How To Talk To People: Overcoming Social Anxiety

By Nadia Khan|Updated July 8, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Alicia Fiske, LMSW

Talking to new people can be a stressful thing to do. Being social creatures, we naturally want to make friends, and we want everyone we meet to like us. However, acquiring these friends can be the difficult part for most of us, especially if you suffer from mild to severe social anxiety. If you're struggling to make friends, here are some tips on how you can talk to people.

  1. Make The First Move

The Path To Improved Mental Health Isn't Always Clear

You won't meet anyone new if you refuse to approach them. This can often be the hardest part for most but once you are there, leading into a conversation can be extremely easy. When you approach someone, make sure that your body language is confident. Keep your body straight up, and your head held high. If you come off as though you are shy, people will be less likely to open up to you.

  1. Start The Conversation With Something Simple

Not every conversation has to start out deep to turn into something meaningful. When you are trying to start a conversation, lead in with something simple. For example, let's say that you are at a party and you see someone you want to strike a conversation with. Do not walk up to them and immediately start giving them your life story. Lead with something simple such as, "What are you drinking tonight?" or, "How do you know the host?" These simple conversation starters are enough to get the ball rolling.

  1. Remain Interested And Attentive

There is nothing more terrible than talking to a person who is not interested in what you have to say. During every conversation that you are having, be very attentive and listen closely to what they are saying. If they ask for your advice or if you can relate to them, you will have enough information to start forming a bond with that person.

Also, make sure that you give them cues that you are still listening throughout the conversation. For example, nodding your head and maintaining eye contact when they are saying something is enough to make sure that they know you are still engaged and paying attention.

  1. Do Not Go Into Depth If It Is Not Asked For

Social anxiety may drive you to hide or use a crutch when you're socializing -such as using your phone or avoiding eye contact- but these things can be off-putting to someone who does not know that you are dealing with anxiety, and this lends to the possibility of creating a negative experience or self-fulfilling prophecy. When overcoming social anxiety, it's important to build positive social experiences that you can draw from in the future.

  1. Keep The Conversation Balanced

It can be easy to talk too much, and it can be easy to talk to little when you are starting a conversation. However, you don't want a conversation to feel like an interview for either side. Allow the other person to question you and don't waste all of their time talking about yourself and your interests. A person will become interested in you when you share things about yourself and when you allow them to open up to you as well.

  1. Know When A Conversation Has Ended

All conversations run their course eventually. No matter whether it happens sooner or it happens later for the person, you need to be able to identify when this has happened. There are clues that a conversation is that you need to look for. Has the conversation run out of topics? Are either you or the person you are talking about taking long pauses? Is the person you are speaking to trying to take off but you aren't letting them? Look for these signs and respond appropriately. There are plenty more conversations to be had with that person later on.

  1. Don't Ask Questions That Can Be Answered With Yes Or No

Yes or no questions will kill a conversation no sooner than it is started. Don't start off a conversation with specific questions that can't be explained further. Instead, ask open questions that give you an opportunity to learn more about the person. For example, let's imagine that you have started a conversation with someone who produces music. Instead of asking, "Do you like music?" say something more along the lines of, "What is it about producing that you enjoy?" This will give the other person the ability to tell you more about them and build a connection with you if you share similar interests. While the person is sharing their interests, you can build a connection with them even if you don't hold a shared interest by simply allowing the person to express their passion to you.

  1. Don't Hold A Conversation That You Aren't Interested In

You shouldn't feel obligated to stick with a conversation that you aren't interested in, and you shouldn't feel guilty if you need to walk away from a conversation you don't want to be in. It is ok to take care of yourself and move on when needed.

  1. Be Prepared To Switch Topics Based On Who You Are Talking to

Some topics will last a while in a conversation and others will only last a few minutes. While you are talking to them, take notes on their interests and be prepared to move into that topics once the current topic has lost its appeal. This will not only show the other person that you are interested and listening, but it will also keep the conversation going longer.

  1. Don't Pretend To Be Something You're Not

The Path To Improved Mental Health Isn't Always Clear

It can seem logical to pretend to be something to impress someone, but it will only result in disaster down the road. When you are talking to someone, be genuine. If you don't like something, let them know. If you can relate to something they said, let them know. Don't try to be someone else or else you will only avoid making a genuine connection with someone.

Cases of extreme social anxiety can make it hard to follow these steps? Are you anxious in public to the point that it is affecting your social life? If so, we recommend that you visit BetterHelp is an online counseling platform dedicated to providing affordable and convenient counseling to those who need it. Does this sound like it could be for you? If so, click on the link above and you will find the right online counselor for you!

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