This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Do you perform required social tasks only when absolutely necessary? Do meeting, greeting, and mixing with others make you feel apprehensive and self-conscious? If so, this class is for you. Stop watching life from the sidelines! You'll learn a simple, proven, systematic method for dealing with a variety of social situations. Gain new confidence and self-esteem, and find genuine enjoyment in interacting with others. 1. Understanding the problem After getting some background for understanding the source and degree of your fears, you'll explore some beginning steps for overcoming your social phobias. 2. Building a foundation for change Find out how to take the first steps toward self-improvement using the three key factors that result in positive changes and the Social Success Cycle. 3. The Social Success Cycle Learn how to gain the courage needed to attend social functions, then learn some strategies for handling potentially awkward situations you might encounter. 4. Applying the model Building on what you learned in Lesson 3, learn how to bolster your confidence and manage apprehension when dealing with others.
Giving fear a name
Understanding the problem
5. Changing for good Gain a better understanding of the concept of relapse and what to do to prevent it. Learn the importance of a balanced lifestyle and develop skills for continuing your growth beyond this course. 6. Where do I go from here? Evaluate the progress you have made, and examine the options of professional help and medication. You will also learn how to handle a potentially shy child.
After getting some background for understanding the source and degree of your fears, you'll explore some beginning steps for overcoming your social phobias. Public speaking is the number one phobia in America. The common symptoms associated with public speaking (cold sweats, dread, and avoidance) have a name: social anxiety. More than 15 million Americans experience similar reactions to a variety of social situations, exhibiting symptoms of the third largest psychological problem in the United States. Fortunately, there is a solution for this phobia. Through this course, you will learn to conquer your fears of public speaking and social interactions through positive thinking and learning how to take command of the situation.
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Fear goes public
We're assuming that you enrolled in this course because you also are suffering from the effects of social anxiety. Maybe you don't call it that. Maybe you say you're shy, bashful, or reticent, or like the late great George Harrison, you are just quiet. As we go through this course, we will be using the terms "shy" and "socially anxious" interchangeably. Regardless of what we call it, we don't have to tell you how potentially crippling it can be. It fogs your mind, ties your tongue, and keeps you home when you could be interacting with other people. It can even wreck families, ruin careers, and can lead to a host of secondary problems such as depression and drug abuse. Worst of all, it robs you of a sense of well-being.
Until relatively recently, social anxiety was an invisible epidemic. No one talked about it. Shy people certainly were not inclined to bring it up -- further increasing their feelings of isolation and being "weird." Even now, people with severe social anxiety are misdiagnosed almost 90 percent of the time as "schizophrenic," "manic-depressive," "clinically depressed," "panic disordered," and "personality disordered," among other damaging misdiagnoses. The stigma surrounding social anxieties is lifting, thanks primarily to celebrities like Carol Burnet, Johnny Carson, and recently Donny Osmond who have spoken candidly about the torment of being socially anxious. With this openness has come the development and dissemination of improved methods for dealing with the problem. Best of all, each success story has added new evidence to the fact that the fear of social things can be overcome.
About this class
This class is a practical guide for improving your social effectiveness. Reading the lessons will get you some progress toward where you want to be. But to gain even more from the program, you will need to practice what you have learned.
We will begin by understanding more clearly what it means to be socially anxious. We will talk about shyness as a kind of stress and some of the more common misunderstandings people have about personal growth. The heart of the program is something called the Social Success Cycle. You'll learn about each of the four principles of the cycle, the barriers to achieving each principle, and how to remove these barriers. And in later lessons we will discuss the issue of relapse, the use of medication, if needed, and other tips for staying on track. What you learn in the lessons is just one part of the program. Some of the best ideas in the class come from participants, like you, posting their ideas on the Message Board. We hope you will regularly check what these other participants are saying as they move through the program. And we hope you will take time to share some of your own insights or to seek clarification on points in the lessons.
Types of shyness
Think of this class as a journey of discovery and development -- a journey you are taking with a community of learners interested in achieving the same things that brought you to the program. Let's begin now with a better idea of shyness.
One of the greatest tales of survival in expedition history is Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 voyage to the Antarctic. After almost two years of unbelievable hardship including the lost of his only ship and being stranded for months on a drifting ice floe, Shackleton returned safely to England without losing a single member of his band of explorers. Shackleton needed 28 men for the expedition. To recruit them he ran the following ad: Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
Whether inspired by a spirit of adventure or driven by desperation, over a hundred men applied. The criterion Shackleton used to narrow down the numbers was not technical talent. In fact, only one member of the final group had any prior experience in dealing with sled dogs. Shackleton selected the men on the basis of their optimism. To succeed, his crew had to consist of individuals convinced they would prevail, no matter what.
Optimism is an essential ingredient for any journey of personal growth, but unbridled optimism can lead to recklessness. It is important, therefore, to have realistic expectations about the process of change. How much time and energy you will need to expend to put shyness behind you depends on how far you want to go, where you begin, and how much of a problem shyness has been for
you. As we mentioned earlier, millions of people report difficulties with social situations. Within these millions, there are vast differences. This matrix provides a view of some of the different facets of shyness. Let's begin by considering the two dimensions of shyness.
There are two dimensions to consider in sizing up your shyness. Each of these dimensions can be considered in terms of a question. The first dimension deals with the number of situations that you find difficult. Some people have difficulty with just a few social settings. Other are troubled by a multitude of situations. 1. In how many situations do I find myself having difficulty? 2. How much distress do I experience in these situations?
The second dimension focuses on the intensity of stress and emotional discomfort you experience when your shyness is acting up. Different situations evoke different levels of discomfort. Think of intensity of discomfort as ranging along a ten-point continuum. A 9 or 10 on this scale would indicate a high level of distress. A 3 or 4 would indicate only mild distress.
You are situationally shy if you have difficulty in just a handful of social events. Charles, for instance, has a problem with family reunions. In other social situations at work or among his own friends, he has no difficulty at all. Charles' shyness is situational. Certain life events are common causes of situational shyness. For instance, don't be surprised if your outgoing nature changes to feelings of uneasiness and self-consciousness following any of these live events: relocation to a new community; divorce or separation; promotion at work.
Charles' situational shyness could be either mild or severe depending on the intensity of the stress he experiences in the situation.
Charles and his sister, Stephanie, are very different. For Stephanie, a family gathering is the only place where she feels comfortable. She finds almost every other social experience to be at least a minor challenge.
Stephanie's experience of shyness would place her in the chronic side of the matrix. Whether her shyness should be called mild or severe depends again on the intensity of distress and emotional and behavioral impairment she experiences.
Social anxiety disorder
There is a special case of social anxiety that needs to be discussed. Some individuals find themselves regularly experiencing intense distress in a wide range of social situations. This combination of intense distress and the frequency occurrence is an indication of a possible clinical diagnosis called social anxiety disorder. In her book, Painfully Shy, Barbara Markway lists four criteria that must be met for a clinical diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. 1. Show significant and persistent fear of social situations in which embarrassment or rejection
You can check out more of what Dr. Markway has to say about social anxiety disorder by referring to pages 14 and 15 in the first chapter of her book.
may occur. 2. Experience immediate anxiety driven, physical reactions to feared social situations. 3. Realize that his or her fears are greatly exaggerated, but feel powerless to do anything about them. 4. Often avoid the dreaded social situation -- at any cost.
