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How to Talk to Strangers When You Feel Crippled With Social Anxiety

How to Talk to Strangers When You Feel Crippled With Social Anxiety

Imagine being able to talk to strangers without the shakes, or being able to walk into a party cooler, calmer and more collected instead of a sweaty bundle of nerves…

Does that sound like a dream come true?

This article offers some key tips for easing the anxiety that comes with talking to strangers in a social setting. Tips on how to talk to strangers that will leave you feeling more calm and less crippled.

How I used to have a racing heart and sweating palms

In high school, I had a friend who could talk to anyone. It did not matter where we were. We could be at a small gathering or a large party and she would strike up a conversation with perfect strangers. I was always jealous of her ability to talk to people she did not know with such ease.

She was an extrovert at heart. And being able to talk to strangers was not something that made her heart race or her palms get sweaty. She just went into action and morphed into a social butterfly.

Then there was me — quiet, not to be confused with shy, but rather a bit more “cocooned” and reserved. When it came to making small talk with strangers, I’d become a bumbling, rambling fool. With my heart racing and my palms sweating, I would feel myself shrinking as I searched for things to say.

So instead of flitting around the room, pollenating conversations, I would stand in the corner and hold up the wall.

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Come to find out I was just an introvert who was not great at small talk.

So while I do not suffer from social anxiety, I do get how the thought of talking with strangers causes heart palpitations and the sweats. To this very day I still get a little “twitchy” before going to social functions where I may not know many people.

But here is the deal, whether you have social anxiety or you are an introvert who does not do well with small talk, there are some easy ways to lower the anxiety and sweat levels. Ways that support you in navigating those social settings and talking to strangers with a bit more ease.

How to lower anxiety and talk to strangers

Social anxiety or the anxious feelings we get when it comes to talking to strangers is real. Regardless of the reasons we get anxious, here are some easy and helpful things we can do to lower the anxiety:

1. Own it, rather than judge it.

Judging yourself only tells the brain that there is something wrong with you. Since your brain takes cues from you as to what is real and what is not, your brain will provide you with all sorts of evidence to support your thoughts, which in turn leads to more anxiety.

Rather than judging yourself for having angst when it comes to talking to strangers, try owning it. For example, “I get anxious when I talk to strangers.” as opposed to, “What is wrong with me that I can’t talk to strangers without getting anxious?”

2. Be you.

Similar to owning the anxiety is just being you. Want to talk about adding to the anxiety; try being someone you are not in a social setting.

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“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” ― Brené Brown

Here’s the thing, authenticity is expansive. It gives us the space to be who we are in those social settings that make us nervous.

I think back to my friend in high school. I tried to be her and I failed at it which only created more angst in social situations. Had I just taken a couple of deep breathes and been myself, I am pretty certain I would have been less anxious and rambling.

3. Deep breaths.

Speaking of deep breaths, try taking a few before you enter any situation where you are going to be surrounded by people you do not know. The bottom line, when we are anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid so we are not getting enough oxygen. Not enough oxygen feeds anxiety and panic.

Deep breathing doesn’t just provide more oxygen to our brains but also calms down our nervous system.

Take a look at these 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly).

4. Be curious.

Try going into the social setting and be curious about the people you are going to meet. I wonder what I’m going to learn?”

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Like authenticity, curiosity is also expansive. When anxiety has you shutting down, use some curiosity to open up the possibilities.

5. Come up with some questions in advance.

The best way to engage curiosity is with some questions. When anxiety gets the better of you, it may be difficult to come up with some questions to ask someone you are meeting for the first time.

Prepare some in advance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having some pre-scripted questions to help ease the social anxiety and get the conversations going. For example:

  • “Where are you from originally?”
  • “What’s the coolest thing you have ever done?”
  • “What’s one thing you love to do every day?”

6. Address the Boogie Man under the bed.

What scares you most about talking to strangers? If you shine a light on the biggest, scariest fear you have, you diminish the fear a bit and the anxiety that goes along with it.

Give the “What If…Then What” exercise a try. For example, “What if people think I’m weird?” or “What if I don’t know what to say?”

Once you have your answer, then ask yourself this follow-up question,“Then what would happen?” Keep asking the follow-up question until you have run out of “then what’s”. This is similar to the 5-why problem solving technique.

7. Set a goal and celebrate.

Celebrating the goal completed is an important part. You are re-training your brain to see social events with strangers as a positive, as opposed to a negative. So before the social event, set a goal for yourself. For example, initiating a conversation with one person you do not know.

