyone else would, too. As I improved my self-esteem, I stopped worrying about what others would think.

If you feel that people will judge you as soon as they see you, that’s a sign that you might be the one who’s judging yourself. You can overcome that by changing the way you talk to yourself.

Let’s talk about how to challenge your own negative voice:

21. Changing the way you talk to yourself can make you less sensitive about social awkwardness

In the previous step, I said that if you feel judged by others, it can be a sign of low self-esteem.

So how do you improve your self-esteem? Research shows that affirmation (Like, notes on the bathroom mirror) doesn’t work and can even backfire and make us feel worse about ourselves.(16)

What DOES work is to change the way we think about ourselves.(17)

1. Speak to yourself like you would speak to a true friend

You probably wouldn’t call your friend “worthless, stupid”, etc, and you wouldn’t let a friend call you that. So why would you call yourself that?

Pay attention to when you talk to yourself in a disrespectful way. Instead of saying “I’m so stupid”, say “I made a mistake. I might be able to do it better next time”.

2. Don’t take for granted whatever your inner voice tells you

Sometimes our critical voice makes claims like “I suck at socializing”, “I always mess up”, “People think I’m weird”.

Don’t take these statements for granted. Double-check if it’s actually true. Perhaps you can remember some social situation where you did do good. Or, a situation where you didn’t mess up or where people didn’t think you were weird at all and even seemed to like you.

If so, remind yourself of those moments. That way, you get a more realistic view of yourself.

This makes your critical voice less powerful, and you’ll judge yourself less.(18)

22. If socializing gives you performance anxiety, take the pressure off by seeing it as another practice round where the outcome doesn’t matter.

I used to think that for a social event to be successful, I had to make a new friend.

That put a lot of pressure on me, and every time I didn’t make a friend (almost every time) I felt like I had failed.

Instead, I started seeing social events as practice rounds.

If people didn’t like me or if they didn’t respond in a good way to a joke, it was fine, because it was only practice.

Socially anxious people are overly concerned with making sure that everyone likes them.(19) For those of us who have social anxiety, it’s extra important to realize that it’s OK if not everyone does.

Taking this pressure off myself made me more relaxed, less needy, and, ironically, more likable.

See social interaction as practicing. It makes you realize that the outcome isn’t that important.

23. Simply knowing that everyone wants to be liked and that most people feel insecure can make you feel more confident

All humans want to be liked and accepted.(20)

We can remind ourselves of that fact whenever we’re about to enter a social setting. It takes people of the imaginary pedestal we put them on.

As a result, we feel more alike with others and that makes us more relaxed.(21)

24. Always feeling socially awkward can be a symptom of social anxiety.

Social anxiety makes us hypersensitive to making mistakes that others can see. As a result, we think we’re awkward when we really aren’t

Read more about social anxiety.

25. If you’ve always felt that it’s hard to know what’s expected from you in social situations, you might have some level of Aspergers

Here are some common traits for Aspergers (Nowadays, it’s called autism-spectrum syndrome(22))

  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Avoiding eye contact, especially when young
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Avoiding or resisting physical contact
  • Communication difficulties
  • Being upset by minor changes
  • Showing intense sensitivity to stimuli

Read more about Aspergers. This test helps you figure out if you might have Aspergers.

Sources

1. Clegg, J. (2012). Stranger situations: Examining a self-regulatory model of socially awkward encounters. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 15 (6), 693-712 DOI: 10.1177/1368430212441637

2. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of ones own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 211-222. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.78.2.211

3. Gilovich, T., Kruger, J., & Medvec, V. H. (2001). The spotlight effect revisited: Overestimating the manifest variability of our actions and appearance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, (38), 93–99.

4. Briñol, P., Petty, R. E. and Wagner, B. (2009), Body posture effects on self‐evaluation: A self‐validation approach. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 39: 1053-1064. doi:10.1002/ejsp.607

5. Peper, E., Harvey, R., Mason, L., & Lin, I. (2018). Do Better in Math: How Your Body Posture May Change Stereotype Threat Response. NeuroRegulation, 5(2), 67-74. doi:10.15540/nr.5.2.67

6. Mellings, T. M., & Alden, L. E. (2000). Cognitive processes in social anxiety: The effects of self-focus, rumination and anticipatory processing. Behaviour Research and Therapy,38(3), 243-257. doi:10.1016/s0005-7967(99)00040-6

7. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 120. Oakland, CA

8. Laver, J. (1975), “Communicative Functions of Phatic Communion”, in: Kendon, A. / Harris, R. / Key, M. (eds.), The Organisation of Behaviour in Face-to-Face Interaction, pp.215–238, The Hague: Mouton.