If you feel you meet these criteria, you may want to seek out a trained mental health practitioner who can review your circumstances. Only a trained mental health professional can tell you whether or not the extent of your difficulties with shyness merits this diagnosis. Although the principles presented in the following lessons apply to all types of anxiety, people with social anxiety disorder may choose to seek out a trained professional to provide ongoing guidance and support and in some instances prescribed medications. Not everybody needs counseling or medications.
We will discuss the value of professional counseling and medication in the final lesson. But for now let’s emphasize that an arsenal of new tools are now available that can significantly accelerate your success in mastering social anxiety. Counseling and medication are powerful interventions that can put a permanent end to the pain and loneliness of shyness. You may not need counseling or medication, but we hope you will be open to the possibility of accessing these tools if they seem appropriate to your unique circumstances.
The interaction of the scales of frequency and discomfort will give you a ballpark idea of what you are up against in bringing around personal change. How steep the learning curve will be for you will depend on a number of factors including the amount of anxiety you are experiencing, the number of situations that you find difficult, and the length of time that social anxiety has been a concern to you.
For instance, if you feel that you are mildly shy in a handful of situations, you can count on relatively quickly gaining some significant improvements by focusing on these few situations.
Committing to change
If, on the other hand, you have had a long career of severe shyness in a host of situations, your journey will be longer. But don't be dismayed. We would like you to meet someone whose character will inspire you. We all need role models. Always remember that people and lives change. Life and everything about life is a work in progress. Planet Earth, the stars, the universe -- what we all share in common is our impermanence. Nothing is fixed. Everything is moving, going somewhere, changing.
Most importantly, you change. Yesterday, there were certain things you couldn't do. Today is about making new choices. Five weeks, five months, five years -- who cares how long it takes? What's important is you have started. You are on your way to creating a whole new way of being in your world.
The difference between "no" and "not yet"
In public speaking workshops, instructors sometimes divide the class into two groups. Both groups are asked the same couple of questions. One half can only respond "no," regardless of how they feel about the questions. The other half can only respond "not yet." Instructors ask questions like "Are you respected and admired by all who know you?" and "Have you achieved all that you have wanted to achieve in your life?" One side answers "No." The other
side responds "Not yet." Later the group discusses which response is preferred. "Not yet" wins out every time. There is a ring of finality to "no." But "not yet" holds promise. Let’s try this right now. Pick any one of the social things you currently find difficult: attending a happy hour after work; carrying on light conversation with someone on an elevator; going through a job interview; asking someone out. Pick any one thing you find difficult. Here's our question: "Can you comfortably ______?" (Fill in the blank with the one social item you find the most difficult.) Now respond. But don't say "No." Rather, respond with "Not yet." You: Not yet. You: Not yet. Instructor: Can you comfortably attend a happy hour after work?
"Not yet" has the sweetness of momentum. It says you may not be there, but you are definitely on your way.
Instructor: Can you comfortably carry on light conversation with someone on an elevator?
A pivotal scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is when the friendly giant, Hagrid, says to Harry, "You're a wizard Harry." Abused and neglected his whole life, Harry responds, "I'm a what?" He hasn't a clue that he possesses special qualities. He has no notion of his true potential. Like Harry, you may reject any suggestion that there is anything remarkable about you. But do you really know? Who's to say what latent capabilities within you have been held back by inhibition, selfdoubt, and fear. As in Harry, there's more magic in you than you may have ever imagined. Begin your journey now by replacing "no" with "not yet" whenever you think of how social anxiety has limited you.
The learning community
The experience of shyness can be torturous and frightening. The good news is that more is known today than ever before about the problem and how to fix it.
In the following lessons we have compiled the latest and the most practical and proven methods for finding rapid and lasting relief to your shyness. This is more than a course of study. In taking this program, you are joining a community of learners seeking a healthier and happier way of being in the world. Our common bond is a sincere spirit of compassion and mutual support. Please join this wonderful community as we move to our next lessons.
This lesson acquainted you with some beginning exercises for overcoming your social fears. You’ve learned about the different kinds and intensities of these phobias, and how to work toward a more social self by saying “not yet” instead of “no.”
Lesson 2 will help you understand your fears and provide suggestions for getting past them. We will address the quest for self-improvement and discover the three key factors that result in positive
Assignment #1 Quiz #1
A) B) A) B) A) B) A) B) A) B)
Before moving on to that lesson, be sure to complete the assignment and take the quiz for this lesson, then head over to the Message Board to introduce yourself and meet your instructor and fellow classmates.
Practice asking yourself if you're ready to embrace certain social situations that make you uncomfortable. If you're not ready, say "not yet." Visualize yourself accomplishing your goals and remind yourself that you will eventually get to that point. Stay positive -- this is a journey that takes time. Question 1: Social anxiety is the third largest psychological problem in the United States. Question 2: Everyone with a social phobia needs counseling and medications. True True True True False False False False True False
Question 3: It is normal to feel shy and unsure of yourself following a life-changing event.
Question 4: People with severe social anxiety are misdiagnosed almost 90 percent of the time as "schizophrenic," "manicdepressive," "clinically depressed," "panic disordered," and "personality disordered," among other damaging misdiagnoses. Question 5: Chronic shyness is the same as situational shyness.
Understanding the problem
Building a foundation for change
Find out how to take the first steps toward self-improvement using the three key factors that result in positive changes and the Social Success Cycle. Imagine going an entire day without any apprehensive feelings about being around people. One whole day where you are free to meet and mix with people and truly enjoy the company of others. Imagine that freedom continuing into another day and each succeeding day until you have created a lifestyle of social confidence and competence.
Do some prep work
This course can help you make that dream become a reality. Admitting that you have a problem is a big step, one you shouldn't be ashamed to have taken.
Prepare yourself for anxietyinducing situations like interviews and networking events by preparing discussion points and topics.
Good for you!
There aren't a lot of benefits to being socially challenged. To be socially challenged is to be burdened with unpleasant feelings, negative and pessimistic thoughts, and self-conscious behavior. To be socially challenged is to wage a private war with your impulses. It is no exaggeration to say that when you are socially challenged, social acts are acts of courage. Our message to you is to lose your courage. Lose the bravery you have to muster each time you meet someone new, go to a party, or carry on a conversation. Replace your terrified fortitude with a focused plan of action. The first step is to understanding what you are up against. Bob is socially challenged. He manages a small group of claims writers. Each month, all the managers get together for happy hour after work. As the event draws near, Bob begins to sleep poorly. He feels gloomy and depressed and is distracted and irritable with his family. "Will I do all right?" Bob asks himself. "Will I say something stupid? Will they see how nervous I am? Will they think less of me? Will I embarrass myself?"
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To look at Bob's sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, and general state of nervousness, you would think he was preparing to face some type of lifethreatening situation. And in his mind, he is. Bob's concern is not with saving his life, but with saving face. Bob is fearful for his self-image and his public image. Three fatal fears are controlling and constraining Bob's freedom to interact effectively with others. Let's look at these fears.
