I remember how nervous I got when I met new people.
I blanked out and couldn’t come up with anything to say. Once, at a party, I panicked and went to the bathroom. Then I sneaked out and walked home.
On my way home, I asked myself: “Why do I get so nervous around new people – really?”
After lots of reading, I found the answer: We’re all wired to be cautious around strangers. For our ancestors, meeting strangers could be deadly.
But for some of us, we’ve learned thought patterns that have made us OVERLY scared.
In this guide, I’ll show you how even we, the anxious ones, can feel confident around others.
Today, I can talk to anyone. When I’m in the mood, I love it.
I’m living proof that ANYONE CAN GET RID OF THEIR FEAR OF MEETING NEW PEOPLE.
Here are the strategies that changed my life…
1: Use “Re-focusing” to immediately stop being nervous
When I was with close friends, I felt relaxed and never ran out of things to say.
But as soon as I had to talk to a stranger, I got self-conscious and couldn’t think.
Later, I learned a trick that changed all that.
In a study, scientists asked people to talk to a stranger 1 on 1.
They asked half the group to focus on how they THEMSELVES came off. (If they were blushing, what the stranger might think of them, etc.)
They instructed the other group to focus on GETTING TO KNOW THE STRANGER. (They had to focus on the conversation and asking questions.)
Who do you think felt less nervous?
The group who had to focus on the stranger described themselves as TWICE AS CONFIDENT.
Why is this?
- When we focus on the conversation and the other person, we become less self-conscious. That makes us more relaxed.
- When we focus on the other person, it’s EASIER to come up with things to say. That also makes us more at ease.
When I come across strangers, I remind myself: FOCUS ON THE OTHER PERSON and THE CONVERSATION.
The brain is sometimes like a disobedient dog; it wants to do the opposite of what we want it to do. When we want to focus on others, it wants to worry about how others see you.
We can teach our brain to obey by repeatedly moving your focus back to the person you’re talking to.
“But David, I have to be in my head to prepare my next thing to say!”
When we learn to focus on the conversation, questions will NATURALLY POP UP IN YOUR HEAD.
(That’s why it’s so easy to make conversation with close friends. We don’t run out of things to say because we’re focused on the conversation.)
LESSON LEARNED: The way to stop being nervous talking to people is to refocus:
When you come across strangers, constantly bring your focus back to THEM.
2: The Growth Sign-technique – How confident people deal with nervosity
Whenever I used to be nervous, I saw it as a sign to go back to safety.
Later, when I made friends with people who were very confident and successful. I learned that they had a different view on fear.
They didn’t see nervosity as a sign to stop. They saw it as a sign that something good was about to happen.
When I thought about it, it made perfect sense:
Whenever I did something I wasn’t used to, I felt fear. But it’s doing new things that makes us grow. In other words, fear and nervosity is a sign of something good about to happen!
I’ve taught myself to EMBRACE my nervosity:
When I’m nervous it’s because I’m doing something that makes me grow.
DON’T TRY TO AVOID NERVOSITY. Instead, be thankful that you place yourself in situations that make you grow.
Nervosity is not a stop sign, it’s a growth-sign.
3: Why Out of your comfort zone-exercises don’t work and how to find your “Comfort-zone sweet spot”
You’ve probably seen this illustration a bunch of times. It gives the impression that you need to do crazy out-of-your comfort zone stunts to be confident.
But this doesn’t work:
Studies show that doing crazy things far out of our comfort zone just gives us a temporary boost.
Take my friend Nils, for example. He did all sorts of crazy stunts to stop being nervous:
Like laying down on a busy street
Speaking in front of a large crowd
Doing stand-up on the subway
Talking to girls he felt attracted to.
(He didn’t pull off these things because he felt confident. He did it because he tried to overcome feeling nervous.)
After Nils had succeeded with a stunt, he felt like he was on the top of the world. But after a few hours, the feeling had worn off.
After a few days, he felt like he was back to square one.
This is how the comfort zone actually works:
There’s no point in going way out of our comfort zone. We want to be in the sweet spot of it.