9. Xiao, Z., Li, J., & Zhou, G. (2018). Do common interests of students play a role in friendship? Procedia Computer Science,131, 733-738. doi:10.1016/j.procs.2018.04.318

10. Zou, J. B., Hudson, J. L., & Rapee, R. M. (2007, October). The effect of attentional focus on social anxiety. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17521604

11. Nelis, D., Kotsou, I., Quoidbach, J., Hansenne, M., Weytens, F., Dupuis, P., & Mikolajczak, M. (2011). Increasing emotional competence improves psychological and physical well-being, social relationships, and employability. Emotion, 11(2), 354-366. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0021554

12. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 127-128. Oakland, CA

13. Moscovitch, D. A., Rodebaugh, T. L., & Hesch, B. D. (2012, February). How awkward! Social anxiety and the perceived consequences of social blunders. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3260374/

14. Gilovich, T., Savitsky, K., & Medvec, V. H. (1998). The illusion of transparency: Biased assessments of others’ ability to read one’s emotional states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 332-346. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.332

15. Macinnis, Cara & P. Mackinnon, Sean & Macintyre, Peter. (2010). The illusion of transparency and normative beliefs about anxiety during public speaking. Current Research in Social Psychology. 15.

16. Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. Q., & Lee, J. W. (2009, July). Positive self-statements: Power for some, peril for others. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19493324

17. Neff, K. D. (2011), Self‐Compassion, Self‐Esteem, and Well‐Being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5: 1-12. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00330.x

18. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 107-141. Oakland, CA

19. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 19. Oakland, CA

20. Baumeister, Roy & Leary, Mark. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological bulletin. 117. 497-529. 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497.

21. de Jong, Peter J. (2002, March 29). Implicit self-esteem and social anxiety: Differential self-favouring effects in high and low anxious individuals. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796701000225

22. Signs of Autism. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://nationalautismassociation.org/resources/signs-of-autism/

How to Stop Overthinking Social Interaction

stop overthinking social interaction

As an introvert with social anxiety disorder, I overthink like it’s my job.

I think about stuff, I think about why I’m thinking about it, and I think about why I think about why I’m thinking about it. (Have a headache yet? Me too.)

Although it’s easy to make light of, in all actuality overthinking is not a lighthearted subject.  The overthinker’s biggest obstacle is the inability to make decisions, and it’s far more damaging than people give it credit for.

1. The Function of Fear

At the root of our overthinking is one simple factor: social fear.

I’m afraid of ordering the wrong pizza toppings at dinner tonight because it’ll be another whole week before I eat junk food again– so I overthink it.

I’m afraid of checking out the wrong books at the library because they might be boring and I’ll have to drive all the way back (like all ten minutes) to get new ones– so I overthink it.

And on a more serious level, I’m afraid that choosing the wrong Master’s degree will lead to financial trouble and choosing the wrong career will lead to regret – so I overthink it.

Ultimately, overthinking stems from the fear of making the wrong decision.

This can be devastating, not because I’m a pizza-craving basket case who’s getting hangrier by the minute, but because overthinking can lead to a paralysis of fear that prevents a decision from ever being made at all.

One way or the other, I will be eating pizza tonight. But if I don’t find a way to eliminate my destructive downward spiral of overthinking, those decisions that actually matter may remain “in limbo” for the rest of my life.

Do you find yourself doing this too?

Fortunately, I’ve found some strategies that you and I both can implement right now to put a stop to our dangerous overthinking tendencies.

2. Use a “Big Picture” Mindset

Overthinking causes us to “zoom in” on each decision so that we can analyze our options from every angle and consider all of the potential outcomes.

Sometimes this is a great thing; overthinkers tend to display exceptional attention to detail and a meticulous work ethic.  No stone goes unturned when we’re searching for solutions to a problem.

But our tendency to overthink convinces us that we need to devote this level of attention to every decision when the reality is that not all of them are worthy of this much consideration.

(After all, if it deserved that much thought it would be regular thinking and not overthinking, right?)

As a result, we spend our time dwelling on things that aren’t really that important instead of focusing on things that truly deserve our attention or, better yet, actually enjoying ourselves.

To put a stop to this unproductive cycle and reclaim our time and mental energy, we must be intentional about realizing when we’re overthinking.