Fatal fear #1: fear of failure
The fear of failure is the fear of not meeting your own or others' expectations of you. As a socially challenged person, you look at social situations as if they were some type of final exam. You never feel you've studied enough or know enough to pass the test. You don't consider that you may be underestimating your own abilities and/or overestimating the difficulty of the test questions. Nor do you consider that no one judges you as harshly as you judge yourself.
Fatal fear #2: fear of rejection
The fear of rejection is related to the fear of failure. Rejection is like flunking the course, and flunking makes you feel left out. Belonging is a very primal need. To have people think less of you -- to be off the team and out in the cold -- is a frightening thought. But just as the fear of failure is a result of miscalculating abilities and requirements, the fear of rejection is an exaggeration of consequences.
Fatal fear # 3: fear of discomfort
The fear of discomfort is the fear of negative emotions. Socially challenged persons fear the intensity and consequences of fear. Nobody likes to feel fear, disappointment, despair, or anxiety. Everyone has some degree of apprehension in certain social situations. As a socially challenged person, you imagine that your feelings are going to overwhelm you. These feelings then interfere with your ability to interact.
The three fatal fears act like dictators, ruling your entire physiological response. They sap your energy, preoccupy your mind, and prevent you from being spontaneous in social situations. They can even prevent you from attempting to overcome them. It's like running a marathon with a sack of wet sand strapped to your back. The three fears put you at a disadvantage, and often compound the imagined liabilities with the real one of anxiety.
Consider what might happen if Bob instead faced the happy hour with more optimism for his success and less concern over the consequences of not succeeding. "I may not do so badly. They won't notice I'm nervous. Even if I do mess up a bit, it won't be so bad. It is safe." His feelings and his performance would be very much different than they are now. Of course, Bob can't change what he believes overnight. Neither can you. But you can change over time.
The anatomy of interpersonal stress
The goal is to turn down, turn off, or redirect the natural impulse for selfpreservation, to put it in perspective for the social situations in which you find yourself. We will show you exactly how to do this. First, let's take a closer look at stress -- our instinctive drive to stay alive.
Excavation for a new building halted in downtown Austin, Texas, when workers unearthed a mastodon bone. The local newspaper ran a story with the headline: "Relic of a Bygone Age." An equally ancient relic of a bygone age emerges regularly in each of us. When we are stressed, the changes that occur in our bodies are identical to the changes that took place in primitive men and women when they found themselves at risk. Stress is the ability and energy each of us have to deal with a threat or challenge. All stress episodes have the same four components. There is always a trigger: Some event or thing or person that sets the stress reaction in motion. Triggers are neutral. They don't, by themselves, mobilize a stress response. It is the interaction of triggers with thoughts and perceptions about the triggering events that activate physiological changes. With these changes -increasing heart rate, respiration, and glandular secretions -- the whole body is immediately poised and ready to respond. Classic flight/fight response typically involves freezing in place, escaping, or dealing with the threat. As a socially challenged person, your primal instinct for self-defense and selfpreservation is operating as it should be. It's just that the socially challenged person responds at the same life-or-death level that our primitive ancestors did.
The trigger: an invitation to a cookout
Let's look at an example of a potential trigger for a stressful situation: an invitation to a cookout. Here we will compare Jan, who feels comfortable in social situations, and Monica, who is socially challenged.
Jan's thoughts: "Oh boy! I love cookouts. It'll be great to relax and spend some time with friends and meet new people." Jan's reaction: excitement, anticipation, enthusiasm.
Monica's thoughts: "Uh-oh. What am I going to do? I guess it would be fun, but I hate standing around engaging in small talk, especially with people I barely know."
Monica's reaction: worry, tension, dread, reluctance.
Jan's behavior: She arrives early, moves around, interacts spontaneously with several people, and initiates conversations with friends as well as strangers. She meets strangers through mutual acquaintances, approaching them herself, or being receptive when they approach her. Monica's behavior: She flip-flops about attending, or possibly avoids the situation completely. If she attends, she stays in one small area, talks only if spoken to, and leaves early. The same trigger elicits two markedly different responses. Jan and Monica are both having a stress reaction. Jan's stress is positive energy. It propels in her a particular strategy of "playing to win." She is intent on connecting with others, expanding her network, and making the most of this social opportunity. Monica's stress experience is negative energy. The strategy she is motivated toward is slightly different -- she's "playing not to lose." She is intent on limiting her losses, protecting herself from the risks, and playing it safe to minimize her fears of failure, rejection, and discomfort.
The tragedy of this story is that because Jan's reaction was so positive and she was not burdened with worry about what the other people thought of her, she was perceived more positively by the people at the cookout. Monica, in trying to protect herself from humiliation and distress, probably made a less favorable impression. This can create a difficult cycle, which can make the fear harder to overcome next time. Once she realizes she is doing this (as you have done!) she can take steps to modify her responses.
Breaking down a stressful situation into its components will highlight the interplay of the four components (more on this in Lesson 2) and reveal what is happening within you as you experience the anxiety of socializing. Knowing that your own stress in a socially challenging situation can be analyzed this way will help you learn various options for dealing with the stress. For instance, Monica might replace the negative thoughts she has about attending the cookout with more constructive expectations about herself and the event. She could also call upon techniques for breathing or relaxing to deal directly with the physical tension in her body. She might anticipate the types of exchanges she is likely to run into and rehearse these mentally. Any of these alternatives could bring some relief and give her a sense of control over the situation.
Some truths about self-improvement
However, in order to make any of these changes, Monica first needs to acknowledge how she is currently dealing with social situations. Most people have misconceptions about personal growth and improvement. We will share with you some truths and warn you of some myths about successful change. Most people sabotage their efforts at personal change with unrealistic ideas and expectations regarding a personal change project. It's comparable to the instantaneous results expected from a miracle diet. Let's look first at some truths, then examine some commonly held misconceptions.
Truth #1: things are the way they are because they got that way.
Truth #1 reminds us that the good and the bad things affecting the quality of our lives don't just happen. They are the predictable results of cause-and-effect events.
Charlotte blames the extra weight she has gained and her bouts with depression on bad luck. Here's a snapshot of what's been happening in her life. Charlotte feels so awkward at her neighbor's Christmas party that she leaves early. She walks through the front door of her home and immediately feels hungry. She snacks on a piece of cold pizza. She eats too big a dinner. She sits down to watch a TV program. She feels bored and lonely. She walks into the kitchen, opens the pantry, and eats three of the kids' cookies. She feels guilty. Then she eats five more cookies. She goes to bed depressed and angry at herself and her neighbor.
Charlotte is not the victim of bad luck or fate. What's happening in her life is the work of the immutable forces of cause and effect. Charlotte is reaping what she sows -- in this case, a weight problem due to using food to comfort her in times of anxiety. If she believes the weight just fell on her with no participation on her part, she will not be able to take responsibility for her self-destructive actions and reverse the process. The same is true for you. Where you are, what you have, and who you are are not accidents. Life events and life choices brought you to this point in your life. This is good news. You can influence the events in your life. You can determine where you go from here. It's up to you. You are in charge of your own life.
