7 Ways To Feel More Confident And Less Awkward In Social Situations
Whether it’s when trying to make small talk with coworkers, being introduced to your partner’s friends or parents, or being left on your own at a party, social interactions where feelings of awkwardness can ensue are quite common. Whatever the situation, you may sometimes leave wishing you’d felt more confident, had been more at ease, or handled things differently.
While having some level of nervousness before, during, or after social situations is common, it may reach a point at which it qualifies as social anxiety. In this case, you may want to seek help in handling it. Either way, read on for tips about feeling more comfortable in social situations, including how to know when you might have the condition of social anxiety.
Shyness Or Nervousness Versus Social Anxiety
There’s a difference between the occasional experience of awkwardness or nervousness in social situations and clinical social anxiety.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) defines social anxiety as “intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.” These feelings may also be associated with:
- Physical symptoms like nausea, rapid heartbeat, trembling, muscle tension, etc.
- Worry about being perceived as anxious (blushing, sweating, stumbling over words)
- Avoidance whenever possible of social situations that may trigger symptoms
Social anxiety is more than just shyness, introversion, or the low-grade nervousness or awkwardness most people feel in social settings from time to time. It’s a diagnosable anxiety disorder that can cause significant challenges in the lives of those who experience it. For example, if a person experiences an upset stomach and dizziness and feels like their mind has gone blank when they have to interact with coworkers, it can prevent them from feeling comfortable in their place of work or even from doing their job. After experiencing these symptoms in a social setting, it makes sense that people with this type of anxiety may try to avoid similar situations in the future. However, this desire can lead to significant life disruptions such as issues with job performance, job loss, isolation, and/or trouble forming or maintaining friendships or romantic relationships.
If your anxiety around social situations is interfering with your daily life or preventing you from reaching your goals, it may be helpful to speak to a mental health professional about it. They can help you discover the tools you may need to manage your symptoms and handle the challenges you face.
7 Ways To Feel More Confident In Social Situations
Whether you have social anxiety or not, there are several different strategies you can try to feel more at ease in social settings. These tips can help increase your confidence when it comes to situations like going on a date, attending a party or event, or otherwise interacting with people you don’t know or don’t know well.
1. Prepare For The Event Ahead Of Time When Possible
Preparation can be an effective way to help manage nervousness before a social event. Learning as many details as possible about the event that has you feeling uneasy or anxious can often provide some peace of mind. When you’re familiar with the details of what to expect before you even arrive, you may be able to plan ahead and feel more prepare about what’s to come.
For example, let’s say you’re going to a friend’s birthday party. First, you could ask your friend who all is invited so you won’t be left feeling awkward trying to remember the name of someone you met before, or so you can gravitate toward the people you already know first. You could also look up the details of the venue beforehand so you know where it is, what the parking situation is like, what kind of food will be on the menu, etc. You could even find out from your friend or other guests what they’ll be wearing so you can choose your outfit well in advance and feel comfortable in the clothes you choose. In other words, putting in a bit of work beforehand may help calm your fears of the unknown and feel more confident going into the situation.
2. Reframe How You View Uncertainty
We all know that we can’t prepare for every possible eventuality ahead of time. The best way to cope with the natural level of uncertainty that’s baked into essentially every human interaction is to expect it. Know that there may be some aspects of the situation that you didn’t (and likely couldn’t) predict, and try to embrace the fact that you can’t control each one.
It may also help to remember that the unexpected parts of the event could end up being the most enjoyable for you. Try and think of a time in the past when something didn’t go as planned, but turned out even better than you had imagined. Remembering that this outcome is just as likely as a negative one can help you feel more confident.
3. Stay Grounded In Who You Are
For many people, being comfortable with who they are can help them feel more confident in many areas of life, including in social situations. One way to become more comfortable in this way is to know and accept your authentic self. Research shows that authenticity is “positively linked to measures of subjective happiness, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.” While the reasons for this are many, one may be that authenticity can breed confidence which can help people form fulfilling social connections in their lives.
If you’re unsure of what you value or have trouble putting your finger on who you are, self-reflection may help. Spending time alone, doing some journaling, and trying new things are all methods you can try. Forming a stronger connection with yourself in these ways may help you feel more confident, which can help you find a sense of ease during social situations.
If you wanted to learn to play the piano or get better at cooking, you’d spend time practicing those skills. You’d expect to make mistakes along the way, but you’d know that, over time, you’d improve.
You can view handling social situations in the same way. If you want to improve your social skills, practicing them is a valuable tactic.
You wouldn’t sign up to perform an expert-level piece in public a week after you took up the piano—and you don’t have to dive into the deep end when trying to improve or polish your social skills, either. Start small. Exchange a few pleasantries with the cashier at the grocery store, give a compliment to someone at school or at work, or go to a party with a friend and set a goal of chatting with someone else for at least a moment or two. Expect to make some mistakes along the way, and focus on the positive outcomes instead of the negative ones so that you can form better associations with the act of socializing.
5. Pay Attention To Your Body Language
Research done by behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian led to his discovery of the 7–38–55 Rule, which says that just 7% of communication is verbal, while the rest comes down to tone of voice (38%) and physical body language (55%). This information can help you appear more confident in social situations, even if you don’t truly feel that way yet. Walking, sitting, or standing with upright posture, speaking in a clear voice at a volume others can hear, and making eye contact are examples of body language adjustments you may be able to make in social settings. They can have the power to help you feel more confident and exude that confidence to others. Then, once you notice social interactions going more smoothly as a result, you may notice that your confident body language comes more naturally.
6. Know That You Are Not The Only One
According to the ADAA, social anxiety disorder affects about 15 million Americans and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder. Outside of diagnosed social anxiety, many more people have general feelings of nervousness, awkwardness, or shyness in social settings sometimes. In other words, you’re not the only one who may feel this way in certain social situations. These feelings can be isolating, so you may be able to take comfort in the fact that the person you’re talking to could also be feeling them. Reminding yourself that no one is perfect when it comes to social interactions can help you take some of the pressure off of yourself.
7. Consider Seeking The Help Of A Therapist
If you feel you may have social anxiety, a therapist can help you understand and manage it. However, even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, a mental health professional can help you with the shyness, awkwardness, or unease you may feel during social interactions. They may be able to assist you in changing your thought patterns to approach social situations differently, finding ways to build up your social skills, or helping you discover relaxation techniques that you can use to keep calm in social situations.
For people with social anxiety or nervousness around social situations, meeting a therapist in person can trigger their anxiety or worries. If you’d feel more comfortable meeting with a therapist virtually, there are plenty who offer their services in this format. A recent study showed “significant reductions in social anxiety severity” in people who received online therapy treatment for the condition, and research suggests that online therapy in general is as effective as the in-person variety. If you’re interested in seeking out the help of an online therapist, consider BetterHelp. You’ll have option to a wide selection of licensed, professional therapists who are available to help you handle challenges and achieve your goals.
Takeaway: Feeling More Confident In Social Situations
Whether you have social anxiety or simply feel awkward or nervous in social situations from time to time, these tips may help. Just remember to be patient and gentle with yourself. Feeling more comfortable in social settings usually doesn’t happen overnight, but by implementing strategies like these over time, you are likely to be able to improve your social skills and confidence.
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