Once we’re able to identify the pattern our thoughts are taking, we can work on “zooming out” and considering each decision, opportunity, and problem on a more realistic scale.

3. Just Do Something

A book I read several years ago called Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung1 addresses the dangerous habit of not making any decision at all due to fear of making the wrong decision. He argues that many of the decisions we spend so much time agonizing over aren’t going to have as big of an impact as we think they will, and we’re better off just making a choice.

When we recognize that we’re beginning to overthink something, one way to “zoom-out” is to give yourself a time limit for making the decision.

Choose your time limit based on the seriousness of the situation.  For example, I’m going to give myself a time limit of 10 minutes for choosing my pizza toppings, but I’m going to set a time limit of two weeks for making a decision about which Master’s program to enroll in (or whether or not to enroll at all).

The amount of time, money, and life-change that will accompany a decision are the keys to deciding how long you should take to finalize your choice. (Pizza = not much time spent eating, doesn’t cost much, won’t change the circumstances of my life / Grad school = 2+ years, very expensive, and has the potential to change my life circumstances).

Putting a time limit on your decision is not intended to increase your anxiety about which choice to make; a time limit is intended to ensure that you do make a decision in the end.

4. Take a Time Out

Another strategy to immediately stop overthinking is to take a break.

Have you ever put on a pair of glasses that belong to someone else?

If your vision is already normal, putting on a pair of glasses will cause everything to become blurry and out of focus. The glasses are overkill; while they bring things just close enough to be clear for the person they belong to, they bring things too close to be clear for you.

When we’re “zoomed in” on a problem or decision, we often become too close to the situation to be able to see it clearly. Taking a break gives us a chance to “reset” so that we’re able to see it in focus when we return.

When you take a break, it needs to be something that’s going to effectively distract you. Moving to a new location only to continue overthinking is not going to be helpful for you.

Take a walk, a nap, go grocery shopping, call your grandma, or read a book; your break can be whatever you want it to be as long as it’s going to take your focus off the decision for a little while.

5. Focus on the Present

The third way you can stop the cycle of overthinking is by shifting your focus to the “here and now.”

Overthinking causes us to analyze the impact a decision could have many years down the road, involving a lot of “what-ifs” and circumstances that we can’t possibly know yet.

Unless one of your options has obvious negative implications for your well-being in the future, consider what is best for you right now.

Relieving yourself of the pressure of trying to predict the future based on the potential impact of one decision will help you to immediately stop overthinking and, instead, begin focusing on the present.

Overthinking is a dangerous and unproductive thought pattern, but when you learn how to identify its presence you can begin to implement alternative thought processes instead.  This will significantly reduce your stress levels and improve your quality of life by allowing you to spend less time agonizing over decisions and more time living your life.

Also, check out our guide on how to stop being nervous socially.

6. Realize that Other People Worry as Well

The next tip for stopping overthinking in social settings is realizing that other people also worry about whether they will say the right thing and whether people will like them or not. Once we realize this, it is easier to accept that other people are not as focused on us as we fear.

How has overthinking impacted your life? Share in the comments below!

References:

  1. DeYoung, Kevin.  2009.  Just do something: A liberating approach to finding god’s will. Moody Publishers.

 

The Anxious Person’s Guide to Self-Confidence

The anxious person's guide to self-confidence

“Anxiety” is a word with a broad spectrum of meaning.

For some, anxiety is a feeling of nervousness and worry that arises before job interviews, while awaiting test results at the doctor’s office, or when preparing for a first date.

But for others, anxiety is much more than an emotion– it is a pervasive, mind-consuming illness with physical, mental, and emotional aspects that can be triggered by even the most “normal” of daily activities.

Modern research tells us that anxiety and self-esteem are tightly interwoven.  Low self-esteem can arise as a result of anxiety; conversely, anxiety can appear as a side effect of low self-esteem.

According to Mel Schwartz of Psychology Today2, “A confident and secure relationship with your own self makes it less likely that you’ll suffer from [anxiety and depression] (but, of course, doesn’t guarantee it).  These afflictions can certainly exacerbate low self-esteem.”

Regardless of which end of the anxiety/self-esteem cause-and-effect spectrum you’re on, increasing your self-confidence will go a long way towards improving anxiety, depression, other mental health issues.

So what can you do to achieve this added measure of confidence?

First, says William Meek of Very Well Mind1, look at the amount of acceptance you actually have in your life.  “While we tend to focus on the negative, such as people who are rude to us or avoid us,” he says, “We usually have more people that care for us that we often overlook.”