If we do what we’ve always done, life’s dull. If we do what my friend Nils did, it’s terrifying. We want to be in the part of the comfort zone that’s EXCITING.
We can only be in the terrifying part for a few minutes. We can be in the exciting part for the rest of our lives.
LESSON LEARNED: Make it a habit to do things SLIGHTLY out of what you’re used to. That way, your comfort expands a little every day.
Here’s an example of what this can look like in real life:
If you’re used to just nodding to the cashier in your supermarket, say “Hi”. If you’re used to just saying “Hi”, ask her how she’s doing. If you’re used to asking her how she’s doing, joke with her (And so on).
Don’t do what’s dull. Don’t do what’s terrifying. Do something just outside the ordinary every day. This way, your comfort zone expands all the time.
4: How to use recalibration to stop feeling self-conscious when you’re the center of attention
Back in school, I hated having to walk over the courtyard in the mornings. I felt like everyone watched me and judged me.
Guess if I could relate when one of our readers wrote :
“I often wonder ‘Are people thinking about how I look or how I sound? Do they notice that I’m awkward?’”
I started reading books about social anxiety and nervousness. Here’s what blew my mind:
- Every fifteenth person you meet has social phobia.
- Every sixth person you meet has some kind of anxiety disorder.
- Every third person you meet is uncomfortable in all social situations.
- Nine out of ten feel nervous talking to a stranger.
Realizing this changed something inside of me.
Before, I assumed that everyone was confident but me. Now, I know that beneath a calm surface, ALMOST EVERYONE is nervous.
Let’s do an exercise on how to use this to our advantage to overcome self-consciousness.
Imagine that you’re at the outdoor meetup event above and no one knows anyone.
How would you feel? Quite uncomfortable, I’d guess.
Now, look at the image but focus on how, behind the calm surface, people are actually nervous.
Some might be loud and intimidating, others look calm, but that’s their way of looking confident.
You’re looking at a group full of nervous people!
Behavioral scientists call this “Acquiring a realistic world-view”. It’s also called recalibration:
It’s when we crush the false idea that everyone is confident but us.
Simply reminding us of this fact makes us less nervous around people
The next time you’re about to enter a room full of people, focus your attention on them (Like I described in step 1). Remind yourself that everyone’s more or less nervous.
Click here to read more on how to stop being self-conscious.
5: What to do when it feels like people will judge you
Earlier in this guide, I told you how nervous I felt walking over the schoolyard. When I felt everyone’s eyes on me, I barely remembered how to walk!
For many, it’s even worse when they’re about to start talking.
They’re sure that people will judge them for everything they say, or laugh behind their back, or look down on them.
A few years ago, scientists discovered WHY some of us are so afraid of being judged.
They saw that fear of being judged, nervosity, and social anxiety all boils down to a single problem:
Being overly afraid of making mistakes.
In other words, anxious people overestimate the effect of social mistakes.
We think that for people to like us, we have to be perfect. If we mess up, we’ll lose all our friends! (At least that’s what it FEELS like)
But being perfect doesn’t make us more likable. Trying to be perfect makes us LESS RELATABLE and because of that LESS LIKABLE.
Isn’t that ironic? People try to be perfect to be likable, but because of that, they end up being less likable.
But, if we make mistakes every once in a while, that makes us human and relatable.
So if perfect is unlikable, what is then likable?
To be AUTHENTIC.
A person who’s authentic is a person people can trust, and that’s likable. An authentic person is a person who doesn’t try to be someone they’re not.
I have a friend who often trips and mispronounces words. Everyone loves her.
I know a guy who’s very rich and always perfectly dressed. I happen to know that he has no close friends because he never lets anyone in beneath the perfect surface.
Lesson learned: Don’t TRY to be perfect – what’s the point if it’s not even likable?
Aim for being authentic. That means not trying to pain a perfect facade. People respect an authentic person.
Here’s the secret: Instead of trying to hide your flaws, OWN THEM.
Don’t try to hide what you don’t like about yourself. Accept that it’s part of who you are.
I used to obsess what my nose was big. One day, I decided to accept that it was part of me. I stopped trying to hide that I had a big nose, and owned it.
As a result, I worried less about being judged.
