Tuesday, 25 June 2019

It's time to break down your walls: 8 ways to connect with people and feel comfortable in social situations

Laura is standing next to a bush wearing a black top and a black and white pencil skirt
Photo by Fordtography

Let’s be real, no one is ever comfortable in social situations (they might be fantastic pretenders), even the greatest extroverts must face their fears. Staying cool, keeping real in social situations requires consistent practice and patience. At times, awkward moments and conversations might push you away from making meaningful connections with other people. Self-consciousness may haunt you in these uncomfortable moments. Nevertheless, how can we be happy in ourselves if we are unable to connect with other people.

This post will discuss ways of connecting with people and “keeping your cool” in social situations. Get ready to face your fears and anxieties. You can do this.

1. Beware of projection 

Humans are wonderfully empathetic social animals. In fact, psychology suggests that social situations are often based on mirroring and projection.

Projection is a defense mechanism, in which individuals attribute certain ideas/feelings to other people, while in reality - they are the ones that hold those feelings. For instance, if you are unable to accept that you are uncomfortable or dislike the social group that you are in, your mind may start playing tricks and suggest that people hate you.

The first step to recognising projection is acceptance. The more you are true to yourself – the better you will feel in social situations. Get a journal, keep track of your ideas and feelings. That way, projection won’t be there to cause issues in social situations.

2. Be yourself - not your persona 

Keeping a mask in social situations is like a self-protective mask. Carl Jung refers to this as our “Persona”. We don’t want to get hurt, used or abandoned. We require safety, I think that this is part of our evolutionary wiring.

“The persona is the mask we wear in relation to the world and others. It is created through a combination of socialization, societal expectations, one’s experience of the world, and the natural attributes and tendencies of the individual. It combines elements of how we want to see ourselves” - David Schoen

The more we put our persona down and present the real parts of ourselves to other people, the easier it will be to feel connected. At first, not wearing a mask in social situations will feel extremely difficult but it’s all about the practice. 

You may question: “will they like the real me?”. Even if they don’t – it doesn’t matter. Don’t put yourself in a little box, just to be liked by others.

Recently, one of my favourite bloggers, Being & Niceness posted couple of posts on Jungian ideas. In one of the posts, he posed that:

We are typological beings – if we try to conform to the expectations of others all the time and deny our true nature, it can only lead to psychological woe. – Being & Niceness

I could not agree more. Take small steps. Be yourself and feel whole. Stop worrying about what other people think about you. Truthfulness is the best way to attract meaningful connections.

3. Interactions can depend on the people 

It’s impossible to get on with everyone, so stop assuming that in order to be great in social situations, you must be friends with everyone. Group dynamics are often shaped by individual characteristics of people in those groups.

Some social situations can be harder than others, it all depends on what sort of individuals you are around. Make a conscious effort in getting to know people, ask questions about their lives and their values. Understand the reasons underlying their behaviour.  Understanding is crucial in establishing a connection.

Know that if you are unable to feel connected – there are other, different people out there. Don’t give up.

4. Take it slow

If you are naturally an anxious person, don’t expect to become a social butterfly overnight. Take it slow, see your social communication as a ladder of progress.

Start off slow – interacting with one or two people at the time, in a quiet and controlled environment.
Once you get the hang of striking conversations and maintaining eye contact, larger environments will become easier. Don’t punish yourself for failing the first time – you’ve got this.

5. Get lost in the environment

You can either work with the environment that you are in or let the environment work against you.
Anxiety makes people feel self-conscious, overly alert about other people. Anxious individuals feel like they are constantly judged by others.

To control your anxiety, you should stop paying attention to it and get lost in the environment instead. Do not let your negativity fool you – people are not out there to get you. They are just as scared as you are.

6. Know that everyone is afraid

This is just to emphasize what I have mentioned previously – everyone is afraid and fighting their own battles.

You may not realise this, because a lot of people are perfect at hiding their problems. It’s not until you get to know them that this becomes more obvious.

In social situations, it’s not about YOU versus THEM. It’s about people working together towards acceptance, support and friendship.

7. Make an effort to listen

Making connections is not about constantly striking conversations about yourself. Meaningful conversations are based on careful listening and understanding. There is nothing worse than talking to a person who appears uninterested.

Listening skills are crucial to work on. It seems like such a simplistic element of social interactions – but effective listening makes all the difference.

Listen. Bounce back in conversations, ask questions to keep the conversation going. If you listen carefully, people will respect you far more than if you are not. Make a conscious effort to listen in social situations.

8. Be open and let people in 

Friendships can’t form if you don’t give people a chance. Most people are afraid to let people in, they build walls around themselves.

We are like little closed clams or scared hedgehogs. I can give plenty of analogies to emphasize our reserved nature.

If you can’t break down your protective wall, at least put away a few bricks at the time. Let people see you – the real you. After all, meaningful conversations are a two-way process.

Letting people is also all about trust – I wrote about trusting yourself and others in one of my previous blog posts: "How to trust yourself and others"

These are all my thoughts on making connections with others and feeling a bit more comfortable in social situations. You may suffer from social anxiety, coming to terms with yourself and your fears can take some time and introspection. The feeling of comfort will not disappear overnight. Start tracking your progress, be proud of your achievements.

I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Stay tuned for more posts & follow my blog. You can also catch me on Twitter or Instagram. Let’s be friends!

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  1. Nice piece as usual Laura! I’m sure that readers will be able to extract lots of usual info from this. I might add that we can also be prickly at times or just massive pricks (like those hedgehogs)! ������������

    1. Ahaha yes absolutely I think we are naturally predisposed to be pricks sometimes :D Thanks for reading!

  2. This is a very exhaustive list which points out the reasons! Well written!

    1. Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Really helpful post with lots of insights. It’s given me plenty to think about and work on to improve my confidence in social situations.


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  5. Such a well written post sharing some insight into different areas. Thank you sharing x

  6. Helpful post. "Be Yourself - Not Your Persona" is absolutely true. Anxiety sometimes causes some introverts (especially those of us who are also shy/socially anxious) to want to say or act in ways that may be contrary to who we are. I used to do this when I was younger and stopped when I realized what I was doing. HOWEVER...there are times when extroverts will tell you to "come out of your shell" or "just be yourself," etc when you ARE just being your quiet, wonderful, thoughtful, authentic self.

  7. Great tips! Really helpful post, I'm definitely guilty of letting my persona do the talking from time to time x


  8. This is good advice - I really struggle with the concept that not everyone has to like me something so that's a point I need to focus on. Very true about projection as well, I find all of that stuff so interesting. Great post!


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