Everybody’s Got It
There are many truths about humans and human nature. Here are two: All people have social anxiety. All people would like to have less social anxiety. Consider this a given. Many people would like to go out and meet people, but they say, “Yeah, but I have social anxiety!” Unfortunately, some people use this as an excuse. As if they are the only ones that have it.
All People Have Social Anxiety
Humans are built to be social. But we have a set of filters and systems to keep us from falling prey to con artists and sociopaths. Women have an extra set of filters to make any guy they approaches them have to jump through plenty of hoops. We do this because if we humans make a mistake and let the wrong person past our boundaries, we could die.
Social Anxiety Is Just A Label
What we call social anxiety is a label that we use to describe all the heightened senses we feel when there are many people around. One reason we have this much energy flowing through us is so our senses can perceive more. The total energy surrounding social anxiety is not much different from excitement.
Our Brains Mostly Run On Auto Pilot
One of the Cialdini’s (more here link-) laws of influence is commitment and consistency. We prefer to do normal things. We don’t like to do new things. New things take up brain power. Normal things don’t. Studies have shown that when doing normal, comfortable things, our brains use a lot of memory cache. When you’re sitting at home or are somewhere safe, you aren’t really processing all the signals around you.
Most of the images you are seeing are internally generated. Your brain checks and as soon as it realizes you are in familiar territory, it references the previously stored information. So just going into brand new situations makes your brain work harder, something which it doesn’t really like to do.
Human Instincts Are Very Old
A helpful way to understand modern human behavior is by understanding that our instincts were calibrated a long, long time ago. With hunger this is easy to see. Way back in the day, food was hard and dangerous to get. So only those that were really hungry, all the time survived. What’s more, hunger makes us eat as much as we can, whenever we have a chance, since we might not get to eat again.
This is why over 60% of people in modern societies are overweight. Even though our conscious minds know that we only need a couple thousand calories a day, our hunger instinct overrides our conscious choices. This is exactly why the willpower diet never works for more than a couple days.
What are our social instincts? We can sort of guess by imagining how they would have been calibrated. We were hunter-gatherers for a very long time. We’ve only been living in large societies for about ten thousand years. This is very short in evolutionary times. And we’ve only had things like telephones, TV, social media for a hundred years or less. So our ancient instincts have NO CLUE what to do with all this technology.
More importantly, our ancient instincts have no clue what to do about all these goddamn people we see everywhere. Ancient hunter-gatherers lived in very small groups. Maybe a few hundred. This meant that our instincts were calibrated when it was very rare to meet somebody you’d never met before.
And even then, you never would meet somebody on your own. It was either some kind of ancient gang fight, or some pre-arranged trading thing. Bear skins for fish or something. Either way, the only way ancient people met other ancient people they didn’t know was when the WHOLE GROUP was involved.
Hunger And Anxiety
So trying and failing on the willpower diet is like trying to consciously trying to talk yourself out of being anxious and failing. You simply cannot override ancient instincts by thinking conscious thoughts. When it comes to our instincts, it takes a little more than wishing they would go away.
Let’s be very clear with this idea. If you are hungry, you are going to eat. You can’t just make yourself not hungry by saying, “I don’t understand, I’ve already eaten enough calories today, I shouldn’t be hungry!” When you’re inner caveman says it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat. Resistance is futile!
Hunger Is Manageable
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage your hunger. To re-train your hunger. To gain acquired tasted for healthy foods. Sure, if you just try and magic wish yourself out of your fast food diet, you’ll fail. But with enough commitment and more importantly, enough time, you can learn to not be a slave to your hunger.
Social Anxiety Is Manageable
Similarly, with enough time and practice and dedication, you can learn to manage your social anxiety. Most people don’t like to hear this. Most people think by reading a book, or wishing hard enough, they can make their social anxiety disappear. Worse, many people are conned into thinking there’s some kind of pill they can take. But just like weight loss pills, they may work in the short term, but they come with hidden costs.