For more on how to not worry about being judged by people, read my guide here.
6: “People won’t like me” – How to get accepted using the “Dog Technique”
Whenever I had to walk up to someone or a group of people, I had a strong feeling that they just wouldn’t like me.
It wasn’t rational. It was a conviction that I just couldn’t shake.
For me, I think it was because I was bullied in elementary school. My subconscious had taught itself that whenever I saw a group of strangers, they would be mean to me.
Luckily, what determines if we’re likable isn’t magic. There are simple principles we can use to make sure that we connect and that people accept us and respect us.
In this video, I present the 3 steps to make anyone like you.
My problem of FEELING like they wouldn’t like me continued past school:
When I met new people, I was always cautious (To not risk being rejected). Because of that, people responded with the same caution.
That reinforced my worldview that people wouldn’t like me.
When I realized this, I was like – wow – I’m going to try to dare to be warm toward people FIRST. (Just as an experiment – I didn’t think it would even work.)
But the results were amazing. When I dared to be warm toward people off the bat, they were warm toward me, TOO!
I call this the Dog technique. Everyone loves dog, because dogs DARE to show that they like you right off the bat. I’m not talking about being needy (Or licking people in the face) but to DARE TO BE WARM FIRST.
I explain how this works in more detail here. That article is about why some are so popular even if they aren’t good-looking or rich or have a good job.
7: How to become invincible using the “Flaw” method
I was often afraid that people would realize how nervous I was or realize that I was a fraud. I thought I was the only one who felt like this – until I realized that almost EVERYONE feel the same way.
Feeling like a fraud even has a name in psychology: The Impostor Syndrome.
One day, my friend Nils taught me something about being nervous that I’ll never forget. (Nils is the same guy as on the comfort zone stunt images earlier in this guide)
Here’s what he helped me realize:
It’s first when we’re OK with others seeing our flaws that we become invincible.
Think about it:
If we walk through life hoping that no one notices our insecurities or fears, we will always be afraid that someone might “find out”.
What Nils decided to do was to accept all his flaws. He stopped being afraid to share that he was afraid and had insecurities.
Something unexpected happened. When he stopped caring about those flaws, his nervosity faded away.
This doesn’t mean that he walks up to people and tell them about his insecurities. It’s about accepting that it’s OK that people DO KNOW about our insecurities.
If someone would walk up to you and say: Are you nervous? It’s a relief to not have to hide it, but say “yes”.
Being completely OKAY with others knowing about our flaws makes us more confident.
(And as I talked about earlier in this guide, perfect isn’t likable, while authentic is.)
Another strategy is to making a conscious decision to NOT CARE what others think.
8: How to always know what to say when you feel nervous
Say that right now, you meet this woman at an event:
You ask her how she’s doing, and she replies:
“I’m alright, but jetlagged. I just came home from France”.
Here’s how MOST people start thinking:
“Uh oh, she’ll think I’m a loser for never being to Europe. She looks skeptical, I can tell. Hmm, should I tell her about that time I was in Cancun? I mean, that shows I’ve traveled at least a bit. WHAT SHOULD I SAY?”
However, confident people focus on GETTING TO KNOW HER.
By using the same trick of focusing outward that I talked about before:
Confident people focus on what she says, and are curious about it.
“Oh, she’s been to France – how come? What did she do there? Did she like it? Where in France? What was the weather like? Has she been there before?”
You shouldn’t ask all these questions, as this is just to show the internal monologue.
But – you can ask ANY of those questions. Focusing outward makes it EASIER to come up with things to say.
Scroll back up at the photo and see if you can come up with some more questions about her, by focusing on what she said. That is a GREAT exercise to learn to re-focus and be better at making conversation.
If you can’t come up with anything, that’s fine! But that’s a sign that you want to practice focusing outward. I’ve written about how to do that here.
Whenever you start feeling nervous, remind yourself of this:
FOCUS ON THEM. BE CURIOUS ABOUT WHATEVER THEY SAY
9: How I start a conversation when I feel nervous
I use a simple trick to always know what to say when talking to a stranger.
FIRST, I make a statement about the situation we’re in. THEN, I ask a follow-up question about it.