Particularly for people who battle General or Social Anxiety Disorder, any perceived rejection we experience can become the focus of our thoughts for hours and even days.  We analyze and over-analyze what happened and why, typically placing the bulk of the blame on ourselves.  The result is a dramatic drop in our self-esteem.

Although it’s undeniably easier said than done, “taking every thought captive” and being intentional about combating each negative thought with a positive one can be very beneficial.

Kaelin Tuell Poulin, fitness professional, author, and entrepreneur, recommends that her clients keep a journal in which they daily write down 5 positive affirmations.  Not only does she encourage writing these affirmations each day, she also recommends verbally speaking these affirmations aloud.  The more frequently you remind yourself of your positive attributes, the more deeply ingrained in your mind they will become.  This will result in a growth in self-confidence, as well as provide you with a list of “go-to’s” when you need to combat a negative thought with a positive one.

In addition to journaling your positive affirmations, making a point to daily write down all of the good things that happened will help prevent you from giving undue significance to the negatives.  It can be easy to forget the moments of happiness you experience throughout your day, causing you to mistakenly believe that your day was a total loss.  Journaling the positive aspects of your life will give you something to hang onto when anxiety attempts to convince you that everything is bad, and this will improve your confidence by serving as a constant reminder of all the good that comes from your life.

Meek also suggests being intentional about stepping outside your comfort zone.  “. . .Many people with lower self-esteem become paralyzed with inaction,” he says. “Finding the courage to branch out, make new friends, and increase the level of positive social engagement can be very impactful to your self-esteem.”

While you may be uncomfortable putting yourself out there, you will feel empowered and confident when you experience success at something you were previously hesitant to attempt.

I think this might also interest you: 

It’s important to recognize that sometimes, anxiety can become too much for you to handle on your own. There is never anything wrong with seeking help, and professional counsel can be an important factor in helping you work through some of the underlying causes of your anxiety.

References

  1. Meek, William. How to Improve Self Esteem with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Very Well      Mind.  12 Dec., 2017, https://www.verywellmind.com/anxiety-and-self-esteem-1393168.
    Accessed 28 Feb., 2018.
  2. Schwartz L. C. S. W.,  Mel. Low Self Esteem: A Missed Diagnosis. Psychology Today. 23 Jul., 2013, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift-mind/201307/low-self-esteem-missed-diagnosisAccessed 28 Feb., 2018.

12 ways to stop feeling uncomfortable around people

How to feel comfortable around people

Growing up, I often asked myself “WHY do I feel uncomfortable around new people?”.

I felt awkward around most strangers, and especially if it was someone that I liked.

Later in life, I met truly confident and socially savvy people.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to feel comfortable around others.

1. If you worry about what might happen, remind yourself of your good experiences

Does this sound familiar?

“People will judge me”

“People will think I’m weird”

“People won’t like me”

It’s your own mind that’s coming up with these thoughts. Just because your mind says something, doesn’t mean that it’s true.

Maybe we had a bad experience years ago that stuck in our mind. It caused us to have an over-cautious view on life.

To stop being uncomfortable around people it helps to know that your mind can be wrong.[1]

I’m sure that if you give it some thought, you can think about several occasions where people liked you, appreciate you and accepted you.

The next time your mind generates scenes about people judging you or disliking you or laughing at you, consciously think of those times.

We’re not trying to paint a fantasy hunky-dory picture. We’re trying to be realistic, and we do that by not letting your mind try to paint a worst-case scenario.

Right now, think about something that makes you uncomfortable. Pause the scenes your mind paints, and consciously paint more realistic scenes. How does that make you feel?

2. Focus on the topic of the conversation to feel less uncomfortable

Whenever I had to start talking to someone, I got nervous and ended up stuck in my own head. I had thoughts like…

Am I coming off as weird?

“Does he/she think I’m boring?”

“Does he/she dislike what I just said?”

“Did I say something stupid?”

“What should I say when he/she stops talking?”

When you have those thoughts rushing through your head, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to come up with anything to say.

You want to practice forcing your mind over to the topic of the conversation.[2]

Here’s an example

Uncomfortable talking to people

Let’s say that you talk to this person. She tells you “I just came home from a trip to Berlin with some friends so I’m a bit jet-lagged”

What would you respond?

A few years ago, I would have been going full panic:

“Oh, she’s traveling the world with her friends, she’s much cooler than I am. She’ll wonder what I’ve done and then I seem boring in comparison” and on and on.

