David Morin

12 ways to stop feeling uncomfortable around people

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

I felt awkward around more or less everyone, but especially around someone 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.

What you’ll learn:

  1. How to stop feeling uncomfortable using the reality-check method
  2. How to make conversation even if you’re uncomfortable
  3. My trick for how to always know what to say, even if you’re uncomfortable
  4. Overcoming the fear of saying the wrong thing or something weird
  5. Feeling judged? Stop caring what others think with the Approval Detachment Method
  6. Feeling more comfortable by changing how you view rejection
  7. Dealing with blushing, sweating, a shaky voice, and other bodily give-aways
  8. How to go from uncomfortable to relaxed and authentic
  9. Be more comfortable by understanding The Illusion of Transparency
  10. Be less uncomfortable by knowing about The Spotlight Effect
  11. Take ownership of your flaws to become more confident
  12. Be more confident by staying in situations that make you uncomfortable

Let’s get to it!

1. How to stop feeling uncomfortable using the reality-check method

Here’s the thing about being uncomfortable: It comes from our own mind and assumptions about the world.

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.

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

The first step to stop being uncomfortable around people is to know that your mind can be wrong.

The next time your mind generates scenes about people judging you or disliking you or laughing at you, consciously generate scenes of the opposite: People accepting you, liking you and appreciating you.

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 it’s 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. How to make conversation even if you’re 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.

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.

LESSON LEARNED

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

Read more: How to make conversation more interesting.

This gets easier with time. Here’s a video where I let you practice focus when you talk to someone:


3. My trick for how to always know what to say, even if you’re uncomfortable

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

Whenever the topic dies out and there’s about to be an awkward silence, he refers back to anything you 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?”.

Socially savvy people constantly refer back to previous topics like this, and that’s how their conversations always run so smooth.

Read more here on how to start a conversation with someone, even if you’re uncomfortable.

4. Overcoming the fear of saying the wrong thing or something weird

Did you know that confident and socially savvy people say as much “weird” things as you do? It’s just that confident people’s “worry-o-meter” is much less sensitive, and they simply don’t worry about it.

How confident people deal with saying the wrong thing

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

This has been proven in studies as well: People with social anxiety have a hyperactive fear centrum that lights up as soon as they make a mistake in front of others.

  • 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.

How therapists cure overthinking and feeling uncomfortable talking

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.

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.)

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.

“But David – what if this makes me say even MORE stupid or weird things?”

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.

5. Feeling judged? Stop caring what others think with the Approval Detachment Method

If you feel judged, this tip is for you.

Let’s say that your worst nightmare is true and everyone judges you all the time. Would that worst-case scenario even be that bad?

This is called approval detachment. It’s about stopping trying to conform to what others think, and accept that you don’t need anyone’s approval.

Let me be clear: This isn’t about alienating people. It’s simply a mental countermeasure against our brain’s irrational fear of being judged.

The next time you start worrying about what others think of you, remember this:

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

You don’t need anyone’s approval. You can do your thing.

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

But the road there is to break free from the addiction of looking for others approval.

6. Feeling more comfortable by changing how you view rejection

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 most out of life. You never have to wonder “What if I’d asked..?”.

7. Dealing with blushing, sweating, a shaky voice, and other bodily give-aways

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 normal and doesn’t seem to care, I don’t notice. 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: Whenever people sweat I always 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.

If someone asks, just tell them “I blush/shake/sweat sometimes” and they’ll go “Ah, OK”. You don’t have to make it more complicated than that!

8. How to go from uncomfortable to relaxed and authentic

As soon as I had to walk up to a group of people or talk to someone new, I noticed how I got uncomfortable. 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 won’t. 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.

Read more: How to overcome social anxiety.

9. Be more comfortable by understanding The Illusion of Transparency

In a study, people were asked to present in front of an audience. They had to rate on a scale from 1 to 10 how nervous they think they came off.

The scientists then asked the audience to rate how nervous they thought the presenter was.

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

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.

10. Be less uncomfortable by knowing about The Spotlight Effect

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. These were the results:

Illusion of transparency

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

11. Take ownership of your flaws to become more confident

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.

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, that made me more attractive.

12. Be more confident by staying in situations that make you uncomfortable

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!

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.

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Comments (17)

  1. Anonymous

    Note: it would be nice if someone could reply to me and try to help me out.
    Why do I feel like I look awful when I wear school uniform and why does it make me nervous?
    Why do I feel like my clothes do not cover me completely when I wear clothes that fit and cover me completely? (I feel exposed for some reason and it makes me nervous, and it only happens in school).
    Why do I feel nervous around a boy I don’t like and want to get rid of and avoid completely?
    Why do I feel nervous around girls that I talk to? (we don’t talk much though).
    End my misery.
    PLEASE!
    I’m always uncomfortable and nervous and IDK why. HELP! It didn’t work.
    Me still nervous.
    Me still VERY nervous.
    Poor me.
    Oof.
    😖

    • Viktor Sander

      It sounds a bit like you might suffer from social anxiety. Do you have any school curator or therapist you can contact for support?

  2. Ulfat jan

    Thank you so much
    For providing these motivational ..

  3. Blanche

    Very encouraging tips for a painfully shy person with low self-esteem like myself.

  4. Anonymous

    Hi David
    I have no words to thank You
    may God bless You

  5. David Kanne

    Thank you for this helpful site. I was looking for a word that would describe someone who is often uncomfortable around people. I don’t believe I would have ever thought of “over-thinker.” Paradoxically, I tend to forget that I am an over-thinker.

