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why am I always so awkward at events?

What to do when small talk makes you sweat

Anyone older than 5 knows life is full of opportunities to mix and mingle in social situations.

But if you have social anxiety, events can feel incredibly overwhelming.

First of all, if this is you, it’s important to give yourself permission to limit your social RSVP yes responses.

Sure, you want to be part of the festivities, but if you’re going to drink too much to try and calm your nerves, it’s a recipe for office rumors.

I’m giving you permission to say no to a social event as long as you’re not isolating and declining all the invites. After all, if social anxiety leaves you feeling drained and unable to manage the rest of life, then you need to be mindful of your boundaries around socializing.

Social Anxiety is really a form of Performance Anxiety

The underlying cause for many social anxieties is a worry about how others will perceive you.

Fear of judgement can be a powerful force.

Assuming the anxiety is connected to fear of judgment (and not a trauma-based anxiety about feeling physically unsafe in public), you can take steps to feel less stressed in the public eye.

Choose the events that you truly feel are important (including events that may not be optional).

Marie Kondo the events that don’t spark joy.

For the social functions you decide to (or must) attend, memorize these 3 sentences to alleviate some of the stress you feel when faced with the expectation for small talk.

Shift the focus with a question

When your fear is based on how people might judge you, questions can have the added benefit of shifting the focus away from you and onto the other person.

Open-ended questions are your best bet…they help keep the conversation flowing and leave less room for the dreaded awkward silences.

In the moment, it can be challenging to think of open-ended questions… so keep these 3 examples in your back pocket (figuratively or literally… no judgement if you take this list and sneak off to the restroom to read them as a reminder mid-event!).

3 questions to use when have

social anxiety

How to Make Small Talk With Less Anxiety

1. What plans do you have for (insert upcoming holiday or weekend)?

This is an oldie but a goodie.

If the person has exciting plans, they’ll share.

Even if their answer is “nothing,” people will often elaborate as to why they are taking time away from the social scene (we’ve been busy at work, last week was hectic, etc.).

If their answer is “nothing,” and that’s all you get, you can encourage them to elaborate by asking, “how do you feel about having the (holiday, weekend, etc.) free to yourself?”

2. What good books have you read/shows have you Netflixed/ movies have you seen lately?

Asking someone’s recommendation shows you value their opinion.

To continue the conversation, you can follow up with, “what is it that you like about that book/genre/movie/show/etc.?”

3. What’s the most memorable place you’ve traveled?

If they don’t have an answer, you can ask where they’d like to go someday.

Follow up questions to keep the conversation flowing are things like, “what was it that made that trip so special/memorable?” and “do you plan to ever make that trip again?”

will this work for my social anxiety?

The point of small talk is to keep the interactions short and sweet.

Try sticking to just one or two questions per conversation, then politely excuse yourself to the buffet, restroom, bar, etc. and include a sweet, “It was nice chatting with you,” to signal to the other person that you’re moving on.

Find another new person, and start the process again.

The party will end and the guests you talked to will leave feeling grateful that someone like you took an interest in getting to know a little about them.

Remember, the key is to ask open-ended questions (instead of yes/no questions).

It might also be helpful to spend some time thinking of your own answers to these questions… just in case the person you’re asking is also anxious and decides to ask you the same things.

find a therapist for your social anxiety

The following therapists at The Joy Effect offer counseling for social anxiety.  Click on each name to read more about the therapist.