Easier To Manage Than Hunger
Luckily, hunger is the hardest instinct to manage. If you don’t eat, you’re going to die. Plain and simple. So when it comes to order of importance, Mother Nature gave our hunger instinct the most power over our brains. When we get hungry enough, and our deep instincts actually think death is a possibility, eating will be the highest priority.
Social anxiety, on the other hand, never killed anybody. It’s just a useful filter to make sure we don’t stray into the wrong enemy camp, or show up at an ancient throwdown without a weapon. This means it’s much weaker than hunger. Much easier to manage. It does take time. But if you are willing to put in some effort, and you are realistic, you can soon be as socially fearless as you want.
Accept It Will Take Time
There are zero tricks that will quickly remove a large amount of social anxiety. The best bet is to go slowly and consistently. Any quick tricks will work, but they will also wear off just as quickly. The idea is to go as slow as you possibly can. Most techniques require that you rush outside of your comfort zone, find out that it’s really safe, and then that does the trick.
Unfortunately, that’s only a short term fix. As soon as you get back inside your comfort zone, you’ll quickly forget that short lived burst of adrenalin. The real trick is to very slowly expand your comfort zone. Slowly, consistently and patiently.
Killing Social Anxiety Requires Long Game Thinking
How long? Give it at least six months. Maybe longer. But the trade off will be you will never actually feel social anxiety in the process. Instead of pushing yourself into scary situations, you do the opposite. You’ll slowly build up your comfort zone, so you can do more and more socially outgoing things that will ALWAYS feel safe.
No, it’s not easy. There will be two parts that will be very hard. One is to stop doing things just when they are getting good. We’ll talk more on that below. Essentially, you’ll do things only slightly more than you can do now. But not so much that they cause any anxiety. This will make you think you can do more. That is when you need to stop. That is harder than it sounds. The second hardest thing is a lot of these exercises are very boring.
Consistency Is Key
If you commit to do them every single day, and not go too far outside your comfort zone, you will slowly expand your comfort zone. Think of two things right now. One that is socially comfortable. Like hanging out with a friend in Starbucks having a conversation. And one that is terrifying. Like rolling solo to a club, jumping up on stage and signing, or maybe hitting on every girl in the place.
IF you do these exercises consistently, in a few months (or a year or so) doing whatever you think is terrifying now will feel as safe and normal and comfortable as what feels safe and normal and comfortable now. This requires very slow, very steady and very consistent practice.
OK I’m Sold! What Do I Do?
Leave On A High Note
This simple technique requires three basic components. One of them is the leave on a high note strategy. For example, most people have this experience. A guy will see a girl, and start a conversation. For a while it’s going pretty good.
But then he or she runs out of things to say. Then it becomes awkward. Both of them hang around hoping for the awkwardness to end, but it doesn’t. Then it becomes uncomfortable. Then it ends. This is the wrong way to do these exercises.
The Right Way
The right way is to do whatever level you are at (more on that below). Once it feels good, leave. In order to this to work, every single exercise (more below) has to be done and finished while it still feels good. If you push it to the point of failure and discomfort (like most people) it won’t work.
Training Till Failure Only For Muscles
When training till failure, doing pushups until you can’t do anymore, your muscles will rebuild on their own. But when you train until failure in social situations, the opposite happens. Your brain isn’t going to rebuild better neurons. It will make an association. One that says social situations are painful.
Never Train Till Failure In Social Situations
This is very simple in concept, but very hard to do in practice. But the bottom line is equally simple. If you cannot obey this simple rule, you will never rid yourself of social anxiety. What simple rule? If you push yourself, in any social situation, to the point of discomfort, for any reason, your brain will make an association. One that says social situations = discomfort. This is not the association you want.
What Association Do I Want?
You want to engage just enough until you feel good. Then you quit. What association will this create? One that says social situations are easy. One that says social situations are enjoyable. One that will make your brain make you want to engage more in social situations.
What’s The Rule Again?