Instead, FOCUS ON THE TOPIC. What are some questions you can come up with if you focus on what she just told you?

Here’s what I come up with:

“What did she do in Berlin?”

“How was her flight?”

“What does she think about Berlin?”

“How many friends was she there with?”

“Why did they decide to go?”

It’s not about asking all these questions, but you can use ANY of these questions to keep the conversation moving forward.

Whenever you start worrying about what to say, remember this: FOCUS ON THE TOPIC. It’ll make you more comfortable, and help you come up with things to say.

Read more: How to make conversations more interesting.

This gets easier with time. Here’s a video where I let you practice conversation focus:

3. To not run out of things to say, refer back to something you talked about

My friend taught me a powerful trick for always knowing what to say when the conversation runs dry.

He refers back to anything they’ve talked about before.

So when a topic ends like…

“So that’s why I decided to go with the blue tiles instead of the gray ones.”

“Ok, cool…”

He refers back to something you talked before, like this:

“Did you get time to study yesterday?”

“How was last weekend?”

“What was it like in Connecticut?”

Lesson learned

Refer back to what you’ve talked about earlier in the conversation, or even the last time you met.

Think back to a previous conversation you had with a friend. What’s something you can refer back to the next time you meet?

For example, I was with a friend yesterday who was looking for a new apartment. So, the next time we meet and the conversation runs dry, I could simply ask “By the way, how’s the apartment hunt going?”.

Read more here on how to start a conversation with someone.

4. To put a social mistake into perspective, ask yourself if a confident person would care

In my experience, confident and socially savvy people say as much “weird” things as anyone. It’s just that confident people’s “worry-o-meter” is less sensitive, and they simply don’t worry about it.[3]

If an awkward moment for a nervous person feels like the end of the world, the confident person just doesn’t care.

  • Nervous people think that everything they do needs to be perfect.
  • Confident people know that we don’t need to be perfect to be liked and accepted.

(In fact, saying the wrong thing from time to time makes us human and more relatable. No one likes Mr. or Ms. Perfect.)

The next time you beat yourself up over something you said, ask yourself this:

“What would a confident person think if they said what I just said? Would it be a big deal for them? If not, it’s probably not a big deal for me either”.

Read more here: How to be more outgoing and How to be more social.

5. Dare to say stupid things to learn that nothing bad happens

In behavioral therapy, people who overthink are instructed to make conversation with their therapist and constantly try to NOT censor themselves. Sometimes they say things that feel like the end of the world to them.

But after hours of conversation where they force themselves to not filter, they finally start feeling more comfortable.[4]

The reason is that their brain slowly “understands” that it’s OKAY to say stupid things every once in a while because nothing bad happens. (Everyone does it, but only anxious people worry about it.)[3]

You can do this in real life conversations:

Practice filtering yourself less, even if it makes you say MORE stupid things at first. That’s an important exercise to understand that the world doesn’t end, and it allows you to express yourself freely.

It’s worth it to say stupid or weird things every once in a while in return for being able to express yourself freely.

Read more: How to socialize with anyone.

6. Remind yourself that people don’t have to like you

If you sometimes feel judged, this tip is for you.

Let’s say that your worst nightmare is true and the people you’re about to meet you will judge you and won’t like you. Do they have t0 like you and approve of you? Would the worst-case scenario even be that bad?

It’s easy to take it for granted that we need others approval. But in reality, we’ll do just fine even if some don’t approve of us.

Realizing this can take some pressure off.

This isn’t about alienating people. It’s simply a countermeasure against our brain’s irrational fear of being judged.

Instead of focusing on not doing something that can make people judge you, remind yourself that it’s OK even if people DO judge you.

Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s approval. You can do your own thing.

Here’s the irony: When we stop searching for people’s approval we become more confident and relaxed. That makes us MORE likable.

7. See rejection as something good; a proof that you’ve tried

Most of my life I’ve been scared of being rejected, no matter if it was by someone I was attracted to or just asking an acquaintance if they wanted to grab a coffee some day.

In reality, to get the most out of life, we have to get rejected at times. If we never get rejected, it’s because we never take risks. Everyone who dares taking risks gets rejected at times.

See rejection as proof that you dare to take risks and make the most out of life. When I did, something changed in me:

When someone turned me down, I knew that I’d at least tried. The alternative is worse: NOT trying, letting fear holding you back, and never knowing what could have happened if you tried.

Lesson learned

Don’t see rejection as a failure. See it as evidence that you’ve taken a risk and made the most out of your life.