Truth #2: unless things change, they stay the same.
There's an old song that goes "Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying -you will be his."
That may work in a song, but not in real life. (To be fair, the song says it won't work that way, either.) Assume that Charlotte is really, really sick and tired of going to bed every night depressed and angry. Her feelings, no matter how intense, won't change a thing. Feelings themselves have never changed anything. Feelings linked to actions, on the other hand, can work wonders. If you are not happy with being socially challenged, your dissatisfaction alone will change nothing. Truth #2 reminds us that if we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we are getting. Madness, a wise man once said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Truth #3: some things we can change, but we think we can't; some things we can't change, but we think we can.
Truth #3 reminds us to choose our battles wisely. Conserve your energy. Don't waste your efforts on things beyond your control. On the other hand, be persistent in changing those things that are within your control. Take the time to really define what is and is not within your reach. Look again at the snapshot of Charlotte's life and the points along that chain of events where she could do something differently. Changing even one thing -- for instance, she could take a walk rather than watch TV -- could yield a completely different outcome for Charlotte. She can't control her appetite, but she could satisfy it with less fattening snacks until she has, in other ways, curbed her need to comfort herself by snacking.
Myths about the quest for self-improvement
Understanding these three truths will help you on your journey of change. However, you should also be aware of four commonly held misconceptions, which will be discussed next.
The myth of uniqueness
This is the belief that you have been singled out for a difficult life. Everybody else seems to have everything together and is sailing smoothly. The truth is that nobody is exempt. Everybody is dealing with something. Everybody is trying hard to hide it. Don't make matters worse for yourself by falling for this myth. Accept that you are one of the crowd -- someone you know well may have the same fears as you. And if you are both struggling to hide your fears, you won't be able help or comfort each other.
The myth of the quick fix The myth of no sweat
Don't expect to find quick relief for your dissatisfaction with social activities. The negative feelings, thoughts, and behavior that go along with being socially challenged are habits. Habits are well-rehearsed, comfortable patterns that have persisted for some time. Don't get impatient if things don't turn around quickly. Putting pressure on yourself to be "fixed" right away will just compound your anxiety, not relieve it. Not only do we all want quick solutions -- we want painless ones as well. But there is a price attached to anything you add to your life. Becoming more socially outgoing will mean leaving your comfort zone, but it will eventually expand that comfort zone. You are going to feel some stress as you face your fears and try on new behaviors. We will show you how to keep your steps small so that the climb is not too overwhelming.
The myth of permanence
The three keys: motivation, precision, and practice
Everybody has good intentions when embarking on a program of change. Sticking with it is the hard part. When you relapse, you temporarily return to the familiar way of doing things. Relapses are common and inevitable. Don't let them discourage you, and especially do not let them make you feel as if you have failed. The key is learning from the relapse and returning to your change program. Accepting the natural occasional mistake is actually part of the process of letting go of Fatal Fear #1: Fear of Failure.
Now that we have covered these important concepts about change, let's look at the three keys to achieving durable change.
Motivation answers the simple question, "Why change?" Having a clear and compelling reason to change will energize your efforts. Change is difficult. It's scary and it takes work. You must be convinced that what you gain exceeds the price you will have to pay. Motivation can be distilled into pushes and pulls. Pushes are the things that change will rid from our lives. Pulls are the things that we want to bring into our lives. For instance, Bob, whom we met earlier, might have the following pushes and pulls: Pushes: "Mostly, I want to not feel uptight. I also want to stop the irritability and unpleasantness that I create with my family when I am nervously anticipating a social event." Pulls: "I want the freedom to go or not go without having my decision made for me by my emotions. I want to attend more social events."
Now you try it. In one column, list the negative things that will persist if you don't change. These are your pushes. Then list the positive things that will be yours when you improve. These are your pulls.
Precision answers the question, "Change what?" Following is a list of some of the more common social situations people encounter. Go through the list and make note of all that apply. Then return to the list and see if you can pull out the top five situations that apply to you most often.
Where are your hot spots?
Identify any of the following situations that tend to cause you difficulty.
Being introduced to someone, introducing myself, or introducing someone I know to another person Expressing my opinions; talking about myself and my interests Talking to people in authority (supervisors, teachers, doctors) Meeting people for the first time Attending a social event where most of the people are strangers
The third key is practice. Practice answers the question, "How do I do it?" Nothing happens without practice. Successful practice requires a special, dedicated mindset. Let's call it the Explorer Mindset. The best explorers make their discoveries with open, non-judgmental minds. When they report on their findings, they describe rather than evaluate. That's the approach that will work best for you as you try new behaviors in new situations.
Speaking up in a group situation Talking on the phone, especially with people I don't know Talking to someone I am attracted to Being around very popular, powerful, or attractive people Going out alone Trying to keep a conversation going Being left alone with a new friend or date Getting ready to go out somewhere Receiving a compliment Meeting a new boss or supervisor Speaking in front of more than one or two people Starting a new job Trying to get to know someone better Riding on the bus or airplane Making eye contact Preparing to be evaluated Hosting a party Spotting an acquaintance in a public place Being on a date
Introduction to the Social Success Cycle
Let's look now at the Social Success Cycle.
Someone once asked formula race car legend Richard Petty, "Mr. Petty, how is it that race after race you always finish first?" Petty's answer epitomizes both brevity and wisdom: "First finish." Pay attention to the basics. That's the key to success. Do those few things that are fundamental and do them very well. We have identified for you the essence of what makes outgoing people socially successful. Your first reaction may well be, "It can't be that simple." But it is precisely the
simplicity of this model that makes it work. One of the biggest problems for socially challenged individuals is being overwhelmed by choices, perceived or real. They flounder, not knowing what to do, and choose an action hastily just to have chosen and gotten it behind them. Social success is not that complicated. The key is to focus on the essentials -- the core elements.
American engineers in WWII tried to solve the problem of too few bombers returning safely to base. They wanted to add more protective sheet metal to the planes but couldn't decide where best to put it. They decided to examine the pattern of hits on the planes that did make it back, and decided to add metal to the bottom of the cockpit. As long as bombers remained intact in this area, they could continue to fly, even if they took hits in many other areas. An intact cockpit was the critical success factor. The same can be said about your success as a social person. Do just a handful of things right, and you will shine socially. The added confidence will bolster your successes in the future. The Social Success Cycle represents the handful of steps critical to success in social situations. Let's look at the model now.
1. Show up
Before social interaction can occur, you must arrive at a place where other people are gathered. Unless you present yourself to other people, nothing else will happen. Start slow and easy, with people you know well, adding one element that was absent before.
2. Start something 3. Stay awhile 4. Disengage
Once you are at the social activity, the next critical stage is making initial contact with some individual or individuals at the event. Unless this happens, you are not really interacting.
To really reap the benefits of social contact, you must stay in a given exchange for some period of time. This requires maintaining dialogue with another person or persons. Find a topic you are very comfortable talking about and start there. Unless you want to spend all your time with one individual or group, you will need to develop the skills of moving from one contact to another. Don't worry about seeming rude; just put yourself in the other person's shoes and imagine
how your words would affect you.
