With the right approach, communication can be a joyous and rewarding experience. But social anxiety can keep you from speaking your mind, or even understanding what your needs are. It’s time to stop feeling so ashamed and start embracing the benefits of robust communication skills.
The truth is that we all experience some degree of social anxiety from time to time, but most of us learn how to cope with it in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately for people with severe social phobia, communicating their needs is nearly impossible without extreme discomfort or fear that they’ll say or do something embarrassing or inappropriate.
In fact, there are many things that people with social anxiety often struggle to express, such as their need for help, clarification of rules or expectations, and appreciation. When we fail to share these important aspects of communication with our family, friends, and coworkers every day, relationships suffer.
So what steps can you take to establish healthy communication in your life? What can you do to start speaking up when it counts the most? Overcoming social anxiety is a process, but it starts with a few key points that will allow you to start communicating your needs.
Express Your Needs Appropriately In Social Situations — Seek Help When Needed
When faced with a situation in which they feel vulnerable, people with social anxiety will often simply refuse help and try to deal with the challenge on their own — even if it’s something as simple as distinguishing one person from another in a crowded setting.
But the reality is that seeking help for even the most basic needs in social situations can be difficult for people with social anxiety. For example, if you’re at a party with dozens of other people, it can be embarrassing to ask someone to introduce you to people you don’t know. In situations like these, it’s important that you seek help when needed instead of feeling helpless about your insecurities.
If you find yourself at a loss as to how to detect honest need from a genuine offer, here’s a simple test: if somebody offers help and they seem sincere, accept it! From there, offer your appreciation when they’ve helped you out. Even if you’re not getting enough assistance, be honest: politely let them know that they’ve been helpful — and seek other people to help out.
Practice Assertive Communication — Be Clear And Concise
Some people with social anxiety tend to say “yes” to every request that comes their way. This can often be a passive-aggressive behavior stemming from a sense of shame or low self-worth. This may seem like the right thing to do at the time, but it’s not going to get you what you want in the long run.
To reap the benefits of assertive communication, it’s important to be open and honest with people. Don’t beat around the bush — this is where we often get tripped up when trying to practice assertiveness.
Instead, be clear and concise when you have something important to say. You can start practicing by sharing your thoughts with a trusted friend or family member rather than directing them to people less likely to understand. Then, when you do have to find the words for what you need to say, pause and collect your thoughts — rather than quickly blurting out something that you’ll later regret.
You can always ask a trusted friend or family member if they understand what you’re trying to say. If necessary, explain why it’s hard for you to communicate certain ideas or needs. This will allow others to empathize with your needs — and provide insight into your social anxiety.
Determine Your Communication Needs — Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For What You Need
Asking for what you want in social situations may seem like a scary prospect — especially when our fears of rejection are triggered by communication. However, it’s important to remember that the first step toward achieving this goal is simply knowing what you need.
For example, if you’re at a restaurant, you’ll need to ask your waiter for a refill on your drink. If you’re out with friends at the mall and want to go home, ask someone to drop you off. If you need help with something, don’t be afraid to ask for it!
These situations will come up again and again in our daily lives. By knowing what we need in these first-world challenges, we can begin tackling the more difficult social situations that are often the source of our anxieties.
If you’re having difficulty knowing what you want, try looking closely at your needs and motivations. What do you need to know? What do you need help with? You could even make a list of all the things that you would like to communicate and ask yourself how you can get those things.
Build Your Self-Esteem — Accept Yourself As You Are
No matter how much we’d like to think otherwise, our actions are often influenced by our opinions of ourselves. If we believe that we’re worthless or lacking in one way or another, there’s no chance that we’ll improve our communication skills. This is why it’s so important for people with social anxiety to learn how to accept themselves as they are — no matter what their flaws may be.
You’re not flawed, nor are you worthless. You’re imperfect, but that’s okay. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’ll also have your strengths — which is what makes you truly amazing as a person!
Avoid Negative Self-Talk — Focus on Your Strengths
One of the most common ways that people with social anxiety sabotage their communication attempts is by giving into negative self-talk when they’re in the middle of a conversation with someone new. Whether it’s about the level of their intelligence or about the possibility for future social failure, we convince ourselves that our conversation is over before it even starts because we feel unworthy to be heard. This can lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment, which only get worse the next time we need to communicate something that matters.
The way around this destructive cycle begins with taking a step back and focusing on your strengths and what you have to offer people as a whole. You don’t need to be the most brilliant person in the room or be the best at making conversation for someone to like you — you just need to be yourself!
Social anxiety can be difficult — but with practice and patience, you will slowly begin unlocking all of your true potentials. Through open communication, you will learn about yourself, your needs and desires, and gradually begin to overcome your fears. You’ll become the strong, confident person you’ve always wanted to be.
If you need more help communicating check out my free course, Upgrade Your Communication Skills. You will learn more about active listening, non-verbal cues, emotions, effective questioning and much more…