Example:

Maybe you want to meet up with an acquaintance at work or a new classmate in school, but you’re worried that they might decline your offer.

Make it a habit to still take the initiative and ask.

If they say yes, great!

If they say no, you can feel great knowing that you make decisions that help you make the most out of life.

You never have to wonder “What if I’d asked..?”.

8. If you blush, sweat, shake, etc, act normal and people won’t know it’s because you’re uncomfortable

Shaking, sweating and blushing when nervous and uncomfortable

This graphic shows how blushing, shaking, sweating or other “bodily giveaways” snowballs the nervosity.

Let’s think about the last time you met someone else who was blushing, sweating, shaking, etc. What was your reaction? You probably care much less than when you yourself do any of it.

Here’s how I’ve reacted:

Blushing: It’s hard to tell if it’s just because the person is hot, so I just don’t pay attention to it. When I was in school, a guy was constantly red in his face. He said he was born that way and didn’t seem to care about it, so neither did we.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about sudden strong blushing: If the person who blushes talks on like usual and doesn’t seem to care, I don’t care. If they don’t act very obviously nervous together with the blushing, it’s almost unnoticeable.

Only if the person goes quiet and looks down the ground together with the blushing do I consciously pay attention and go: Oh, he/she must be uncomfortable!

Sweating: When people sweat I assume it’s because they are warm.

Shaking voice: I know a couple of people who have a shaky voice, but honestly, I don’t think it’s because they are nervous. It’s just how their voice is.

It’s likely that if you shake on your voice, people will just think that that’s how your voice sounds, just like some has a high pitched voice and others have a dark voice.

Shaking body: The thing about shaking is that you don’t know if it’s because of nervosity or because someone’s just naturally shaking. I was on a date with a girl the other day and I noticed that her hand was shaking a little bit when she was about to choose tea, but I still don’t know if it was because of nervosity.

LESSON LEARNED: If you talk on like normal despite blushing, sweating, shaking etc, people will HAVE NO CLUE if you do it because you’re uncomfortable or for any other reason.

9. Anxiety is easier to handle if you accept it instead of pushing it away

As soon as I had to walk up to a group of people or talk to someone new, I noticed how uncomfortable I got. My body tensed up in all sorts of ways. I tried to fight that anxious feeling and come up with a way to make it stop.

DON’T DO WHAT I DID.

If you try to push the anxiety away, you’ll soon realize that it doesn’t work. As a result, you start obsessing about it and become MORE uncomfortable.

Instead, accept that you’re feeling uncomfortable. Know that all people feel uncomfortable from time to time. It’s a perfectly normal response to new situations.

When you accept your nervosity, you stop obsessing about it. Ironically – this makes you more comfortable.[5]

10. People can’t see that you are uncomfortable even if it feels like that

It feels like people can see how nervous we are, but they can’t:

In one experiment, people were asked to give a speech.

The speakers were asked to grade how nervous they think they appeared. 

Then the audience was also asked to grade how nervous the speakers appeared.

The speakers consistently thought they appeared more nervous than they really did. [6]

Scientists call this the illusion of transparency: We believe that people can see how we feel, when in reality, they can’t.[7]

The scientists decided to take it one step further:

For some of the presenters, they told them about the illusion of transparency before the speech.

Here’s what they said:

“Many people […] believe they will appear nervous to those who are watching.

[…] Research has found that audiences can’t pick up on your anxiety as well as you might expect. Psychologists have documented what is called an “Illusion of Transparency.”

Those speaking feel that their nervousness is transparent, but in reality, their feelings are not so apparent to observers.”

That group was SIGNIFICANTLY more comfortable than the group who hadn’t heard about The Illusion of Transparency.

Just knowing about The Illusion of Transparency makes us more comfortable.

Lesson learned

Whenever you feel uncomfortable, remind yourself of The Illusion of Transparency: It FEELS like people can see how nervous we are, but they can’t.

11. Know that you stand out less than you think

In one study, students were instructed to wear a T-shirt with a celebrity on it. They were asked how many of their classmates had noticed what celebrity they were wearing on the T-shirt.[8]

These were the results:

Illusion of transparency

Lesson learned

We overestimate how much we stand out in a group. In reality, people pay less attention to us than we think.

12. Take ownership of your flaws to be more comfortable in yourself

For years, I worried about my looks. I thought my nose was too big and that I would never get a girlfriend because of that. At some point in life, I realized that I had to learn to own everything about myself, especially the things I didn’t like.

