With her clients, Ms Rosser works to identify fears, the causes of inhibition, and figure out what’s being avoided and why.
To test the waters she suggests setting simple, straightforward goals. If you’re at a social event, it could be introducing yourself to one or two new people.
It’s important to remember if you don’t hit it off with someone new, it’s not due to failure on your part, she says.
“You are only responsible for 50 per cent of the conversation. If a conversation doesn’t go anywhere, don’t be overly critical of yourself,” she says.
When it comes to keeping in touch with existing friends, it’s all about regular contact, however small it may be, Ms Rosser says.
“It’s just about … dipping a toe in a bit. These days it’s so easy to do through email, texting or other technology. Just making that contact is really important,” she says.
Going outside your comfort zone
When you’re having an anxious time, everything is harder. So what do you do when your comfort zone completely disappears?
Choose the right setting for you
A party might seem like a logical way to meet new people or catch up with old friends. But if you hate loud spaces and people talking over each other, it’s not going to be very conducive to connecting with other people and enjoying yourself.
“Often [those] noisy, confusing, overstimulating environments at parties, concerts, loud bars and other social events … [can] increase the level of social anxiety for shy people,” says Dr Haslam.
“If you can find situations where you can have a one-to-one interaction in a safe environment, where there isn’t a huge amount of overstimulating noise and complexity, that’s going to be easier.”
- Go for a walk. Walking side by side can be less threatening and stimulating than a face-to-face setting, which can make things easier, Ms Rosser says.
- Choose a gallery, sporting event or the weekend markets as an activity. Having something external to focus on can help if you feel uncomfortable being the centre of attention.
- See a movie together. “Just going for a coffee or a beer after a movie together might be a bit more achievable, particularly if it’s with someone you don’t know particularly well,” Ms Rosser says.
- Invite a colleague to grab a coffee with you. It’s the sort of activity Ms Rosser would set for socially anxious clients because it’s brief, focused around an activity and achievable.
If you are shy or socially anxious, the internet can be helpful for finding like-minded people. It also might be easier to express yourself in writing than in a fast-paced conversation, says Dr Boag.
Making friends through sharing apps
“A friend developed an interest in soccer, so he started organising events to meet up with people who like playing soccer each Sunday in a park,” she says.
These events can be less overwhelming because you might already know a few people, everyone has a reason to be there, and the focus won’t be on you.
If, like many introverts, you have a special interest, online groups and communities can be a great way to find your squad, Dr Boag adds, and many do real-life meet-ups.
Or you might be perfectly happy in your own company
He enjoys the solitary life, and finds it troubling that his personality and preferences might be interpreted as problematic by others.
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