2 Ways to Begin Overcoming Social Anxiety
Remember that self-disclosure makes you more likeable, not less.
Posted February 6, 2023 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
Many people come to therapy wondering how to manage social anxiety in their personal and professional relationships. They ask questions like:
- “How can I stop feeling so nervous when interacting with colleagues?”
- “Why do I struggle to speak up in meetings?”
- “Why do I avoid dating and other opportunities to mingle with new people?”
If these questions resonate with you, you likely feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to navigate life, and you may qualify for a diagnosis of social anxiety. Social anxiety can hinder personal and career progress as it can make it difficult to form and maintain relationships, speak up at social gatherings, and advocate for oneself.
However, it is important to remember that social anxiety is a common issue and there are many effective ways to manage it. Your ability to live a happy, fulfilling life is partially determined by your ability to interact with your friends and family and form effective relationships. With the right strategies in place, you can learn to manage your social anxiety and accomplish the things you want to accomplish in life.
Here are two tips to help you deal with social anxiety in a healthier, more constructive way.
1. Understand that having social anxiety doesn’t mean you don’t need social interaction.
A study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that the core need for human connection is present in people with social anxiety; they just struggle to meet it in certain circumstances and with certain people. Starting from that premise, we can eliminate harmful thought patterns regarding social anxiety.
Self-talk, or the inner dialogue we have with ourselves, can play a significant role in shaping our perceptions and actions. It is important for those struggling with social anxiety to be mindful of negative self-talk that can perpetuate feelings of anxiety and insecurity.
For example, instead of telling yourself “I rarely have the courage to speak up in a group setting, so there’s no need to start now,” reframe your thought by saying “I have an idea that others may find interesting, so I deserve to be heard.”
This shift in thinking can help reduce anxiety and, with time and practice, increase confidence, leading to more positive interactions and better social outcomes. Additionally, it is important to remind yourself that it is normal to feel anxious in certain situations and to practice self-compassion.
2. Use self-disclosure to dampen the effects of your social anxiety.
A study published in Cognitive Therapy and Research found that people with social anxiety may come across as less likable to others in the first few seconds of meeting them. However, this study also found that these negative first impressions can be improved through self-disclosure, which is when a person shares personal information or feelings with others.
The results of this study may be of interest to those who struggle with social anxiety. If people with social anxiety are able to open up and share their feelings with their friends and colleagues, they may be able to improve their likability.
The researchers found that although people with social anxiety disclose less about themselves during social interactions, when they did disclose, it was perceived positively by others. This suggests that people who are being held back by social anxiety may benefit from making a conscious effort to open up and share their feelings.
Other research suggests that we tend to underestimate how much people value getting into long and deep conversations. So don't be afraid to talk to someone because you think you'll run out of things to say or the other person will get bored; that's almost never the case.
It is important to remember that social anxiety is a common issue. However, with a bit of work, it is possible to manage your social anxiety and improve your relationships with your friends and colleagues. By being open and honest about the challenge you face, you can build trust and understanding with others and, ultimately, become more socially successful.
If your social anxiety is causing you significant distress, seeking help from a mental health professional can be beneficial. To find a provider near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
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