Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The No. 1 Rule to Overcome Social Anxiety & Start Conversations

"Shy" by Alessandra Celauro  via Flickr cc

Before you date exclusively, become engaged, or get married, parties are easy. Socialization is easy because the goal is clear. Everyone is trying to hook up. Every conversation is leading in the direction of whether or not you will hook up, or it’s centered on gossip about someone else hooking up.

Then you become monogamous and you find yourself in a garage full of couples. The men split off and go on and on about work, which let’s face it, you couldn’t break into that conversation with a hammer. Then the women split off and talk about something you happen to know nothing about.

I always found myself dumbstruck in these situations, smiling and nodding, standing just a little too far away from everyone,  trying to be invisible. It sucked.

After years of going to parties and trying to start up conversations with people, I have managed to pick up the number one trick to overcoming this social anxiety because you will know the all-time secret to starting conversations and getting people to like you.

The No. 1 Tip for Dealing with Social Situations?
Get the other person to talk about him or herself and then compliment them.

Yep, that simple. Once you get them started, you don’t even really have to say anything. Just keep poking the conversation as if it were a toasty fire.

“That’s interesting, tell me more.”

“You are so talented! How do you do that?”

“Oooo, can you show me?”

"Saboten-Con Tea Party"
by Kevin Dooley via Flickr cc
The fact of the matter is that everyone wants to talk about themselves. Everyone wants a good pat on the back for being themselves, and they want to be told that they are great at doing whatever it is that they do.

Don't be fake though. Truly listen, truly learn because other people will sense insincerity. Plus, you'll be bored if you aren't actually engaged.

How do you start?
Simple. Listen and ask questions, genuine questions. You don’t know anything about what they do or talk about? Perfect! Ask them to tell you about it. Let them teach you and let them feel great about doing it. Build their self-esteem, and they will love you forever.

If you happen to be hanging out with another shy person who isn’t saying much of anything, start asking her about her house. Ask her about her clothes or her hair, anything that she has actually done can be complimented.

Be genuine about it, though. Try to find something that is specific. Rather than just saying you like her hair, specifically reference the way she curled the tips and ask her how she does it or what product she uses.

But I don’t care about what this chick puts in her hair. 
I care about something else.
So? Is the goal of the social situation for you to get the chance to talk about your studies in overweight penguins? The answer is, no. 

The point of social situations, for monogamous people, is to actually talk and get to know other people and have a good time—laugh and stuff. If you never break into the conversation, you won’t achieve this goal, and you aren’t going to break into a conversation by saying, “So, you guys want to know anything about overweight penguins?”

However, if you get her talking about herself and let her know that you think she’s great and that you won’t judge her, she’s going to enjoy your company and accept that you are someone she would like to know more about too. Queue her asking about you, and then you get to finally talk about overweight penguins.

Geese, what is it with you and these penguins anyway?

Why is the goal to get to know this random person I may never speak to again?
First off, if you don’t talk to people at a party, then you are going to have a crappy time.

Second, people are special. It’s easy to forget because you are one of them, but human beings are unique creatures on this planet. Whether you are religious and believe every person is a unique soul crafted by God or if you aren’t religious but can see through empirical evidence that there is no other creature like the human specimen—It’s just a fact, okay.

So then shouldn’t we treat every person we come across as if they were, in fact, special?

"Talking heads" by Gianni Dominici
Well, if he is being a jerk or a sexist pig, you don’t have to treat him special, but when you are sitting across from a woman with a two-year old on her lap, remember she is a human being with feelings and thoughts. She, as all people, including yourself, is worthy—worthy of being known and acknowledged. 

Further, every human being longs for approval—to feel good about him or herself—and you have the power to give them that through praise.

That and what if she turns out to be an awesome person who has so much in common with you, and lets you vent to her about that annoying chick at work for three hours on a Friday night?

You’d never know if you just hung out in the corner bobbing your head and trying to laugh at the right times when really you were actually thinking about fat penguins . . . 

3 Tips on Conversation Tactics from Author Leslie T. Giblin
I discovered some of the above tactics after years of awkward situations, but I didn't really know how to hone and understand these skills until I read Leslie T. Giblin's awesome book How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People, and much of what I suggest above is heavily influenced if not completely reflecting his work, so I highly recommend it if you are trying to overcome social anxiety or social awkwardness. So here is a little taste of what this book has to offer. Trust me when I say it is packed full of useful information.

1. Smile, Be Enthusiastic, and Act Confident. 
Even if you are just acting this way, it will improve your conversation.

According to Giblin, psychological research shows that people tend to mirror the attitude of others. So if you act serious and moody, the person you interact with will too, but if you act enthusiastic and confident, he or she will feel happy and confident in you.

“There is a psychological law that makes human beings react and respond to the attitude and action expressed by the other fellow . . . Few people realize just how important and how predictable this law of psychology is . . . it may surprise you to learn that in about 95 percent of the cases in which you [were] treated discourteously . . . you, yourself literally ‘asked for it.’”

2. Do Not Be Afraid!
Giblin says being afraid to talk to other people will negatively impact how you interact with them.
“Fear is one of the greatest handicaps to getting to know people quickly and getting off on a friendly footing . . . If your basic attitude is that other people will be unfriendly . . . your experience will prove it to be so.”

3. Listen
Once you engage another person, then all you have to do is sit back and listen. Giblin says just by listening honestly and attentively, people will think you are smart and clever.

“. . . the person who goes around always making ‘smart remarks’ always knocking himself out to be ‘clever’ is not voted in by the other fellow as a ‘clever person.’”

Giblin’s book, How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People, focuses on how the human ego affects the interactions and decisions of all people. Giblin explains that by making other people feel better about themselves, you can ensure you have positive conversations and make friends easily.

About Leslie T. Giblin
One of the pioneers of the personal development industry, Les Giblin was born in 1912 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After serving in the military, Giblin began a sales job with the Sheaffer Pen Company in 1946. His successful career in door-to-door sales allowed him to become an ardent observer of human nature and eventually earned him two titles as national Salesman of the Year. Talking lessons from his sales career, Giblin penned his classic Skill With People in 1968 and began conducting thousands of seminars for companies and associations including Mobil, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Caterpillar, etc.

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About Stephanie Carroll
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I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
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In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

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