Making Small Talk With Social Anxiety and Shyness
Some people can talk for England, never lost for words and always full of confidence. Being shy and socially anxious can be a daunting experience. How do I look? What am I going to talk about? I have nothing to say, I’m only going to make a fool of myself. This can put you off being in any kind of conversation, making it more difficult to make friends and socialise.
Social phobia can become so overwhelming
You may feel like you can’t talk to anyone about how your feeling. While social anxiety and shyness are not the same, they can both be overcome in similar ways. Small talk doesn’t come naturally for some people, and that’s ok. As the saying goes practice makes perfect. Why do we even small talk anyway? Small talk is just how it sounds. There’s no general topic and there may be no particular reason to spark a conversation. It doesn’t have to be your life story, just politeness and general chitchat.
Small talk can be so awkward and embarrassing
While there are lots of scenarios, lets say you’ve got yourself into a face to face conversation. Your feeling extremely uncomfortable, your starting to blush, palpitations and full blown anxiety is kicking in. Thoughts are going round in your head. Everyone will notice how anxious I am. I’m going to say something silly, they’ll think I’m boring, stupid. Getting out of this situation would be so much easier than making a fool of myself.
Anxiety can be really stressful and it’s not easy to just switch off. However the longer a situation is avoided the harder it becomes. Sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to achieve new goals. There’s no right or wrong way in small talk. Often conversation just happens. It will flow and come naturally in time and with practice.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Be realistic with your goals. Everyone with social anxiety and shyness will have different experiences and severity of anxiety. You will find your own ways and methods of managing your anxiety in time.
It may be helpful if you have a family member or a friend you can talk to. Someone that you know will be supportive. For some people this is not always possible. Talk to your GP how your feeling. There’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.
What should I talk about
There are lots of small talk conversations we can talk about. It depends on what kind of situation we are in. For example, you’ve bumped into an old work colleague “ Hi, How are you? How’s work going? ” A conversation about one thing will usually lead on to further conversation within that topic. Small talk is not a lengthily conversation.
If you are meeting someone for the first time (friend dating) it helps to have things in common. Having shared interests, will make it easier to strike up a conversation. Find friends with similar interests. Start your conversation with a subject/hobby that engages you both. As your confidence grows your fears will start to subside. You don’t have to be constantly talking. Listen, share, ask questions, but not the Spanish inquisition! Getting too personal straight away can seem off putting. It takes time getting to know someone, opening up and trusting. Think of questions you wouldn’t mind being asked yourself.
Putting small talk into practice
Role-play can be a good way to start practising small talk conversations. Practice different scenarios with a family member or somebody you can trust to be supportive. Observe how other people interact when they are in a conversation. Meet people that are in the same boat and in similar situations. Some people will find it harder than others, but having those common interests to talk about makes it easier to socialise. It lessens the pressure of any awkward silences making us feel less worried, less anxious, and much more likely to overcome our fears. Try putting small talk into practice in everyday situations to help boost confidence and self-esteem. It’s easier said than done and it will be difficult to start with, but try taking your mind off your anxiety. Switch your thoughts from negative thinking to the conversation your in. Do something to distract yourself. Compliment. Keep persevering, just be yourself, it takes time.
Learning to relax in conversation
Take a test: Clench your fist for 5 seconds. How does it feel when it’s clenched? Relax your fist. How does it feel now? Being aware of how your body feels when it’s tense is a big factor in how we manage our anxiety. When we are anxious our body automatically goes into tense mode. The more tense we become the more anxiety symptoms follow.
Focus on your breathing
How does breathing affect anxiety. Shallow breathing sends stress signals to our brain, as oxygen levels in our blood become lower. This can make anxiety seem harder to overcome. Breathing slowly and deeply helps calm stress levels and reduces anxiety. In fact deep breaths are actually good for you.
When we are feeling anxious it’s important to recognise these anxiety symptoms. Breathing techniques and muscle relaxation need to be put into practice in order to combat anxiety.
Practise muscle relaxation
Learning how different parts of your body feel when your body’s relaxed. Try find a quiet 10 – 20 minutes each day to practice muscle relaxation and breathing techniques. Morning and night if you can. You can find more information on our blog - Reducing anxiety with progressive muscle relaxation and breathing techniques.