Self-Help: Overcoming Social Anxiety
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The college years can be a crucial time for practicing and improving social skills to be used in one's personal and professional life. Shy students often find this task challenging.
While there may be many causes of shyness, a few common themes predominate; low self esteem and an accompanying fear of rejection; excessive concern for others' approval; and the memory of a past hurtful social experience.
When students suffer from shyness, they may be likely to avoid others, be absent from campus extracurricular functions, not speak up in class, be unable to initiate casual conversations or ask someone for a date.
They may also have trouble asking for help, standing up for themselves in difficult situations, or give the appearance of being uninterested in others.
Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety
If I am a shy student what can I do to learn to feel more comfortable in social settings? These tips may help the shy student to feel more confident.
Adjust your attitude
This can be done on two fronts; changing your unrealistic expectations of your own behavior and changing your distorted perception that others will condemn you if you are not perfect. Practice replacing your self-critical thoughts with more supportive ideas.
For example, "Most people can handle it when someone makes a mistake," "It would be nice if this had turned out differently, but it's not the end of the world," "No one else is perfect. I don't have to be either."
Start small, in logical places, and build
Smile, nod, say hello to the people you encounter. Make a brief comment to a classmate sitting nearby re: the homework, text, teacher, exam, department, etc. this week. At the next class session repeat this process with the same person and include an additional classmate in the conversation.
Keep repeating the process until a handful of people start to feel more familiar to you and it seems more natural to talk to them. A next logical step would be to get some of them together for study or recreation.
Consider participating in a special interest group/service organization. Nothing helps people get to know each other better than working on a common project together.
Talk in a moderately louder voice, and don't be afraid if your statement overlaps the previous speaker a bit. Frequent eye contact is essential in modern communication. A relaxed, but alert posture is more approachable than a rigid one.
Have something to say
Become knowledgeable about current events, campus news. If you have a specialized interest, learn to talk about it so that beginners as well as experts can understand you. Collect amusing stories or jokes to tell.
Be a curious listener
Ask questions that are open-ended; that is, not answered with a simple yes or no. Open-ended questions start with "why, how, what, when". Give compliments when appropriate. In social settings, take the risk to approach another person who looks shy.
Take every opportunity that comes along to improve your skills.