Example 1: A conversation at a dinner
Let’s say that I’m at a dinner, and I end up next to a stranger. I might say:
“That salmon looks so good!”
Then, I ask a follow-up question.
“Do you eat salmon?”
This is a natural way to start a conversation, and you can use it anywhere. First statement, then follow-up question about the statement.
Example 2: A conversation at work
Say that I end up by the elevators with someone from a different department.
“These elevators are so fast since they updated them”
And then, a follow-up question:
“Are they the same in your building?”
You remember how I talked about FOCUSING OUTWARD earlier? If these steps sound difficult, it comes naturally when you practice focusing outward:
When you focus on your surroundings, statements and questions will pop up automatically in your head.
I practiced statements and questions in my head about stuff I saw when I walked down the street. After some time, I automatically started focusing outward instead of worrying about me!
(I stopped feeling self-conscious as I walked down the street – like how you’re not self-conscious when you’re absorbed by a movie!)
Here’s what I’d like you to do right now:
- Look around your room, and make statements in your head about things you see.
“I like that lamp” “That plant needs water” “The sun really lights up this room” “The countertop is so messy” (And so on).
- Take a walk, and ask yourself questions about those you see
“I wonder where he’s from?” “I wonder what she’s doing for work?” “Is she nervous or is that how she always looks?” (Notice how this makes you less self-conscious)
When you practice this new way of thinking, starting conversation gets easier.
If you want to go deeper into starting a conversation, read my complete guide here:
How to start a conversation. In that guide, I also talk about what to do after the first few sentences.
10: How to avoid awkward silence even if you don’t know what to say
I used to end up in awkward silence all the time. It came to the point where I avoided making conversation with people.
Later, a socially savvy friend taught me a clever technique:
When you talk to someone, you come across a bunch of different topics.
Think back to the last time you talked to a friend. What did you talk about?
The last conversation I had was with a girl at a meetup. This is what I recall from our conversation:
- She worked in video production
- She recently saw her family in her home country, Ukraine
- She felt bogged down by work
When a topic runs dry, I jump back to ANY OF THE THINGS WE’VE TALKED ABOUT BEFORE.
(It could be a topic from earlier in the conversation or even from last time we met)
So, I could ask:
What do you do more specifically in video production?
What was it like in Ukraine?
What was it like seeing your family?
What is it at work that bogs you down?
If this feels hard, it gets easier when you FOCUS OUTWARD like I talked about in the beginning of this chapter.
Right now, think back to a conversation you had with someone:
- What topics did you cover?
- What could you ask about those topics?
As you see, we’re pretty good at remembering what we talked about with someone. Use that to your advantage, by asking a question about any of those topics.
“But David, I can’t come up with any questions!”
If you have a hard time coming up with questions, you’re not focused on the conversation.
When you watch a movie you like, questions pop up in your head all the time. “Who’s the murderer?” “Who took the gun?”.
Why? Because you focus on the movie.
In the same way, you want to focus on the conversation.
11: How to avoid saying stupid things when you’re nervous using the “Turning the Tables”- method
I was always terrified of saying something stupid.
It took me a decade before I realized:
Confident people say as many stupid things as nervous people. It’s just that confident people don’t care.
I felt like I was always just one wrong word from losing everyone’s approval…
…I thought that I had to be PERFECT.
You now know that people DISLIKE those who try to be perfect and LIKE authenticity.
Making small mistakes shows that you are human and relatable.
(Ever wondered why movies always portray the evil person as perfect and confident? Because they WANT us to dislike them!)
As you become more confident, you will notice that you care less about saying the right thing. A joke that didn’t go home doesn’t mean that people got upset or dislike you. No one remembers except for you.
But here’s a good thumb that saved me a lot of headache:
Never joke on anyone’s behalf or talk down on something. As long as you keep out of doing that, people won’t feel offended.
That way, you don’t have to feel as awkward as I did once…
I joked with a girl about “self-important ladies” from the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It turned out she was from the Lower East Side…
As long as you don’t joke on anyone’s behalf, it’s ONLY funny!