This lesson helped you understand your fears and provided suggestions for getting past them. We addressed how to take the first steps toward selfimprovement, discovered the three key factors that result in positive changes, and evaluated the Social Success Cycle. In Lesson 3 we will examine the barriers that can keep you from moving through the Social Success Cycle. Before moving on to that lesson, be sure to complete the assignment and take the quiz for this lesson, then head over to the Message Board to discuss what you have learned with your fellow classmates.
A) B) A) B) A) B) A) B) A) C) D) C) D)
If you haven't been doing it all along, go back and make the lists that were suggested in the lesson. Think honestly about which specific situations make you anxious, and what exactly you fear will be the repercussions of your participation. You don't have to share these answers with anyone else, so you can be totally honest. If you can't admit your own feelings to yourself, you can't address them later. Write up a scenario -- a past real-life one or a made-up one -- with you as the star. Write it to reflect your current fears. Then apply some of the changes we have suggested and write it as you would wish it would go. Question 1: Which of the following is not a fatal fear? Fear of failure Fear of success Fear of rejection Fear of discomfort Myth of no sweat
Question 2: This is the belief that you have been singled out for a difficult life. Question 3: Stress is the ability and energy each of us have to deal with a threat or challenge. True True True False False Myth of the quick fix Myth of uniqueness Myth of permanence
Question 4: Pulls are the things that change will rid from our lives. Pushes are the things that we want to bring into our lives. Question 5: One of the biggest problems for socially challenged individuals is being overwhelmed by choices, perceived or real.
Step 1: show up
The Social Success Cycle
Learn how to gain the courage needed to attend social functions, then learn some strategies for handling potentially awkward situations you might encounter. The first step to becoming less socially challenged is being where other people are. Nothing happens until you show up. You can wish you were more sociable. You can dream about all the good things that will be yours when you improve your skills for dealing with people. You can pump yourself up with all kinds of motivational ideas and ideals. Nothing will change until you are in the presence of other people. What you are up against is a self-perpetuating cycle of avoidance. Each time you avoid, you strengthen the habit of avoidance. This first step in the Social Success Cycle has only one purpose: getting you there. We will deal with what happens after you get there later. It's seven o'clock. The social will start in about 20 minutes. Sarah is in her room on the fifth floor. The social is on the third floor. It's so close, she can faintly hear the party banter through the poorly insulated walls. She could walk down the two flights without getting winded. It's so close, and yet it might as well be 500 miles away -- because she can't bring herself to go. She reaches for the phone, hoping to get the answering machine, and calls the host. "Bob, I wanted to let you know I am going to be taking a rain check on the get-together tonight. Thanks for the invitation. I'll catch you in the morning."
Fear, not distance, lies between Sarah and this opportunity to be with others. "It's not safe." The three fatal fears are working on keeping Sarah in her room. "I'm really too tired. What would I wear? I won't know anyone there. I really have some work to do and I've got that early flight in the morning." There are ways to break out of the self-consciousness, nervousness, and fearfulness that cause avoidance or makes you freeze up in social situations. We want to arm you with some powerful tools to make this break.
Snuff out the fear
The fear of social things often takes the form of "What if?" thinking. "What if I blush?" or "What if I stumble over my words?" The key is to safeguard your confidence by snuffing out your fear as soon as you feel it. You do this by reducing the scope of the danger with two punches: 1) Tell yourself that what you fear may not happen 2) Tell yourself that if it does happen, it won't be so bad. One of your "what ifs" might be, "What if my hands start to shake?" Your first punch is, "My hands usually don't shake." Your second punch is, "Most people won't notice. If they do, I can survive that." Develop the habit of assertively disputing "what if" with "maybe not" and "so what?"
Set limits on what you are willing to do. For instance, determine ahead of time how long you intend to stay. I will stay no less than 45 minutes at this event. Quantify the number of people you wish to meet. I will meet no less than five people. Set reasonable targets at first, and raise them gradually as your competence and confidence grows.
Visualize your performance Rebut your buts
Before the event, find some time to close your eyes, relax, and run through a best-case scenario of how you envision the event unfolding, not how you fear it will occur. See yourself arriving, making your first contact, moving about, and finally making your exit. Try to keep it simple so you can show yourself how easy it looks. In his book Feeling Good, psychologist David Burns talks about the normal human tendency to alibi our way out of confronting things that make us anxious. One way of combating this tendency is to rebut the logic of the alibis with an alternative perspective. The But: "I would go, but I don't have a thing to wear." The But: "I would go, but, I'm really too tired tonight." Rebuttal: "Actually, I think it's informal, so I have several things I think will be fine."
Notice the change of tense from "I would go" -- which gives you an automatic "but" without even trying -- to "will be fine" or "will energize me," as in definite things that will occur. Even changing how you talk to yourself can help you eliminate the option to flake out of the event. Alibis are tricks of the mind. They give you permission to take the easier path. Each time you go with your alibi, you strengthen the constriction that fear has on your freedom to choose. Each time you expose the "buts" for what they are, you loosen the grip that stress holds on you.
Rebuttal: "I am a little tired, but I bet the stimulation of being with others will really energize me."
The buddy technique
Here's a way of guaranteeing you'll know at least one person at a social event: take someone with you. Bringing a friend provides you with an island of familiarity you can swim back to when it feels like you're in over your head.
Step 2: start something
Everything in this section has been geared to one main thing: getting you there. Showing up is stopping the destructive pattern of avoidance. Once you show up, you open up a whole world of possibility. We will explore this world now as we go on to talk about the second step: start something. It doesn't matter that you paced around for hours, sweated profusely, or changed your mind three different times before doing it. The important thing is you arrived. Congratulations! No one knows or needs to know how difficult it was. You know you have achieved something, and that is enough. You can now avail yourself of all the good things that come from being with other people. And as an added bonus, you have broken the avoidance cycle. You have increased the likelihood that you'll attend the next social opportunity that comes along.
Refer to your notes
What's it going to be like, now that you are here? If you ever tried stepping from a pier or a bank into a small boat, you remember the complexity of that simple feat. If the boat would just stay still, the whole thing would be a lot easier. But it moves as you move, and from one moment to the next you don't know where you are going to wind up. Starting a conversation from scratch is a lot like stepping into a boat. Both involve a moving target. Both involve uncertainty. As you take the first nervous steps to meet someone, three questions are begging to be answered: Who am I to you? Who are you to me? How will we be together? You're auditioning for each other, interviewing each other in search of common ground. However, there is no one right way to be or one right thing to say. Expect nervousness. The other person is probably nervous too, even if he or she does not appear to be so. Nervousness is like a deep fog, and it is easy to lose your way in a fog. A beacon can illuminate even in the densest fog. What follows are seven beacons for staying on track when starting a conversation. You may not care to use all of these suggestions. But with a full repertoire of strategies at your command, you'll feel more confident and perform more competently.
