Whether it’s at work, at a party, or on a date, we often find ourselves in conversations that test our confidence. When we talk to people we perceive as smarter, more powerful, nicer, more talented, or more attractive, it’s normal to feel inadequate or intimidated. We fear that this more impressive person will judge us, think less of us, or reject us.
There is no shame in struggling in these social situations, said therapist Melissa Weinberg of Open Lines Counseling in Baltimore.
“We are social creatures, and naturally we care a lot about what other people think of us, especially those we respect, people who have a certain social position on us or anyone who attracts us”, Weinberg, specialist of anxiety treatment, told HuffPost. “Rather than feeling weird about it, fighting or avoiding situations, remember the universality of experience.”
Below, experts offer tips on how to cope with people you find intimidating.
First, change the tone of your inner dialogue.
Self-talk is how we talk to ourselves. For many of us, it’s that negative inner voice that always tells us we’re boring, unlovable, socially awkward, and destined to screw up. Positive self-talk may not come naturally to everyone, but it is something that can be cultivated with practice.
“People can rarely speak to each other in a positive tone that is reassuring and encouraging, but it is essential to set the mood and tone for your potentially intimidating social interaction,” said Kendra Witherspoon Kelly, Certified Professional Counselor at the Resilience Project at Atlanta. . “Say things that highlight your positive attributes or even the parts of you that are improving. Shine on yourself!
Here are some examples of positive self-talk: “I can’t wait to attend this professional event, but I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone”, “I’ve never had a problem with myself. friends in the past – so why would it be any different? or “My small talk skills are still a work in progress, but I ask good questions and am a good listener.”
Determine the gist of what you want to say ahead of time.
You won’t always be able to prepare for these conversations, as they sometimes happen on the fly. But when you can, it can soothe you if you think about what you want to say ahead of time. You don’t need to write and memorize an entire script; finding a few chips should do the trick.
“We are social creatures, and naturally we care a lot about what other people think of us, especially those we respect, people who have a certain social position on us or on anyone who attracts us.
– Melissa Weinberg, therapist at Open Lines Counseling
“The more ready you are before the interaction, the more confident you will be,” Advisor Caris Thetford wrote in an article for The Muse. “It might not be completely wiped out, but that’s okay – a touch of anxiety can help you perform under pressure. The idea is to reduce or prevent crippling fear. ”
Remember that this person is also human.
No matter what that other person’s status is, they have physical and emotional needs just like you (and everyone else). To remind you of this commonality, try using the phrase “just like me,” said Jennifer Kammeyer, communication coach, who teaches leadership communication at San Francisco State University.
“You say, this person is having breakfast, just like me.” This person feels sad, just like me. It helps shift your perspective of being a person from ‘intimidating’ to ‘human’, ”she said.
Know what value you are adding to the conversation.
Identify your strengths: you may be a great storyteller, a creative problem solver, or have a wealth of knowledge on a particular topic.
“Before you commit, remember why you are here,” Kammeyer said. “Someone else invited you to the meeting or social engagement for a reason. Tell yourself why you were invited and how you add value. “
“Someone else invited you to the meeting or social engagement for a reason. Tell yourself why you were invited and how you add value. “
– Jennifer Kammeyer, communication coach
Let this thought empower you to be yourself in the conversation. Of course, you can increase or decrease the volume of certain parts of your personality, depending on who you are talking to and the setting. But whether you’re chatting with the boss of your business or an attractive acquaintance at a barbecue, it’s always “you.”
“Communicating as authentic ourselves allows us to be free in our conversations,” said Amelia Reigstad, communications consultant and coach. Minneapolis. “Know yourself, how you react in situations and how you best communicate. To be an authentic communicator, think about active listening, respecting yourself and others, being responsible for your own feelings, and knowing that showing emotions in conversations is OK.
Be aware of your body language.
During the conversation, try to stay physically grounded in your body, as this can also help you feel more stable mentally.
“Stand with your feet hip-width apart or sit with your knees apart and both feet on the floor,” Kammeyer said. “Don’t cross your legs or your arms. Focus on the feeling of your feet literally anchoring you. Concentrate on your posture by being upright with a strong stomach and back. By anchoring yourself physically, you gain confidence. ”
Immerse yourself in the interaction before you get excited.
“The longer you linger and avoid engaging in conversation, the more you will get stuck in your fears,” Weinberg said.
Then take a deep breath and tune in to the here and now – focus on the sound of the other person’s voice, the color of their eyes, or the texture of your clothes. This way you will be more present in the conversation and less concerned with how you are meeting.
“Obviously it’s hard to control, but try to bring yourself back to the present moment, notice your attention slipping into your own fears and discomfort, and remember listen, ”Weinberg said. “Get yourself out of your head and out of your physical sensations by turning your attention to the present, anchoring yourself through your senses.
Accept the discomfort.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when in an agonizing social situation is trying to get out of those uncomfortable feelings, Weinberg said. But it’s a paradox: the more mental energy you exert by trying do not the more anxious or intimidated you feel, the more anxious or intimidated you feel.
“The more you try to get rid of it, the more intense and distracting your anxiety will become,” Weinberg said. “Practicing acceptance and allowing the presence of anxiety is a much more adaptive strategy. While this can naturally be uncomfortable to practice, it can teach you that anxiety is tolerable. ”
We’ve all been there: Somehow you’ve found yourself in a conversation with someone you have nothing in common with, someone who bully you or someone who won’t stop no complaints. These types of interactions can be uncomfortable, to say the least. Our HuffPost series How to talk to anyone will help you navigate these and other conversations. Go here for all the last ones.