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What Are the Best Tips for Overcoming Shyness and Social Phobia?

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  • Written By: Lily Ruha
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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The best tips for overcoming shyness and social phobia include examining the cause of the condition, consciously preparing for social situations and, in some cases, seeking cognitive behavioral therapy. One effective approach is examining and replacing the thoughts that create anxiety in social situations. Preparing for social situations and practicing relaxation techniques are common methods for decreasing social discomfort. Understanding the distinction between shyness and social phobia is important for remedying the condition. Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication might be necessary if the social fears interfere with normal functioning.

When overcoming shyness and social phobia, an effective starting point is examining and consciously adjusting the thoughts that cause discomfort in each situation. A shy person might avoid eye contact or speak very quietly in social situations, fearing that others will not like him or her. For this person, an effective strategy might be to focus less on the desire to be liked by everyone and more on the positive messages in each social interaction. A fear of making mistakes is another reason that a person might recoil in social situations. Continual mental reminders that all people have imperfections often help reduce self-consciousness and increase social engagement.

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Preparing for social situations can assist in overcoming shyness and social phobia. Some shy people fear that they will have nothing of value to add to a conversation or social situation. In this case, thinking in advance about stories to share or interesting topics to discuss at a party can decrease feelings of discomfort. Choosing social situations that appeal to interests is often helpful, allowing a shy person to focus on shared commonalities. Prior to or during a social event, relaxation exercises such as deep breathing also can reduce anxiety, redirecting energy from negative thoughts or worries to conversations and activities of the present.

Effective strategies for overcoming shyness and social phobia can vary depending on the specific condition. Shyness, a more common condition than social phobia, is characterized by feelings of embarrassment and insecurity in social situations. Social phobia is more intense and often involves constant avoidance of social activities because of heightened fears of being humiliated or judged. Although general tips for overcoming shyness include increasing exposure to social situations, this same strategy usually requires greater social or counseling support for someone who is dealing with social phobia.

If the process of overcoming shyness and social phobia becomes overwhelming or interferes with normal functioning, consultation with a professional counselor usually is the best approach. Counselors often use cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients incrementally examine their fears of social situations, easing them into social engagement. In some cases, medication might be necessary to reduce debilitating anxiety.

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umbra21
Post 3

@bythewell - This is why I think it's very important for people to be honest with themselves about what they want and what's holding them back. It might be that some people with social phobia are simply not comfortable around people in general, and have no desire to change.

The majority who seek treatment, though, probably do see themselves as having a problem because they would like to be able to make more friends and spend more time in company. It's not going to be useful for them to shun company forever in order to avoid the discomfort because then they will never get what they ultimately want.

bythewell
Post 2

@Ana1234 - This might make me sound like a jerk, but one of the things that really helped me was to figure out that it wasn't really shyness I was suffering from. I still call it social anxiety, but it's not that I'm afraid of people hurting me or laughing at me or whatever. I'm afraid that I'm going to be bored or trapped by people in doing something I'm not interested in doing.

Basically, I'm an introvert who doesn't like casual conversations and I get anxious before social situations because I know I'm probably going to have to suffer a little bit before they are over.

Realizing this actually helped me a lot, because I basically gave myself permission to get away as much as I needed to and to not feel like I had to stay in any situation I didn't want to be in in order to overcome perceived shyness.

Ana1234
Post 1

I used to be very shy and anxious around people I didn't know, and I still get like that sometimes, but it is something that can be overcome. I mostly did it by reminding myself constantly that the worst that could happen wasn't really that bad.

The thing that bothered me was the idea that people might think I was awful or be embarrassed for or by me. Since I'm not a jerk, however, for that to happen, they'd have to be pretty awful themselves. And if they were the kind of person who judges others like that, I shouldn't care about their opinion anyway.

It's not a silver bullet, but it does help me to build up the courage to enter a room.

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