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Beacon #1: organize your opening
Since the first moments at a gathering will probably be your most stressful, it's wise to pre-plan the first few moments of an event. A planned opening will make you more self-assured, and early successes will make you enjoy the entire event much better. Bob is attending an awards banquet. His plan looks like this: ME: "Good evening, is anyone sitting here?" THEM: "No. Please join us." I will walk in and approach a table where there are still remaining seats. ME: "Thank you." While still standing, "My name is Bob Wilson, how are you?" Shake each person's hand. Take a seat. ME: "I assume you are all here for the conference tomorrow." THEM: "Yes." ME: "I'm really looking forward to it. The speaker is really terrific. I have heard him before, and I thought his book was very good. Have you read it?" Additional possible topics and conversational leads: ME: "I live in Austin. Where are you from?" ME: "I'm really enjoying this hotel. Are you happy with your accommodations?" ME: "Who do you think will win the award?"
The downside of planning is if you plan too exactly, you will not be able to be flexible if something interferes. Plan ahead, but don't micromanage. You will learn how to modify your rehearsed bits to fit the ever-changing dynamic. Remember the image of stepping into a boat. You should plan to put your right foot on the rowing seat. But if the boat moves so that is not possible, it should not keep you from modifying your plan of attack.
Beacon #2: start right away
Make a first contact as soon after arriving at an event as you can. The sooner you can break the ice for the first time, the easier other contacts will be. Stand near a high-traffic area. If the event features a buffet or beverage area, hang out there momentarily to make your first contact. If everyone is already talking with someone, don't worry about it. Just do a little of what I call "breaking and entering." Here's how it works.
The first thing you need to do to gain entrance to a small group that is already engaged in conversation is get yourself noticed. Breaking involves standing on the periphery of your target group's vision, and simply acting as though you already belong. This means emulating the members' behavior. If someone is telling a joke, you are as amused as anyone else. Nod your head and show interest as if you've been with the group all night. Contribute when you can and become incorporated as a participant, rather than an observer.
Entering a new group is like crossing a busy street. Wait for a gap in the traffic. When you sense a lull or, more typically, when the group's body language opens up a little to invite you in, say, "Hi, may I join you?" Now you are in and you can introduce yourself and take it from there. Be alert in using this technique -- do not interrupt anyone whose body language or tone of conversation is a "Do Not Disturb" sign.
Beacon #3: be predictable
Many people hold the misconception that being themselves is dull. Actually, it is more to your advantage to simply act natural. If you were to take a video camera and record what transpires between two people at the beginning of a social interaction, you would see the same pattern of events repeated every time. 1. An exchange of looks as each person makes eye contact with the other. 2. A movement of the head such as a nod or a raising of eyebrows or some other acknowledgment that says, "I see you." 3. A smile. 4. A greeting, such as "Hi." 5. An opening statement such as "My name is Bob. How are you today?"
The sequence is completely predictable. It's a routine that you and the person you are meeting have grown to expect. When you do something too unusual this early in the game, you elevate the other person's sense of uncertainty. So don't rock the boat. Be conventional. Be natural. Be predictable.
Beacon #4: choose a theme
I am frequently asked, "What words should I use in getting started?" Your opening can be around one of the following four themes: the setting, yourself, the other, the purpose. In each theme, you could either ask a question or make some type of declaration. YOU: "Is that music really loud or is it just me?" OTHER: "It sure is. Should we ask them to turn it down a little?" YOU: "I'm Bill Matthews, with the Nebraska office." OTHER: "Hi Bill, I'm Gretchen. I work in the Santa Fe office."
YOU: "I love that tee shirt. Have you been to Hawaii, or is that a gift?" OTHER: "Well, both. I went to Hawaii two years ago, but my brother brought this back from his trip there this summer."
As mentioned before, prepare your opening question or declaration. Have in mind before you arrive what your theme will be and how you are going to open a conversation.
YOU: "Our daughter is receiving one of the special certificates this evening. We're so proud of her." OTHER: "I bet you are. How old is she?"
People are always more comfortable talking about themselves than any other thing, so this is a safe theme to go with. If you are feeling shy or unwilling to put yourself forward, start by asking the others questions about themselves. Who do they know here? What do they do? When they return the questions, you already know the answers about yourself.
Beacon #5: be superficial
I saw a cartoon some years ago that pictured three people at a cocktail party. One man is addressing the two others. The caption reads: Tired of small talk, Robert tries big talk: "The worms of melancholy are eating holes in my soul. How about you folks?"
Maybe your sister just got a DWI, your cat died, or your best friend ran off with your boyfriend or girlfriend. None of this needs to find its way into the early moments of a conversation. Start the process of sizing each other up with topics that involve little risk. Safe, superficial topics are the fodder for this stage in your development. More intimate revelations can come soon enough. Superficial doesn't mean uninteresting. You can have a very stimulating first few moments of conversation with someone without being too intimate too early. Self-disclosure is the bridge to deeper levels of relating. To disclose too much and too early is inappropriate and again tends to make your contact anxious and therefore you less attractive. Avoid conversations that deal with medical problems, family secrets, personal income, age, hot-button political issues, and similar topics.
Beacon #6: try a little humor
You will be more nervous at the very beginning than at any time in the exchange. The same is likely true for your conversation partner as well. One of the best releases of tension is humor. A well-crafted, short one-liner is a great way to break the ice and the tension. Of course, proper decorum must be observed so as to not offend. Use this rule of thumb: If in doubt, do without. Here's an example of something that might be said to start a conversation with someone next to you at a banquet.
YOU: "If they don't serve us soon, you're going to have to help me drag in one of those vending machines from the lobby. I can't do it alone." Don't worry if you are not a spectacular wit -- you are not auditioning for a stand-up comedian's job. The point is to make some small talk and show that you are feeling light-hearted and positive. OTHER: "Ha, ha. I'm not too strong but I can give you moral support."
Beacon #7: don't forget your lines
We have encouraged you to come prepared. The more prepared you really are, the more spontaneous you will seem. Don't forget what you've planned. Rehearse your game plan not only before you enter the event, but also during the early moments of arrival. Your agenda is a crutch that you will need only temporarily. Once you have loosened up and become oriented, you can be more extemporaneous. Remember, getting a conversation started is a lot like boarding a small boat. Now you're on board, and you are safely and comfortably seated in the boat. You have started something. It is now time to push off and into the waters. In the next chapter you will learn the art and science of keeping a conversation going.
Step 3: stay awhile
One of the most common concerns for socially challenged people is keeping a conversation going. Small talk, chit-chat, shooting the breeze -- whatever you choose to call it, few things have the power to win friends and influence people like a gift for gab. The ability to carry on a conversation clearly distinguishes a person as socially outgoing.
The Q.U.I.C.R. method
Q - Question I - Initiate
A good way to remember practically all the skills of conversation is to think of the acronym Q.U.I.C.R. Here's what the letters stand for: U - Understand R - Respond
C - Compliment
These come in two shapes: closed-ended and open-ended. Closed-ended questions are the kind you can answer with a simple one- or two-word response. Closed-ended questions resemble true/false or multiple choice questions. Closed-ended questions begin with: Are you? When? Do? Where?
Who? Which? What?
Open-ended questions are like essay questions. They require a more elaborate response. Open-ended questions often begin with: How? Why? In what way? Skilled conversationalists know how to blend both open and closed-ended questions. Too many closed-ended questions in a row will make the conversation feel like an interrogation. For example: "How did you ever learn to enjoy jogging?" or "What was it like living in Cleveland?"
