Social anxiety has become a pretty hot topic in the last few years for obvious and more subtle reasons. Although many of us can start to feel better by reconnecting with neighbours, friends or even making more small talk when ordering a coffee – this isn’t always the most helpful approach. The main reason for this is that we can walk away from social situations with a slightly or radically distorted view of how we were perceived or whether it was a ‘good’ conversation and this can directly change how likely we are to try to connect with people in the future.
One of the most successful ways I’ve found to work with individuals with anxiety, and especially social anxiety is by coming up with experiments together. When we try an experiment it means that it doesn’t have to work, we are basically just wanting to learn more about the world and what happens when we try something new. I’ve found the following really helpful and encourage you to try your own experiments to see if they can help you to increase the number of social connections you have in your week. One example might be to initiate conversation with a co-worker or classmate 2-3 times per week. The experiment is to focus on initiating the conversation (a fantastic skill) – not whether you immediately make a new friend or whether they like you more.
- After experiments (and other anxiety triggers), think about and make a note of any positive steps or actions you took (it can be easy to ignore these!) Be specific, not general. Begin each with a statement like “I am proud that…” Don’t disqualify the positive, even if it feels small or was not perfect.
- Do not start criticizing yourself after you follow-through. Instead, think about anything you would like to do differently next time (just like how we might change an experiment if we don’t get the result you were expecting).I would love to hear about your success or challenges, please feel free to reach me at dapsychotherapy.ca or on therapy tribe