Are you afraid of social situations? Do you fear saying and doing stupid things in the company of other people?
I overheard someone at a party say that a Scandinavian med student conducted a study thoroughly proving that 999,999,999 out of 1,000,000,000 people suffer from some form of goofy awkwardness. And I totally believe in that guy from a region containing multiple countries at an unnamed school. You are not alone.
Thankfully, (I pretend that) I am one of the 7 or 8 people who don’t have this problem and I know from experience how you can join this select group!
1. Practice doesn’t Make Perfect, But It Does Make “Better”
Of all the advice I can offer, this is the most important. It’s literally number 1.
Talk to people. In person. In real conversation. Face to face. Repeat. Do this at least 5 days a week. Go out. Host dinners, parties, soirees, etc. If you don’t actually talk to people in person, you’ll never overcome your problem. This leads to #2.
2. Embrace Awkwardness
There’s an old saying that I totally didn’t just make up for this piece: “Only failures succeed.” The meaning is that, in life, you can’t win without losing. Losers are the only winners in the world.
Platitudes aside, you have to embrace fouling up when talking to people. You have to train yourself to push your boundaries and enjoy those awkward moments when you say something that makes you sound like Willy Wonka on LSD. You will say something like this and, if you want to get good at communicating with people, YOU HAVE TO. Since you must do it, why not enjoy it? Make it a game. Do whatever you have to, but make sure that you embrace being awkward. Timid souls never win.
3. Meet New People; Flush the Turds
When too many of our acquaintances don’t share any of our real passions or interests, it is easy to feel lonely, even in a crowded room. And if you have friends who judge you and treat you like Quasimoto, dump them. When you have a turd in the bowl, you flush it. Don’t waste time making excuses to keep the turd in your life. People who spend too much time playing with turds belong in institutions. Or art galleries.
There are billions of people in the world. Don’t waste time with people who don’t fit into your life. That said, make sure that your friends have interests and passions outside of yours. Listening to fresh perspectives and angles make us better people. It also helps you to finely tune your awkward-o-meter, which, in turn, makes you more pleasant to be around.
Most people in conversation have a nasty habit of pretending to listen while waiting for their turn to talk. Don’t be one of these 999,999,999 out of 1,000,000 jerks. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, the very best thing you can do is really listen and then contribute a little during natural pauses.
Listening to others makes you seem like a good friend and it hides the fact that your guts are writhing like a snake pit from an Indiana Jones movie. Hiding this writhing feeling makes you seem more confident, which will lead to people treating you like a confident person, which will lead to you (legitimately) being more confident and relaxed in social situations.
Remember, the other person’s guts are writhing just as much as yours.
*If your anxiety is terminal and crippling, seek professional help from a psychiatrist and/or bartender