Like that time I was in Barcelona and should ask for a coffee with milk. I don’t know Spanish so my friend told me: “Ask for a cafe con leche”. (That means coffee with milk) But when I ordered, I said: “Cafe conejo” which means “Coffee rabbit”.
That was terribly awkward at the time, but I know now that those mistakes make us MORE likable.
Here’s something a behavioral scientist once taught me:
When you beat yourself up for something you said, ask yourself if you had cared if someone else had said it. Would you dislike the person? Or would you just find that person a bit more relatable?
This is called “Turning the tables”
So, in your next social situation, remember this:
- As long as you don’t joke on someone’s behalf or talk down on something, blunders are likable!
- Ask yourself how you would have reacted if someone made the mistake you did (Turn the tables)
12: How to keep people’s interest using the Personal Mode-method
This one was painful for me…
You see, one time, I was talking to a girl that I liked.
Suddenly, as I’m talking, she gets eye contact with a guy behind me. It’s like she forgets that we’re talking, and she walks over to him.
This and similar experiences made me realize that I had to learn making INTERESTING conversation.
Luckily, I figured out what my mistake had been.
1) I didn’t involve people in the conversation: I forgot to ask them about THEIR experiences or thoughts on the subject.
2) I got stuck in talking about facts and opinions.
The problem with facts and opinions is that the conversation gets dry and impersonal. You won’t get to know someone by talking about facts and opinions.
When we switch over to talk about what’s personal, the conversation gets interesting.
Here’s an example of how to turn a conversation interesting:
Maybe you talk about how rents are high. If we get stuck on this topic, most people get bored after a while. So, we want to switch the conversation into PERSONAL MODE.
So, maybe you say
“Yeah, the rents are ridiculous. I have this dream to move to the countryside one day and buy my own house instead. Where do you think you’ll be living in a few years?”
Do you see what happened there?
By sharing something slightly personal, the conversation becomes feels more interesting!
There are some nuances to this.
Here’s a video where I explain more in detail:
Here’s my full guide on how to make interesting conversation.
How to overcome social anxiety
I now give the pen to my friend and behavioral scientist Viktor Sander, who’s an expert on social anxiety.
Hi, Viktor Sander here!
I want to talk about how I stopped feeling insanely awkward around people.
What did I do?
In short: I conquered my fear in small, manageable steps.
In psychology, this is what we call habituation. It is the process of decreasing your (nervous) response to a situation through repeated exposure to it.
As part of my job, I have helped hundreds of people overcome MIND-NUMBING nervousness around others. Many of those people can thank this very process.
At first, most people are so nervous they are almost paralyzed. But if you just find the smallest and easiest step in the right direction, you get the ball rolling.
I’ve seen how someone can transform from seemingly anti-social into a warm, friendly and likable person. I have seen it take from as short as day or as long as a year. It all depends on your starting point, but truly anyone can use this method to never be nervous around others again.
The “6-step method” to never be nervous talking to people again
The 6-step method I’m about to share with you was developed by psychologists, and contains the most powerful tools in reducing anxiety known to psychology today. If you’re serious about reclaiming power over this area of your life, I suggest you follow the steps below carefully.
When followed, this approach will help you feel more at ease around other people. I know, because I used the “6-step method” to help myself!
In fact, one study showed that this kind of self-help can be just as effective as spending thousands of dollars on a therapist.
#1. Make a list of what makes you nervous
The more detailed and comprehensive your list, the easier it will be to pinpoint exactly what makes you nervous.
Your list might look like this:
- Introduce myself to a new person at a party
- Watch a movie at the cinema alone
- Answer an unknown phone call
- Ask a friend to hang out
- Join a party with a friend
- Join a party alone
- Talk to a guy/girl you’re attracted to
- Speak in front of a crowd
After you finish making your list, rate each item 1 (no anxiety) -10 (the most anxiety imaginable) in terms of how nervous it makes you. If you have any items that are a 9 or 10, try breaking them down into smaller pieces.
Let’s say speaking in front of a crowd receives a 10 on your list. The first step you encounter is writing your speech. How anxious does this make you? Afterward, you need to memorize the speech. What level are you at? Then, you have to walk into the room to talk. Evaluate how nervous this makes you. The key here is to break down what makes you the most nervous into small, doable steps.