For example: "Where are you from?" or "Do you like jogging?"
It's important to convey to the person speaking to you that you hear and understand what he or she is saying. But beyond this, you want the other person to feel that you are sincerely enjoying what he or she is saying. You become attractive to the others to the extent you make other people feel they are attractive to you. This skill requires three things: Paraphrase is another way of expressing understanding. This involves putting what a person has just stated into slightly different words. Good paraphrase beginnings are: "In other words . . ."; "So, what you're saying is . . ."; "I see, so . . ." and "You mean . . . ." 1. Maintain eye contact 2. Move your head and keep expression in your face 3. Say things like, "Really?" "I see." "No kidding."
Initiating is the skill of volunteering information. There are two types of initiating: You can initiate facts: "I'm a carpenter with N.P.C." "We're buying a new Toyota that looks just like that one." "Well, my mother and father are here for the summer." "I prefer living downtown to living in the suburbs." "I've never regretted dropping out of school." "I really enjoy white wine with dinner."
Or you can initiate opinions and feelings.
Paying compliments is a good way to add spark to a conversation. In paying compliments, follow these guidelines:
When you are on the receiving end of a compliment, help the person who compliments you feel glad he/she gave the compliment. 1. 2. 3. 4. Look the person in the eye. Smile. Say "Thank you." Comment on the compliment.
Be specific about the person's behavior, appearance, or possessions. "Those loafers really look sharp with your khaki pants." Occasionally, it helps to say the person's name. "Alan, those loafers really look sharp with your khaki pants." Even better, follow up your compliment with a question. "Alan, those loafers really look sharp with your khaki pants. Where did you get your flair for fashion?"
THEM: "That is a really great haircut."
Respond with more than a few words to questions people direct to you. This is the skill of elaboration and it is one of the most important of the conversation skills. It is difficult for a conversational partner to have to draw you out. (Imagine if you had to do it.) It's like having to carry on both sides of the conversation -- and you thought only one side was bad! Note the difference in the two examples given below: No elaboration THEM: "Do you like jogging?" YOU: "Yeah."
YOU: (smiling and making eye contact) "Thank you. Actually, I was afraid it was a little too short, but now I'm getting used to it. It's very comfortable for this hot weather we've been having."
Your conversational partner will feel awkward, and perhaps be worried that he or she has inadvertently touched upon a topic that you are uncomfortable with. With elaboration THEM: "Do you like jogging?" YOU: "Yeah, I do, but I didn't at first. When I first started it was really hard."
You don't have to give an interview, but let the other person know (just as you would wish to be informed) that the topic interests you and they have not committed an accidental offense.
Remember the almost universal rule of civilization: We want to do unto others as they do unto us. And we expect others to do unto us as we do unto them. With regard to enhancing your appeal to another person, give back what you are given. If someone shares something with you, where they work, family composition, how they feel about something, you return the courtesy in like manner. In fact, to not reciprocate is considered rude, and your acquaintance might be left feeling awkward. Here is one example: THEM: "I hope you don't mind my saying this, but I really hate these company parties." YOU: "Really? I used to feel the same way. Now I find I can relax and really enjoy meeting new people."
Keep your distance Shake your shakes
Our personal space -- that distance between ourselves and other people -- is sacred. Be sensitive to this. People get tense when they feel crowded. In our culture, the most comfortable distance from another is one arm's length. Get closer than this and you violate the other's personal space. Too far back and you appear out of range. You may not be able to control the fact that you feel nervous, but you can control the behavioral manifestations of nervousness. So watch out for the things that reveal your apprehension. Let's start at the top of the body.
Nervous eyes are eyes that don't look at the other person when he or she is speaking. Keep your eyes on the speaker's eyes. If you are self-conscious looking into another person's eyes, look at their eyebrow or the bridge of their nose. Switch between left and right eyebrows just as you would switch while looking directly into their eyes. It appears all the same to the other person. The important thing is the perception of your attention. Nervous eyes are also wandering eyes. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by people walking behind or around the speaker. Making a good impression means showing the person you are truly interested in them and what they are saying.
Nervous speech is speech that comes out too rapidly. Take a slow silent breath before speaking and modulate your flow of words. Nervous speech is also punctuated with excessive "Um's" and other extraneous fillers. Enlist your spouse or a close friend to give you feedback on the frequency of these distracting fillers.
Most people have a lot of trouble with forgetting names. The problem is that most people don't enter names into their memories. Wait for the name. As you approach an introduction, telling yourself, "Get the name. Get the name." When you hear the name, repeat it internally. Try to also repeat it out loud in the conversation. THEM: "Glad to meet you. I'm Robert Collins."
Nerves and self-consciousness will distract you, so be on your toes to not let the name slip by. It isn't the end of the world to ask for a repeat of the name if you have forgotten. You just make a better impression if you remember. If you do forget, admit to your mistake and laugh it off -- the other person may have forgotten your name as well, and will be relieved not to feel alone. It's a common problem, especially in situations where people are meeting many people at once. Definitely do not beat yourself up about it if you miss someone's name.
ME: "Robert, good to see you."
Nervous hands are hands stuck deep in your pockets, jingling change or car keys. Hiding your hands can make you appear untrustworthy and may make others uncomfortable. Also, nervous hands fidget with pencils or other items while speaking. Keep your hands still.
Nervous legs are constantly shifting weight from one leg to another or swaying the body. Stand up straight. Stand in one spot. Stand comfortably and be conscious of frequent changes in your posture. In theater, this is called holding your ground. You may be nervous, but this is your spot of floor and no one can take it from you.
You can bet that at some point early in a conversation you will be asked, "So, what line of work are you in, Jeff?" You know it is coming and yet your answer may be choppy and rambling if you are not prepared. Prepare your response in advance with an answer as brief as the messages you find on billboards. Here's an example. OTHER: "So, what line of work are you in, Jeff?" YOU: "Sales. You've seen books with spiral binding. My company makes the binding, and I sell it. Last year our company made a hundred million of these."
If your job is unusual or complex, rehearse a simple way to explain it, rather than improvising analogies when your complicated official title does not do the trick.
We may have made tremendous strides in the fields of medicine, telecommunications, and warfare, but we are still very old-fashioned when it comes to human relations. The traditional values of politeness, common courtesy, respect, and deference to each other are still in demand. Since both you and the person you are meeting are seeking points of commonality, the last thing you want is anything that might highlight differences. Be agreeable. Confirm the other's observations on matters that you agree with. OTHER: "This steak tastes like rubber." YOU: "Yours too? I thought mine was the only one overcooked."
When you cannot agree with everything that is said, agree with some part of it. Don't surrender your opinions and thoughts to the other's opinions, but don't be immediately contrary while you are still getting comfortable on your patch of ground. OTHER: "Don't you agree we should stop bombing foreign nations?" YOU: "Sometimes it seems to be the only solution, but I know I'm getting nervous with the way things are developing in our foreign policy."
