• lynneeveratt

3 expert tips to get the rust off your social skills

If you're one of the 99 percent of people who have ever suffered from social anxiety—nerves before public speaking, occasional unease in a social setting or just plain shyness—consider yourself lucky: the remaining one percent who never feel social fear are psychopaths. During the pandemic, social anxiety has plummeted because we've all been forced into social avoidance behavior. For those of us (like me) who suffer from social anxiety, lockdowns can be a welcome reprieve, a series of government-sanctioned permission slips to opt out of social commitments that feel uncomfortable. In the short term, a lockdown can be a nice break from interaction overload, but in the long term, avoidance feeds anxiety and makes re-entry into social life feel more daunting. “Even people who weren't socially anxious before, a lot of us got really rusty,” says Alexandra Werntz, a psychologist in Virginia. Fortunately, “anxiety whisperer” Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is here to help you with three proven tips to guide you back into the social world. 1. Go slow to go fast. Don’t dive into a packed pool party as your first get-together. Build your social muscles like you would a physical muscle and gradually add to your social load. Go for a walk with a friend or meet for coffee as a first step, and acknowledge that it makes sense to feel at least a twinge of anxiety after many months in a controlled social environment. “Lead with your actions and confidence will catch up,” says Dr. Hendriksen. 2. Aim for “goodish.” Social anxiety is rooted in perfectionism and the fear of being exposed, judged, and rejected. We fear that our perceived “fatal flaw(s)”—our appearance, our signs of anxiety, our lack of social skills, our overall weirdness—will be revealed, so we develop a perfectionist rule book. What’s in your rule book? Do you have to be cool? Do you have to be interesting? Do you feel like you have to carry a conversation? If you’re unsure, fill in these blanks: In fill-in-the-blank social situation, it will become obvious that I’m fill-in-the-blank with your fatal flaw. Dr. Hendriksen advises that you rewrite your perfectionist rule book as a goodish guidebook so that it’s okay to be, for example, “coolish” or somewhat interesting. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody cares. They’re too busy trying to hide their own “fatal“ flaws.



3. Turn your spotlight outward. When you’re socially anxious, your focus turns inward and you get drawn into a hyper-critical inner commentary on how you're coming across to others. You can muzzle your inner critic by turning your full attention outward to the person you’re talking to. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is a luxury to be understood.” Give the person you’re with the luxurious gift of listening to what they’re saying rather than thinking of what you‘ll say when you jump in with your perspective. Paradoxically, people will think you're the most charming conversationalist they've ever met if you let them do most of the talking about a topic they’re passionate about. With these three tips you’ll be back in the social groove in no time, but if you'd like more support for social anxiety, Ellen Hendriksen offers a number of free resources on her website and has authored the book that I'm currently devouring entitled, How to Be Yourself: Quiet your inner critic and rise above social anxiety. And if you’d like some all-purpose support for general anxiety, Ten Percent Happier is offering a free 10-day “Taming Anxiety Challenge” beginning Monday June 21, 2021. Reading that won't induce anxiety:

  • Warren Buffett Believes 3 Decisions in Life Separate Those Who Succeed From Those Who Fail Inc

  • Simple Daily Habits to Reduce Stress and Anxiety | Dr Mithu Storoni Bitesize Feel Better Live More podcast

  • ‘A career change saved my life’: the people who built better lives after burnout The Guardian

  • Coronasode Special: Quarantinology (UM, WHAT HAPPENS NOW?) with Various Ologists The Ologies Podcast with Alie Ward

  • “The Netflix of Wellness”: Inside the Hollywoodization of Peloton The Hollywood Reporter

Wishing you happy recharging through anxiety-free social connection, Lynne

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