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.
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.