This Trick Might Help You Overcome Shyness & Social Anxiety

If you feel like social anxiety is getting in the way of your personal and professional life, it might be worth trying something unconventional to help you work through it. 

by | Jul 29, 2019 | article

Shyness and anxiety about social situations hit almost everyone at one point or another. The social butterfly who is confident at casual parties might freeze up at professional networking events, and the talkative salesperson might fear a dinner party where they don’t know anyone. If you feel like social anxiety is getting in the way of your personal and professional life, it might be worth trying something unconventional to help you work through it.

Our recent podcast guest, Mark Shapiro, has a great tip for overcoming anxiety about social events. When he goes to an event, he tells himself that he just has to meet three new people and then can leave. We love this idea because it limits the scope of the event: he doesn’t have to introduce himself to everyone, just three people. We bet that at many events, he’s enjoying himself so much after meeting three people that he stays and meets more.

Listen on Wellness 3.0: Social Media | Mark Shapiro

Podcast: How to Use Technology & Social Media to Feel More Connected

Mark Shapiro is on a mission to figure out how we can deepen our social connections using social media – which in many cases can seem like an oxymoron – as well as examine relationship building fundamentals, and empower people to prioritize the things that matter: authentic living and genuine support and connection.

Why do challenges and gamification work when other strategies for overcoming shyness don’t? In his work on computer games and learning, education scholar Mark Prensky notes that games offer many factors that improve learning: enjoyment, structure, goals, feedback, and gratification (among others). Here are a few challenges that might help you use gamification to improve your social comfort level.

Challenge 1: Find Your Opposite

Going to a party or networking event on your own can be seriously daunting. You might feel a bit adrift when you enter a room full of unfamiliar people, and your instinct might be to turn right around and head home. Instead of being overwhelmed by everyone there, give yourself a challenge: find the person at the event who’s the most different from yourself, your polar opposite. This will help you focus and give you a good reason to talk to people.

Challenge 2: Pretend It’s a Dare

Think about a Bachelor or Bachelorette party you’ve been to or observed. Odds are, you participated in some kind of game or activity that you’d normally be afraid of. Maybe you had to ask a stranger for a piggyback ride or sing karaoke in front of the whole group — something you’d never do in everyday life, but the atmosphere and the expectations of your friends made it possible to step outside of your comfort zone. You can use this challenge when you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming social event. Dare yourself to talk to a certain number of people, learn five new names, or stay for a certain amount of time.

Challenge 3: Gather Stories

This challenge is great if you’re going to an event with a partner or friend (though it can work for anyone). Rather than spending the whole event sticking with your spouse or buddy, make a deal with them that you have to find a certain number of stories to report back to them. You’ll be forced to venture out of your comfort zone to meet new people, and in order to gather some good stories, you’ll have to ask them interesting questions and practice being an active listener. If you’re going to an event on your own, simply challenge yourself to find stories to write down later.

Whether you’re intensely shy or just experience a flutter of anxiety before certain social events, creating fun challenges and practicing gamification can help you overcome your fears and make gatherings a lot more enjoyable.

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