    The intro sentence references self-love and yet the article and the advice do not address it. I was introduced to the concept back in 2012. It didn’t make sense to me. Slowly, I have come to grasp the idea. I read a line more recently that went, “Can you love yourself for being that way?” Maybe it was closer to, “Have you ever tried to love yourself for being that way?” What I love about this is that the obvious and first answer is “no.” There is nothing lovable about being anxious, or a “know-it-all” or anyone of a dozen “ways that I am” that I have since identified. Then, after a day or so, I usually get a glimmer of an idea that opens a door to seeing “that guy” (me) as lovable. It is as if my heart softens to myself.

    Now, I want to try “over-thinker.” Again, the obvious answer is “no.” I think this might be where the idea of negative and inaccurate thinking comes in. It is easy for me to be self-critical and see over-thinking as annoying and essentially unlovable. Just the thought that I may be unlovable hurts and feeds my insecurities when it comes to dealing with people.

    No real answers here. Ironically, just some deep thought.

  6. James

    I used to never feel comfortable around new people at social places like bars or restaurants, I would drink to try to numb the anxiety. But eventually that caught up with me and became a problem. I’ve since got sober, but not in the most ‘efficient’ way in my opinion. I did it with isolation and cut-off ties with influences whom I felt were triggers. Well, that too has its downsides; I once had a job solely reliant on my ability to communicate well & creatively with others, I was pretty confident in my ability to strike up something with anyone. But since the alcohol issue & ‘recovery’ I’ve moved on from that position and lost the confidence I had with communicating. I’m 24 years old, been sober over a year, and have no friends, but a very supportive family. I need to get back out there, but I’ve been super anxious. Thank you for this article, I’m going to try out these tips.

  7. Dani

    To calm my social anxiety, I drink. Which then becomes a problem because I drink too much. I can’t find a happy medium. Pretty much everything socially has drinking a part of it. So now I’m faced with not being social because of the drinking. 😞

    • Anonymous

      I feel so bad for you.

  8. Anonymous

    idk what is wrong with me, i even cant open my eyes, i am always not comfortable because i always feel like i am watching while i am not. this is just so bad… but i think that these steps may work.

    • David Morin

      I hope so. Feel free to comment here if you have any more questions. 🙂

    • Rew

      Hey…sounds like you’re weighed down pretty much…yea, that’s not a kind place to be in…just remember that life is full of seasons, and you’re life, and more importantly YOU, are bound to change, and there’s no stopping that! SO take comfort that you will change. This is not the end, but the beginning. Stay in the game, but do it with people who love you. Fight the negativity, the doubt, denial, anxiety, low self esteem. You CAN and WILL move past today, and tomorrow WILL come. Life is a testament to perseverance, and growth. Don’t cheat yourself, respect what you’ve learned and experienced in your life, all the challenges, all the high fives, all the work….. What lessons did you learn? Who has inspired you (have no one to say here? find someone who inspires you…ask them who inspires them!)? What do you know, deep down in your heart, you truelly want? Is it tangible…or something beyond a chocolate bar? Believe this life has more, bud, because it does! I felt compelled to tell you this. I know this is true. And I know that self esteem sucks! A few months ago I was drenched in low self esteem…but…the best cure for this? talking to someone who LISTENS. That means going places that will make you thrive…like a plant placed in the sun. I went to my church…and the community there is unbelievable. God loves me. God loves YOU. And stay away from people who are just fueling your self doubt, or any negativity for that matter. Yep. Keep your head up. Look at you! you’re reading this. There, that shows you’re searching…and that’s a good sign…so search, keep going, moving, and you will find the love in life you are so longing for…was with you all along. Peace to you brother or sister (whoever you may be!), and GOD BLESS YOU. RUN to CHRIST with your whole heart!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! or…if you’re not so familiar with Christianity…why not check out a Bible from the library? Read the PSALMS chapter. It’s really a great motivation for me when I’m feeling down! ANd something that I heard the other day I want to tell you..GOD WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY MORE THAN YOU DO. Anyway, that’s all I got to say. Have a good day. Don’t be afraid. -catholic disciple in the making (it will take my entire life)

  9. Michael Nieves

    I understand that I must put myself in situations where I must become social, but how does a person deal with their mind “going blank”? Meaning, how do I deal with not knowing what to say? Because when I go to try to socialize, I typically don’t know what to say, or I run out of things to say, so I ask superficial or usual things. When with family, I can socialize, be funny and witty, and I don’t feel anxious. But around friends, teachers, strangers, etc., I feel the opposite. How do I deal with this?

    • D

      When you are trying to think of something to say in a social situation STOP! Stop thinking about what to say because it will only continue to stress you out. Instead I would invite you to pay FULL attention to what the other person is saying. This was not only will you hear everything they are saying therefore more likely to have a response BUT your mind will be focused on something and not on worrying. So the more worried you are about not knowing what to say the more attention you pay to what other people are saying.

      Hope this helps!

  10. Anonymous

    move your ass! positive energy!

  11. Dead Loss

    Well I see the reasons why a person may feel at a low ebb…under achieved all their life, over weight, broke still working at 62…no money to speak of……No bloody wonder I feel anxious around people that are buzzing eh?

    • Kirstin

      None of those things about your life make you unlikable as a person. My mom’s best friend is fat, broke, old and HAPPY, because she chooses to love herself no matter what. No judgment. It’s not like we have so much control over our life situations anyway-we can only try our best. Letting people in is not easy but it can be done. I struggle a lot with social anxiety and depression and just being kind to myself has made the journey so much easier. I hope that you can be kind to yourself too, because you really do deserve all the love in the world. Best of luck to you.