Overcoming Social Anxiety: How To Use Questions To Start A Conversation

By Sarah Fader

Updated September 13, 2018

Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW

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Whether you're just meeting a new person or have known someone for years, it can be hard to start a conversation. If you have social anxiety, it's even more difficult. The good news is that you can use questions to start a conversation - and if you prepare in advance, it can help alleviate some of your anxiety about the prospect of social interaction. Here's how.

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is anxiety that is triggered by social situations. Even though you may initially be excited about attending a social event, as it draws near, you become more nervous about the idea of interacting with others. Symptoms you begin to experience may include irritability, sweating, fear, upset stomach, feelings of dread, or lightheadedness.

While social anxiety can stem from any number of things, often the pressure to come up with conversation topics and remember details about a person's life from previous interactions can start to feel overwhelming. Instead of being enjoyable, engaging in a discussion feels like a minefield: one wrong move and your reputation - or, worse, your relationship - will be ruined.

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The good news is that while the pressure may feel very real to you, it is a symptom of the anxiety - and the stakes aren't that high. Conversations and interactions start, stop, and feel halted all the time between many different people. It's normal, and not unique to you. However, there's a simple trick you can use to make the conversation flow more easily and make you feel more comfortable if you get anxious about the pressure to make conversations with others.

Use Questions To Start A Conversation

Before you go to a social event, think about the people who may be there and what you know about them. Brainstorm some discussion or conversation topics that you can draw from when the conversation stalls or you feel pressure to start a discussion. If you commonly have this experience with strangers while out and about at unexpected times, think of some generic getting-to-know-you questions that you can ask whenever you need.

In order to effectively jump-start a conversation, the questions you choose should be open-ended; that is, they should require more than a one-word answer. Questions that facilitate longer, more detailed responses usually begin with "Tell me about.." or "How did you…" as opposed to "Did you ever…" or "What is your favorite…" These open-ended questions will encourage your conversation partner to respond with a more detailed answer, giving you more opportunities to absorb information that may result in a follow-up question. This will help to keep the conversation going and avoid awkward pauses that can feel uncomfortable.

While they are talking, it's important that you listen closely for clues about potential follow-up questions.

Need Help?

Sometimes social anxiety can be crippling - and even though you try to make connections with other people, you still find yourself struggling with loneliness because your intense fear of social situations impacts your ability to make and keep friends. The good news is that you can overcome these anxieties, and a counselor can help.

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Whether you experience butterflies in your stomach before you attend a party or can't even bring yourself to leave the house, Betterhelp.com has licensed therapists standing by and ready to help. Better yet, they even offer their services online so you don't have to interact face-to-face with a new person right away if you don't want to. Get your life back - counseling can help you do just that!

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