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Once you accomplish the goal, do something to celebrate. (FUN IDEA ALERT: I love to have my clients create what I call a “Celebration Box”, which makes celebrating fun and a “no-brainer”. This requires a box that you are welcome to decorate and slips of paper with “celebratory-type” items and activities written on them. Put the slips of paper in the box and once you complete your goal, pull a slip of paper from the box. Then do whatever that slip of paper says.)

8. Carry a “security blanket” with you.

Does this sound silly? I promise it is not. During my first year of coaching, to help me calm my nerves, I used to hold a heart-shaped rose quartz crystal in my hand during each call. Just having that crystal created a sense of calmness and made it easier for me to coach.

Pick out something small that symbolizes “calm”. Something that you can carry in your pocket, wear or indiscreetly hold in your hand. A crystal or a pendant on a bracelet that says “breathe”. A tiny piece of Play Doh or Silly Putty that you can squeeze works too.

9. Tell a friend and take them with you.

Having back-up support is helpful when it comes to anxiety. A friend that is in the know can be supportive and their active participation in the conversations takes the pressure off.

Taking the anxiety down a notch

While being a social butterfly may not be your thing, here are few keys to lowering your social anxiety. Keys to taking that anxiety down just a notch.

  1. Recognize that social anxiety is real.
  2. Try not to judge yourself for having it.
  3. Commit to doing something that makes talking to strangers easier.
  4. Try different calming exercises until you find the ones that work best for you.

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” – Walter Anderson

At the end of the day, you are so much stronger than your social anxiety makes you feel when you start doing something about it.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

More by this author

Pam Thomas

Chief Change Officer @What's Within U; Helping people dig out from the ruts that keep them stuck personally and professionally.

Why Developing a Lifelong Learning Habit Is Good for You (And How) How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques How to Talk to Strangers When You Feel Crippled With Social Anxiety Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

3 Keys to Success in Life (That Will Change You in 2019)

3 Keys to Success in Life (That Will Change You in 2019)

Do you want to program your mind and hack your body to stay in a positive state, a state of action taking throughout the day? I suggest you read on.

We will look at 3 keys to success that successful people are doing that you can model to program your mind to be in the state of succeeding from the moment upon waking, and make decisions throughout the day that will lead you towards your desires.

The Biggest Obstacle to Success: Going on Autopilot

One of the biggest pitfalls in the modern society is to fall into the trap of going on autopilot, to be walking dead and do what everyone else are doing. Most of us are too busy reacting and responding to the environment and what’s happening around us.

While we should act and take charge of our own world and our own reality. We forget to stay focused and we forget about our goals.

Learn to be conscious. Being more conscious in your day-to-day decisions will lead you to take the appropriate actions to reach your goals.

Have a purpose with life, act according to your values, and don’t let people tell you what to do or how things should be.

When you start to make more conscious decisions, you will start to think about if this is going to take you closer to your goals or drift you further away.

Why are you doing what you’re doing right now? Why are you reading this? Nothing else to do? Or are you reading this site so you might pick up a thing or two to consciously incorporate in your life to improve yourself that will move you in the direction you want?

What are your goals? Be healthy? Lose weight? Be fit? Get the dream job? Have the dream house? Live the dream life? Make a certain amount of money? Start a family?

If you truly want to pursue these goals and actually see them come true, you need to start taking actions consciously.

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3 Keys to Success in Life (That You Can Start Doing Now)

There are 3 things we have to consciously start doing:

    Now I’ll show you how you can achieve each of them in details.

    1. Write down Your Goals

    The first thing you do in the morning will determine what your day is going to be like. Program your mind to be in a powerful state from the moment upon waking, and you are guaranteed to have a productive and great day.

    How you can do this is by writing your goals down, every morning. Then, once you’ve done that, circle the most important goal,  the goal that in the long-term will have the most impact on your life.

    Now ask yourself this question: “What actions can I make today that will change everything and take me closer to this goal?

    Write down all the actions you can think of, circle the two most important ones and start doing them. Don’t stop until it’s done.

    This is an extremely powerful method of getting in the right state first thing in the morning. Instead of wandering around half-dead and spending 30 minutes to wake up, you are hacking your mind to be productive.

    Another powerful reason for writing down your goals is that by reading them it makes us feel good, write them as if they’re already accomplished. You’re already there.

    Re-reading and re-writing them every morning will ensure you to be in a resourceful state where you act based on your goals. You will make conscious decisions throughout the day that will support your goals and take you closer to them.