#2. Start small
When you begin the process, it is important to start with a situation that makes you feel appropriately nervous. If you aren’t nervous enough, no amount of exposure will make a difference. If you are too nervous, you will not be able to self-soothe during the experience.
Look over your list, and pick an item you rated 3 or 4. Now you are ready to seek out this situation.
Say you want to be able to introduce yourself to the opposite sex. The next time you go out to a party or a bar, go up to someone attractive and say hi. That is all you have to do. Simply go up and introduce yourself to one person. Although it may seem like anything but simple to you now, you will be surprised at how much easier it will feel after you have followed this 6-step system.
If you are getting nervous just thinking about being nervous, don’t worry! I’m going to give you 3 techniques to help you deal with that.
Use the following methods to decrease your anxiety:
Use diaphragmatic breathing aka belly breathing
Do you ever feel like it is difficult to breath when you are nervous? I know I did. When I came up against a stressful situation my breath would become shorter and more shallow. Sometimes I felt as though I was going to have a panic attack. That is, until I began diaphragmatic breathing. Belly breathing actually decreases our body’s nervous response, makes us sit up straighter, and allows our respiratory system to work right.
Diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced while you are seated or standing. However, it works best if you practice this technique on your own time. You want to strengthen your diaphragmatic muscle, so this type of breathing becomes automatic.
- Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor, back straight.
- Put one hand right under your ribcage, and the other on your upper chest
- Breath in through your nose, and notice the way your stomach rising underneath your hand, causing your hand to rise.
- Then, exhale through your mouth. Keep the hand on your chest to remind yourself to focus on exhaling only from the diaphragm. The hand on your abdomen should be falling.
- Continue to practice this breath, and it will become second nature.
Progressive muscle relaxation
One of the best ways I have found to decrease anxiety, stomach aches, and even headaches is PMR. Even the Mayo Clinic recommends progressive muscle relaxation as a way to lower stress levels. As an added bonus, PMR can help you fall asleep!
PMR is all about getting comfortable and letting go. This technique consists of tightening and relaxing major muscles groups from your toes all the way to the top of your head. What makes this exercise difficult, yet effective, is focusing only on the muscles you are intending to squeeze.
Sometimes it can be difficult to will yourself to do this on your own. It can be especially challenging if you are new to relaxation techniques. However, with practice over time, you will be able to do this anywhere on your own. Until then, try using a guided progressive muscle relaxation such as the one below.
If you know what to do and want to practice in the moment, head to the closest place you can be alone. This could be a restroom, an office, or even an outside space. This technique works best when you can sit or lie down. However, the challenge of progressively relaxing your muscles standing up could be just what you need at the moment.
Question your negativity and change it
For the initial step, you’ll want to identify what is holding you back as you spend time with others. Then, after an interaction, write down one negative thought about yourself that popped into your head.
Next, take some time to reflect on why you believe you are not good enough. Ask yourself if there is any proof to the contrary. Then, take your negative thought and turn it into a positive one! Once you are finished, tear the list from the page and keep it with you. Now, read over your list daily.
While this exercise may sound corny, research shows how this helps get a more positive and constructive outlook on your situation. When you build the habit of questioning self-negativity, you begin to realize you are worthy and have much to offer.
Here is a personal example from our team member Sarah:
“I used to have real issues with rejection. When I spent time with others, I would be so bogged down by negative thoughts I could barely hold a conversation. I thought things like, “who would want to talk to me”, and “there is no way someone like that would be friends with someone like me”. So, after the interaction, I asked myself why I felt that way.
Unfortunately, I had experienced rejection at the hands of those I thought was close friends. However, instead of feeling sad, I decided to turn my negative opinion of myself into a positive one. I reminded myself with each passing day I love myself more, and it did not matter what people from my past thought about me. Then, I wrote this positive statement down, and read it every single morning.
As I continued to analyze my negativity toward myself, my list of positive things about myself grew. Pretty soon, I was becoming the person on the positive side of the list simply by thinking of myself in a positive light.”
