Do you get anxious just thinking about starting a conversation with someone? Do feel awkward after just saying “hello” to a stranger and thinking “okay what do I say next?”
Socializing is one of the biggest causes of anxiety. Public speaking and starting conversations are always ranking as one of the top fears individuals have. Why is that? And what could you do to improve your socialization skills if you are among the millions of people that hate socializing?
Many times there are underlying causes for your social anxiety, but with practical tips, you could feel a bit more confident next time you find yourself in a socially awkward situation. Try some or all of these 5 suggestions to help improve your social skills.
Imagine entering a room and there are two people already there. The one doesn’t even look up at you to acknowledge your presence, or worse, looks like they’re in a bad mood. The other one makes eye contact, gives you a smile, and goes back to what they were doing. Which person would make you feel more comfortable? The one that smiled at you of course.
This is so simple that it’s easily over looked. Every interaction that you have starts with a simple smile.
Think about it. It’s weird if someone just started randomly talking to you. That would be awkward. It all starts with eye contact, a smile, and maybe a “hi”
If you walk around with your resting B***h face on, people are going to feel intimidated by you. It’s already hard enough starting a conversation. Make it a little easier for people to approach you by smiling.
Watch your body language.
Along with a smile, be very aware of your body language. Make eye contact and pay attention to the way you’re sitting or standing. Is it welcoming or are you shutting people out?
Having open body language makes others feel comfortable and people that are naturally social will make it easier for you by approaching you.
Open body language is having your head up, not down staring at your phone. Try sitting or standing up straight, avoid crossing your arms, and face people when they’re talking to you.
Eye contact is also important. Naturally, we make long eye contact when we’re listening to a person speak, and look away periodically when we talk. If you feel awkward staring at someone as they talk, try looking between their eye brows, it looks like you’re looking them in their eyes.
Don’t over think it.
Now that you have made it easier for people to approach you by being mindful of your body language, now it’s time to talk. “But what do I say?” “How do I start?!” This is the part where your mind starts over thinking.
In reality, you can’t plan a whole conversation. You have no idea what the other person is going to say or do, therefore you have to go with the flow.
Be an active listener by paying attention to what they’re saying. Active listening means actually listening to what they’re saying, their body language and tone. A lot of times you’re not really listening because you’re thinking of what to say next while they’re still talking.
Take a deep breath if you’re feeling nervous and pay attention, instead of making up scenarios in your head.
Talk about “safe” topics.
While you’re actively listening, stick to a few safe topics that are good ice breakers. If you’re both at an event for a purpose, ask about the event. If it’s a complete stranger, ask them about their day or something that you both could observe around you.
Ask open ended questions where they’re forced to give a longer answer than a simple yes or no.
Some safe topics to use are:
- Asking about their kids, pets, job or school.
- Give a compliment.
- Ask about their day.
- Make a comment about a situation you both share.
- Say something to make them smile or laugh.
- The weather.
Listen more than you talk.
Here’s some relief, you don’t have to talk as much as you think. A key to being a good communicator is to listen more than you talk.
If you only talk about yourself or do most of the talking you might appear self-absorbed. Of course there are times that you have to talk a lot about yourself, such as on a date or a job interview, and that’s actually good. But during day to day interactions, it’s easier to keep the attention on the other person.
Listening to them helps them feel heard, while not talking as much helps you reduce the stress of not knowing what to say.
“Self-consciousness kills communication”
About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.