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    Goals that are not written down are merely wishes. Learn how to set great goals here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    The power of writing goals as if you’re already there takes us to point number 2.

    2. Create a Powerful Belief System

    Ask any successful person what their number one rule for succeeding is. They all have this in common:

    They believe in themselves and what they’re doing, and they are not afraid to say it.

    If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

    When people ask you about your goals in life, don’t be afraid to say it out loud. If you have high goals, they might laugh and look at you funny. But if you’re insecure about your goals, you will make insecure decisions that will lead you nowhere.

    Go against the grain, stand out. After all, how many people in the world today are actually living the dream? Now, how many of these people will respond something in the likes of “I don’t know” if you ask what their goals are?

    Be determined and believe in yourself. People will respect you for having the guts for going after what you truly desire.

    I once heard a story about a guy that worked in a video store. Every day he would bring two magazines to work, one was an entrepreneur magazine and the other was a magazine loaded with expensive and fast-riding cars. His boss would ask him why he was bringing these magazines to work every day and his answer was: “I’m picking out the car I’m going to buy.”

    The response from the boss was like most average minds saying he was killing himself thinking like that, he would never ever get that car and would just end up disappointed when it never happened.

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    Turned out, the guy later quit the job at the video store and followed his dream. Some years later he return to the video store to return a video, and he did so in the car he picked out from the magazine.

    The same people were working in the store as the day he used to work there. Now can you imagine the looks on their faces when he turned up in the car they said he never ever would get?

    Priceless. And it all started by creating a powerful belief system.

    The first step to living and achieving your dream is to believe it and imagine it. When you believe in your mind that you’ve already achieved your goals, you will develop a sense of certainty. That certainty will lead to action steps, when you know what the outcome is going to be it’s much easier to pick out the actions that are necessary to get there.

    You are certain you will live in the body you want.

    You are certain you will live in the dream house with the dream family.

    You are certain you will have the job you want, and earn the money you believe you’re worth.

    By constantly repeating in your mind the images of yourself succeeding, you create neural pathways in the brain. Your mind can’t tell the difference between what you vividly imagine and the reality.

    Go out and day dream. Go out and believe, imagine already living your dreams and goals. With enough repetition, you become certain that this is the only outcome and you work backwards to find ways for making it happen.

    The next step in personal success that will lead to life success and happiness is to..

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    3. Invest in Yourself

    A wise man was once asked what the best possible investment someone could make. His answer was short, sweet and simple: “Invest In Yourself.”

    The man’s name is Warren Buffett. He is known as the world’s greatest investor. According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $53.5 Billion.

    Hiring a personal coach, getting a membership at a gym, buying healthy foods, books and education are not expenses. They are investments: investments in yourself.

    Some things you can do today to invest in yourself are:

    • Go to the gym and train. Physical training releases endorphins and makes you feel great. It increases productivity and energy levels. By investing time in the gym, you’ll be better able to handle daily tasks and what life throws at you. Forty-five to fifty minutes is all you need, it’s actually the best time to shoot for in a workout.
    • Eat good food. When you go to the grocery store after work, ask yourself: “What foods will nourish my mind and body to feel and perform better?” You are setting yourself up for greatness and consciously making yourself aware of what foods will empower you, therefore make better decisions.
    • Start reading books. Everyone buys books, but very few actually reads them cover to cover.
    • Stop reading books and start studying them. Few read the books they buy, but even fewer remembers what they read. Stop reading books and start studying books.
    • Study at least one hour a day. “One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.” – Brian Tracy
    • Take notes. Never leave home without a pen and a piece of paper. The best ideas often comes in the least appropriate times, write them down. Don’t trust your mind to remember them—it won’t. Writing it down right away will also allow your mind to store and come up with more ideas. Nowadays, you can use plenty of notes-taking apps like Evernote.
    • Learn a new skill. Learn something new every day, a new skill or a new word. One new skill every day equals 365 new skills a year. Now imagine where you could be a year from now if you start doing it today?
    • Do something for yourself. Yes, hard work is a major factor for succeeding, but at least once per month do something fun, something outrageous and spontaneous that makes you feel alive. Have fun and enjoy yourself.

    The Crucial Rule to Follow

    The last piece of advice and rule to follow: Keep on, keeping on.

    Sometimes, things get hard and the road seems too long. You just have to keep on, keeping on.

    Revisit your goals and start imagining, all of the sudden you’ve changed your state and you’re on the right track again. The track that will take you to greatness.

    Use these 3 keys to create your destiny and achieve what you want in life.

    Go get it.

    More About Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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