Myth 6: I Have Lousy Social Skills
Getting sucked into social anxiety makes us say things like “I don’t know how to make conversation,” “I’m not very good at small talk,” “I have nothing to say,” “I always end up doing something stupid,” or, “I don’t know how to be normal.”
Now, it is possible your skills are underdeveloped due to avoiding social situations. But think of how you act around the people you love and trust. When you’re comfortable, are your social skills still lacking? Probably not.
Which brings us to the sixth myth:
I have lousy social skills.
It’s not that you don’t have it in you. If anything holds you back, it’s anxiety, which simply keeps you from accessing your skills.
If you put a lot of pressure on yourself for things to go perfectly, you’re guaranteed to feel stifled. Then the resulting inhibition feels like you don’t have skills. It feels like we have no idea what to do, feels like we have nothing to say, feels like we’re going to screw up or do something stupid. But the feeling that we have no social skills is the result of anxiety, not the other way around.
Having nothing to say or feeling conspicuous is a problem, to be sure, but it’s not a skills problem; it’s a confidence problem.
So how to bust this myth?
Get started, and your confidence will catch up
Put action before motivation. We don’t have to wait until we feel like we're 110% ready. Instead, we start doing it, and the feeling will catch up.
Choose something small that you habitually avoid. The operative word here is small.
We’re not aiming for huge parties, public speaking, confessing your longstanding love to your crush, or other big stuff just yet.
Choose a small thing you dislike doing:
- Use the regular checkout, not self-checkout.
- Order over the phone rather than online.
- Call customer service.
- Ask for help in a store.
- Compliment a stranger.
- Initiate introducing yourself.
- Say “good morning” to someone you might usually not greet: the letter carrier, a store clerk, a sanitation worker.
- Say hi to every co-worker you see.
- Start a conversation with an acquaintance or colleague you don’t know well. It doesn’t matter what the topic is--it can be about the weather, sports, how was your weekend--as long as you initiate.
- Ride public transportation without earbuds or a book.
- Briefly tell a store clerk about your day or your plans--go beyond “hi” and “thanks.”
- Sit at the table during a meeting rather than against the wall.
- Eat lunch in the restaurant or your workplace break room, not at your desk or in your car.
- Send the email without asking your partner or co-worker to look over it first.
These things are so easy to skip over. We avoid them because we can. And they become habit. We can easily do the workaround.
But instead, for this exercise, do the thing as you imagine someone with confidence would do. Act like you have confidence and, lo and behold, your confidence will catch up. This might sound like fake it 'til you make it, and in a way it is. But you can also think of it this way: you're not faking confidence, you are taking on the attitude, posture, and behaviors of someone who is confident.
And when you see yourself doing it, you start to believe you can.
So start by changing your actions, and then see how you feel. Act like you are confident and your actual confidence will catch up. It’ll be subtle. You may get a surge of anxiety as you try out your new behavior. But stick with it. This is why we’re starting small, after all.
Once you feel confident with the small stuff, you can move up to the bigger stuff! It works the same way.
Tomorrow’s the last day! We’ll finish off with a kicker--the final myth of social anxiety.
In the meantime, if you've been finding this course helpful, there's a ton more (tips, encouragement, and general ridiculousness) in the forthcoming HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. Pre-order yours here.
Until then, be kind to others and yourself!