Even if there are things about yourself that aren’t perfect, they are still a part of who you are.

Confident people aren’t perfect. They have learned to embrace their flaws.

This is NOT about being a prick and say “I don’t need to change because people should like me for who I am”.

As humans, we should strive to be better. That’s how we grow. But while we work toward being a better version of ourselves, we should own who we are in each given moment.[9]

Example:

Back in the day, I tried to angle my head toward people so that they wouldn’t see me in profile, because I then thought that they would judge me for my big nose.

When I decided to own my looks, I consciously decided to stop trying to hide my flaws. That (obviously) made me more free in interacting with others.

Ironically, this new freedom naturally made me more attractive as a person.

13. Staying a bit longer in uncomfortable situations builds confidence

The natural reaction to uncomfortable situations is to get out of them as soon as possible. But here’s the problem with doing that:

When we “escape” an uncomfortable situation, our brain believes that everything went well BECAUSE we were able to get away. In other words, the brain never learns that those situations are nothing to be afraid of.

We want to teach our brain the opposite. Studies show that if we stay longer in uncomfortable situations until our nervosity has dropped from its peak, THAT’S when we over time build our confidence![10]

Lesson learned

Whenever you feel uncomfortable, remind yourself that you’re doing something good:

If you stay in the uncomfortable situation until your nervosity has dropped from its worst, you’re slowly rewiring your brain.

Rather than avoiding uncomfortable situations, practice staying longer in them. After a while, your brain will realize: “Wait a minute, nothing terrible ever happens. I don’t have to pump stress hormones anymore”.

This is confidence-building in the making.

Sources

  1. Tyler Boden, M. P. John, O. R. Goldin, P. Werner, K. G. Heimberg, R. J. Gross, J. (2012) The role of maladaptive beliefs in cognitive-behavioral therapy: Evidence from social anxiety disorder, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 287-291, ISSN 0005-7967, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2012.02.007.
  2. Zou, J. B., Hudson, J. L., & Rapee, R. M. (2007, October). The effect of attentional focus on social anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17521604
  3. Kleinknecht, R. A., Dinnel, D. L., Kleinknecht, E. E., Hiruma, N., & Harada, N. (1997). Cultural factors in social anxiety: A comparison of social phobia symptoms and Taijin kyofusho. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9168340
  4. What Is Exposure Therapy? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy
  5. How to Accept and Stop Controlling Your Social Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-accept-social-anxiety-3024895
  6. Macinnis, Cara & P. Mackinnon, Sean & Macintyre, Peter. (2010). The illusion of transparency and normative beliefs about anxiety during public speaking. Current Research in Social Psychology. 15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/239587874_The_illusion_of_transparency_and_normative_beliefs_about_anxiety_during_public_speaking
  7. Gilovich, T., & Savitsky, K. (1999). The Spotlight Effect and the Illusion of Transparency: Egocentric Assessments of How We Are Seen by Others. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(6), 165–168. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00039
  8. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 211-222.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.78.2.211
  9. Thompson, B.L. & Waltz, J.A. J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther (2008) 26: 119. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10942-007-0059-0
  10. Myers, K. M., & Davis, M. (2006). Mechanisms of fear extinction. Molecular Psychiatry, 12, 120. https://www.nature.com/articles/4001939

Why faking confidence can BACKFIRE and what to do instead

Faking confidence

These tips sound like they’ll help us be more confident, right?

“Be more confident by using a more confident body language (Made popular by Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk)

“Fake it til you make it by playing the role of a confident person, such as a movie actor.”

Wrong! If you’re a self-conscious person or have social anxiety, those tips can actually make you more nervous.

Why?

Because they make you focus on yourself.

If you already have skeptical self-thoughts, like “What will people think of me?” and “People think I’m weird”, these thoughts will naturally become stronger the more you focus on yourself.

So in an ironic turn of events, these confidence exercises make some of us more self-conscious, more nervous and – less confident.

However, for people who’ve been able to curb their skeptical self-thoughts, faking self-confidence can work great. It’s just that it usually doesn’t work for those of us who need it the most (1, 2).

Read more: How to not be nervous around people.

Therefore, we need another tactic that works no matter our starting point.

For us self-conscious people to be more confident, we need to focus AWAY from us rather than ON us

Maybe you’ve heard me talk about the OFC-method before. That method is based on a study (3), participants had to sit down and make conversation with a stranger.