#3. Do something that scares you every day
Repeat your stress-inducing behavior until you feel a bit more comfortable in the situation. If it makes you feel better, you can begin by practicing with people that make you feel comfortable. Think relatives or friends.
Practice making small talk, and ask others to help you with your nervous mannerisms such as shuffling weight during a conversation. The goal here is to practice as much as you can because this experience can help you build the confidence and skills needed to thrive in a wide variety of social situations.
The more frequently you do something that scares you, the faster you will get over feeling nervous. Why? Because you’ve trained your brain on what to expect in that situation.
#4. Generalize your findings
When you find your level of nervousness decreasing, mix up the situation! For example, say you get good at introducing yourself to people at parties. Next time, go to a bar, club, or meetup. Or, if you want to feel more comfortable talking to the opposite sex, broaden your introductions to include them.
When you put yourself in somewhat similar stressful situations, your brain will use what it learned before to help you deal. The more stressors you expose yourself to, the faster your brain will adapt. The faster your brain knows what is going on, the less time you will spend feeling nervous.
#5. Build your self-confidence
Let me count the ways…
- Use visualizations. The first 15 times I heard this I shrugged it off as nonsense. Then, I tried it. All you have to do is imagine yourself doing something you want to do. Take care to use your senses and be aware of every detail.
When I was learning how to talk to people, I would imagine myself going up to someone attractive and saying hello. I took special care to sense all of the details. How did my voice sound? What was I wearing?
Turns out, vibrantly imagining your future increases your self-confidence because your brain cannot tell the difference between a real image and your imagined image.
- Use affirmations. I thought affirmations were corny as well. Nothing more than brainwashing. Turns out, that exactly what negative thoughts are – brainwashing.
Affirmations are just truths about yourself and your reality. Research shows that for the affirmation to work, it needs to be something you feel is true, but need to remind yourself of. My personal favorite is, “I do the best I can, and doing the best is what counts”. An example of an affirmation that’s not as effective as saying “I’m confident” if you don’t feel confident.
The more you repeat your affirmations, the more your positive thoughts will crowd out the negative.
- What’s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe you are afraid you will look like a total idiot in front of a crush at the bar. Sit down, and write out the worst possible scenario. Let’s say your nightmare scenario comes true. They ignore you, walk away, and tell their friends you are lame.
Visualize that, including how it makes you feel. Then, take the time to realize it wasn’t that bad. Usually, the monster under our bed is just a dust bunny. That’s why it is so important to rationalize away our fear.
- Practice self-care. Building self-confidence goes hand in hand with loving yourself. What do people who love themselves do? They exercise, go to bed on time, and eat healthily. If you want a quick self-confidence boost, take the time to dress to impress.
#6. Remember, failing is succeeding
Most people think they have failed if they tried to do something, but it doesn’t go perfectly. Then they give up and never try again. But even if nothing goes as planned, you just got a new experience. Next time, you will do slightly better. You will know a little more about what to say. Not only that, you will feel slightly less nervous. Each time you do something you were nervous about, regardless of how it goes, is like collecting another star in Super Mario. That’s how you level up in life!
#1. You are engaging in negative coping strategies
A common strategy that might SEEM helpful against nervousness and anxiety is to avoid situations that cause it. Instead, you need to give your brain proof that the situation is not actually as dangerous as it thinks. And you do that by habituating yourself.
Gradual experience WILL reduce your nervousness permanently. It’s not easy, but it is one of the best tools you have to overcome your fears.
If you just avoid going to parties (or whatever scares you), your fear will become stronger. Your brain will subconsciously think: “I avoided this situation and my anxiety went away, that must mean that situation is really dangerous and I need to keep avoiding it.”
Drug or alcohol use:
For example, some people drink too much alcohol at parties to reduce their anxiety. Other people self-medicate with marijuana. This only prolongs and reinforces your feelings of nervousness. Over time, you will feel that you NEED alcohol or weed to relax.
Check out a more scientific explanation here
#2. You aren’t getting enough exposure
If you are engaging in a behavior on your list once in a while, but still feel anxious, it might be time to increase the frequency. Ask yourself how you can expose yourself to more situations to help you grow. In the case of meeting enough people to introduce yourself to, this might mean going out more often.