Leave on a high note. If you go past the high note, you’ve gone too far. Never, ever, wear out your welcome. Whatever stage you are in the exercises, always leave before the other person wants you to leave. This is absolutely vital. This will build another critical link in your monkey brain.
One that says social situations are not only fun and enjoyable, but other people want you. If you train until failure (like every goof that hasn’t read this brilliant post does) you train the opposite. You train your monkey brain to think that social situations are uncomfortable and everybody always tells you to go away. Why the hell would you want that idea in your head?!
One More Time
Just in case you missed it, don’t be some greedy dog hanging on hoping for a free bone at the end of the conversation. Engage, get a good feeling, and then LEAVE. If you can’t do this, if you get a good feeling and hang on for dear life (like most do), your social anxiety will grow. Get a good feeling and leave!
Start as slowly and easily as you can. See this as a six month to one year project. Yes, it will take that long. But if you are consistent, and only do a little bit each day, and follow the most important rule, in six months or a year you will be socially fearless.
Most people borrow shittons of money to attend four years of college just so they can work at Starbucks and never pay off their debt. Give yourself a year. Hang out with your friends, sure, but beyond that, see yourself as going through a very critical Socially Fearless Training Period.
If you suck it up and do this for a year, you will be worth way more money than you are now. You will get laid way easier than you do now. You’ll make friends way easier than you do now. Life will be much more enjoyable than it is now.
First choose the simplest thing you can do. For most people, that is making eye contact. Make eye contact with somebody until it feels good, and then stop. Do this a certain number of times per day. Once you can do the same number per day with zero fear or anxiety, move on to step two.
Make eye contact and smile. As soon as you smile at somebody else, stop. Don’t wait for them to smile back. Don’t wait for them to say hi. Don’t wait for them to do anything. Eye contact, smile and stop.
Once you can make easy eye contact and smile at people, hold their eye contact while smiling until one or two things happen. One is they smile back. Two is they look away. When either one happens, stop.
The next step is to do this when people are sitting and you are sitting. This is much harder than when you are both walking in separate directions. When they either smile back or look away, forget about them. Don’t look at them again or sit there for three hours trying to determine the next move.
Say hi. However you can, say hi. As soon as the words leave your lips, you are done. No more. Leave. Never look at them again.
Say something after hi. Ask a question about the environment. Anything. One simple question that is easy for them to answer. What time is it. Is the coffee here good. Where am I. Sure is hot today, isn’t it. Once the words leave your mouth, wait for the first response from them, and leave. If they look away, leave. If they respond, leave. If they take off their shirt and show you their boobs, leave.
Add another questions. Now you’re at two. You said something, they did something. Now say something else. That’s it. Wait for them to respond to this something else, and then leave. Once you get to this level, keep going. Figure out the next easy baby step.
Slow Comfort Zone Expansion
We do what is inside our comfort zone. So the most logical thing is to make your comfort zone bigger. Once you get to any level where you can do that several times a day without having to push yourself, that is the new size of your comfort zone.
For example, if you can make eye contact and smile and it’s easy, that is the size of your comfort zone. Do the next step until THAT is easy, and that will be the new size of your comfort zone.
Practice And Life
Life is what you do inside your comfort zone. Practice is whatever level you are at just barely outside your comfort zone, until that new comfort zone becomes your new comfort zone.
As Big As You Want It To Be
Once you get a comfort zone big enough to meet new people easily and make friends, you’ve got two options. One is to simply enjoy life inside your new comfort zone where everything you want to do is easy. The other option, of course, is to just keep on expanding your comfort zone.
Inch By Inch – Life’s A Cinch
If you do this slowly and consistently, there is nothing you won’t eventually be able to do. With enough consistency and dedication, you can make your comfort zone as big as the entire planet. Get started today. Keep going as slowly as you can. Always leave on a high note. Follow these simple rules, and life is yours for the taking.
Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses all designed to help you maximize your communication and social skills.