Half the participants were told to focus their full attention on the conversation. The other half were told to focus on themselves (How they came off, etc)

It turned out that that the MORE nervous people had described themselves before the test, the more effective it was to focus outward.

In the OFC-method, I talked about how to focus outward. But how do you do this in practice?

Whenever you feel self-conscious in a conversation, ask yourself (in your head) questions about whatever the person is talking about.

Let’s say someone mentions volunteering at a dog shelter. When you focus on what someone’s talking about, you’ll notice that you’ll soon be able to come up with a lot of questions.

  • What was it like at the shelter?
  • What’s her favorite kind of dog?
  • Has she volunteered before?
  • How was she able to work without pay?
  • Would she recommend it?
  • Was there any downside?
  • How many dogs were there?

If you’re, say, at a mingle with a lot of people in the room, you can ask yourself questions about any one of them.

For example:

  • What might that person work with?
  • What’s that person interested in?
  • How’s that person feeling right now? (Stressed, happy, calm, frustrated, sad?)

This ability to come up with questions (I call it “cultivating an interest in people”) is one of the most powerful social abilities you can learn.

[I also think you might be interested in reading my rankings of the best books on self-confidence over here.]

There are 2 reasons why this works:

  1. It forces your brain to focus outwards instead of being self-conscious
  2. It makes it easier to come up with things to say and get to know people

You see, if you’re good at asking yourself interesting questions about people, you’ll be able to fire off some of those questions when they fit the conversation.

Have you ever tried faking confidence? Have you tried focusing outwards? Let me know in the comments what happened!

References:
1: Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach
2: The Ergonomics of Dishonesty: The Effect of Incidental Posture on Stealing, Cheating, and Traffic Violations
3: The effect of attentional focus on social anxiety

“Just be yourself” is the worst advice

Over the years I’ve read so much terrible advice on how to improve socially.

It’s not just that it doesn’t help – it can even make you worse off and hurt your social life.

Here are some of the worst ones:

“Just be more social”

This one is so stupid it’s almost funny. But instead of me ranting about it, enjoy this strip:

 

[Here’s some advice that actually does work to be more social.]

Here’s another one:

“When you’re in a social setting, just remember to A, B, C, D, E. Also, you need to avoid to F, G, H, I…”

Do you know what the most surefire way is to become more self-conscious and nervous in social settings? Answer: Trying to remember a bunch of things you should and shouldn’t do.

Instead of trying to remember 100 different things, you want to focus on one thing at the time, starting with the most powerful one. That’s how we’ve designed Awkward to Awesome. We focus on one core concept and help you internalize it. Then, you’re able to learn more advanced techniques on top of that, when you already have a solid foundation.

“Just speak your mind”

The core of this advice is good. When people are anxious they tend to filter themselves too hard. But it won’t help to “just speak your mind”. You might end up saying some offensive things. I’ve done it myself, it did not work out that well :).

We discovered that to tackle this problem of over-thinking, we had to start at a whole different end: Learning to feel more at ease in social settings FIRST. When our beta testers got that handled, they were able to adjust their filter and speak their mind (without speaking before thinking). It turns out, it’s not that much about learning a technique. It’s more about learning to feel at ease. That’s when your brain works the best and problems like overthinking and filtering self-correct.

“Just memorize these scripts and questions”

Having a few questions to fall back on can be great if the conversation dies out and your mind goes blank. But most of the examples I’ve heard will make you sound like a weirdo.

Also, socializing isn’t about being a weird pickup person who communicates through canned lines.

Take this one for example:

“Just ask people you meet: What’s your personal passion project?”

Ehh, who talks like that? It’s great to find out people’s passions, but if you use a canned question like that you’ll freak people out.

Then there are questions that actually DO work to fall back on when a conversation dies out. My favorite is “Did you hear that [insert anything newsworthy you recently read]?.”

“Use self-affirmations”

You know this whole thing of putting up posters on the bathroom mirror saying “You’re valuable”? It’s not just that it doesn’t work; like this study shows, it can even make you worse off!

(I’ve written here about how to actually improve your self-esteem.)

“Just be yourself”

What even is “yourself?”. Is it the happy you, the serious you, the energetic you or the calm you? When people give that advice, what they probably mean is “don’t play the role of someone you don’t want to be”. But that’s obvious and not helpful.

I know people giving advice like this mean well, but it does more damage than good.

Read more: How to be yourself in social setting with DETAILED instructions.

What is the worst advice YOU’VE heard? And on a more positive note, what’s the most helpful advice someone ever given you? Let me know in the comments!