#3. You aren’t anxious enough
If you aren’t practicing avoidance behaviors, and you are exposing yourself frequently enough, there is one other explanation. Your level of anxiety is not high enough. Try a behavior you labeled a level up. If that still isn’t enough, consider re-evaluating the rankings on your list.
Fake it til you make it
Habituation takes some time, because anything worth having is worth working toward. However, there is nothing that says you can’t fake it until you make it. Below are my 6 tips on acting like the self-confident person you are becoming.
Smiling makes you seem kind, outgoing, and open. Even if you feel tense, remember the worst thing that can happen is they do not smile back.
#2. Pay a sincere compliment, then follow it up
A simple way to start a conversation is by paying a sincere compliment and following it up with a question. For example, you could say, “nice shoes, where did you get them”. If you’re a guy, you want to compliment women for their personality or intellect rather than their body.
#3. Ask open-ended questions
If you are uncomfortable with giving compliments right now it is okay. Even if you forgo the compliment, you can still ask an open-ended question. In fact, asking an open-ended question about the other person is one of the easiest ways to start up a conversation.
I like to keep a list of open-ended questions that tend to work on anyone. If I have any information about a person before I meet them, I will think up some more personalized questions.
#3. Find a common bond
When you are in a situation with new people, scan the room to try and find something to connect you. Maybe someone is wearing a sports jersey and you happen to know a lot about the current games.
Is someone eating a food you like? Try and connect over that. If you see someone walking his or her dog, you have the perfect in!
#4. Mirror people’s expressions and body language
When you mirror the non-verbal language of others, they automatically feel bonded to you. Numerous studies have shown when you copy someone’s body language it helps form a relationship. Even if you don’t have confidence in yourself, have confidence in science!
#5. Take a time out
If you begin to feel uncomfortably nervous at any time, quickly return your focus to your breath. Taking a timeout when things get hectic is a great way to get rid of any negative thoughts that crop up during the conversation.
#6. Remember: the other person is human
According to a study by Joyable, 70% of millennials self-identify as socially anxious. So, chances are the person you want to engage with is just as nervous as you. Remind yourself of this throughout the interaction, and you will feel more self-confident.
3 extremely good training grounds for improving social skills: school, college, and work
There are 3 amazing opportunities where you can practice your social skills the majority of the week. If you are currently in school, college, or the workforce, here is some extra advice to help you overcome anxiety.
Become less nervous in school
No matter what grade you are in, school is a great time to practice socializing with others. One of the simplest ways to do this is saying hi or nodding to others as you walk down the hall. While some may not respond, others will see that you are outgoing and approach you.
School also provides you with other avenues to meet people such as small groups in class, school trips, and clubs.
Keep your eyes open for after-school activities as this will give you a better opportunity to get to know others in a less stressful situation. It is an easier way to talk to others and build more confidence.
Become less nervous in college
College is an exceptional time in your life because everyone is on the same playing field. Additionally, you will find people at your university that share your same interests.
To become less nervous in college, take initiative early on and join clubs that appeal to your interests. That way, you will already have a common bond to discuss. At these clubs, introduce yourself to others.
This is a great way to build confidence because people are more receptive when someone else makes the effort to get to know them first.
Become less nervous at work
It’s vital that you develop self-confidence and social experience as you get older. These skills will help you feel more comfortable in your work environment once you land a job.
While at work, take time to introduce yourself to others even if they are not in your department. Then, invite a few coworkers to lunch or to spend time together outside of work.
I have found most co-workers are waiting for someone else to make the first move. You could be that confident someone!
The “6-step method” may feel weird, and actually, invoke more anxiety at first. All change does. Just know from the start you will make mistakes, and know that is okay.
Actually, messing up is how you learn and grow as a person, so don’t let setbacks discourage you. Also, you will encounter people that are not receptive to your efforts. That is fine
What’s important is to get yourself out of your comfort zone and eliminate your nervousness. When you do, you will see the beautiful social butterfly that was always there, waiting to be set free.