Thanks to our parents, we've grown up with pretty clear notions of sharing in most things. This spirit of equity extends to the issue of sharing airtime in conversations. Especially in the opening moments of meeting someone, you may feel compelled to fill gaps and pauses. This can lead to you dominating the conversation. Taking turns means being conscious of the others' participation and allowing equal time. It also means apologizing and yielding the floor when a mishap occurs. YOU: "I'm sorry. I cut you off there." OTHER: "No, you go ahead." YOU: "Please. Go ahead and finish your thought."
Step 4: disengage
This section was designed to help build up your conversational competence and confidence. The key is to come prepared. No one but you will know or even suspect you have an agenda. Your plan will launch you into the event and give you the momentum to be spontaneous until you are ready for the conversation to come to a close. Which brings us to the last skill in the Social Success Cycle: Disengage.
Perhaps the most misunderstood conversational skills is the art of bringing a conversation to a suitable close. Whenever you don't want to spend an extensive period of time with just one person, or when there are others you want to contact, gracious disengagement is a must. Generally, the main issue in ending a conversation is a concern over hurting the other person's feelings or embarrassing yourself by not doing it just right. You can minimize both of these concerns with the following tips.
The most conventional conversation closer is the straightforward, "Well, it's been nice speaking with you." You can take this one step further by working in either a compliment or reference to something that came up in the conversation. THEM: " . . . So that's how we finally landed in Texas."
YOU: "I really admire you for pulling up stakes like that. It takes courage to do that. It's been a real pleasure talking to you." THEM: " . . . So it is in the sauce." YOU: "Well, I am definitely going to try that recipe. It sounds terrific. If you'll excuse me . . . "
Another technique is the departure to another destination. This can be the buffet line, the restroom, or just making a telephone call. In effect, what you convey to the other is how much pleasure the conversation has been, but now you need to attend to something. This technique is often used in tangent with the Soft Landing.
In ending a conversation you may not want to leave someone standing alone. The hand-off is a technique for stepping out of a conversation by having a successor to take your place. The way this works is to bring another person into your current conversation, help them get comfortable, and then excuse yourself. Do try not to make it look like you are hauling someone over to save you. Just invite someone into the group in as natural a fashion as possible. YOU: (as Bob walks by) "Bob, come here and meet someone." BOB: "Hello. How are you two doing?" YOU: "Fine. Bob, this is Greg. He just moved here from your home state of Florida. He's interested in buying some property in this area. I thought you might have some suggestions. I think you two have a lot in common, so I'll excuse myself (to the phone, the buffet, or whatever, for a nice touch)."
YOU: "Bob, it has been great catching up with you. If you don't mind, I am going to slip away for just a minute to make a phone call/try out the buffet/whatever appropriate."
The final word
Closing a conversation too abruptly can leave the other person wondering if they have said something that offended you in some way. Try to be sensitive to this by ending the conversation when the ball is in your court. In other words, make some final statement and then initiate the closing. THEM: "So that's why I have siding -- I don't want to paint the place every five years." YOU: "You know, you are going to save a bundle, particularly if you live there for awhile. Listen, it has been great talking with you. . ."
Give fair warning
Giving an early alert to the other person that you are moving out of the conversation can make the closing smoother. OTHER: "So you have lived here all your life?"
Bringing a conversation to a gracious close is perhaps the most misunderstood skill.
YOU: "Yes, my husband and I were both born here. Listen, in another two minutes I have got to walk over and talk to Mr. Gaines. He looks like he is getting ready to leave. But how about you, have you lived here long?"
Sometimes you may find yourself cornered by an overly talkative person. You want to disengage but can't find any opening that would allow you to pull off an exit. Here are three steps for getting out of this uncomfortable situation. 1. Block the flow. Touch the other person gently on the arm, or speak his or her name. You may even have to say their name a couple of times. 2. Apologize for interrupting. 3. Excuse yourself and leave. THEM: (Speaking on and on about his hernia surgery.) YOU: "Larry. Larry. (touching his arm) I am so sorry to cut you off, but I have just got to call the babysitter. Please excuse me."
Disengaging is the final step in the Social Success Cycle. It is also the bridge to the beginning of a brand new cycle. You move from disengaging to showing up (eventually you will simply show up to a new group within the same event) and the cycle begins all over again.
Let's return to Sarah, whom we met at the beginning of this lesson. She chose not to attend the social event. Now what? Does she breathe a sigh of relief? Is she content with her decision to avoid the tension of yet another social event? Maybe. But how long does that last before she is hit by a new and different wave of concern? "What are they going to think about me for not coming? How will this affect my relationship with the superintendent? Why can't I be more outgoing?"
Using avoidance as a solution to social insecurity is a fallacy, since it is no solution at all. It trades one form of emotional discomfort for another. There is no bargain in swapping the anxiety of being in public with the worry of not being in public. There is a better way, and it is found in the Social Success Cycle. None of these techniques for helping you interact with other people can guarantee that everything will work out all right. There is nothing under the sun that is absolutely certain. You must accept that fact. Nevertheless, there is more certainty than you may think at every social event. Although events are spontaneous, there is an overriding protocol that defines the limits of what is likely to occur. The methods suggested here work differently for different
people. Try each on for size. Does the method feel right for you? Does it bring you relief? Does it seem to be consistent with things that have brought you success in the past? Once you have settled on a method, or a combination of several, use it regularly for a while. There is a tendency to abandon new behaviors prematurely. Change takes time. Be patient with yourself.
This lesson gave you pointers for gaining the courage needed to attend social functions, and guided you through potentially awkward situations during these functions. You learned how to initiate and maintain interesting conversations and politely excuse yourself from groups. In Lesson 4 we will build your self-confidence and social skills, and give you tips for dealing with your anxiety.
Assignment #3 Quiz #3
A) B) A) B) A) B) A) B) A)
Before moving on to that lesson, be sure to complete the assignment and take the quiz for this lesson, then head over to the Message Board to discuss what you have learned with your fellow classmates.
Do the same visualization exercise from Lesson 2, but add some of the concepts mentioned in this lesson. Go to a public place, such as the grocery store, and see if you can practice your new skills on the strangers you are thrown together with there. Nothing major -- just chit-chatting with someone in line will allow you to practice and see what feels the most natural. There is no concern about failure, since you will never see these people again.
Question 1: Set limits on how much you are willing to do in a public situation, then raise them gradually as your confidence grows. True True True False False False
Question 2: If you are feeling shy or unwilling to put yourself forward, talking about yourself will force you to quickly get over your fear. Question 3: Humor is a great way to break the ice in a conversation. Question 4: Which of the following is not an open-ended question? C) D) Question 5: Which is the most conventional conversation closer? Soft landing Why did you go into dentistry? What is it like? Are you interested in orthodontics? Where do you see dentistry going in the future?
Building your self-confidence
Applying the model
C) D) The hand-off The final word
Building on what you learned in Lesson 3, learn how to bolster your confidence and manage apprehension when dealing with others. You're taking this course because there is a gap between who you want to be and feel and behave, and the reality of how things actually are. The gap is caused by the Three Fatal Fears we discussed in Lesson 1. Your goal is to close the gap and end the tension by bringing your real self closer to the ideal. What's called for isn't a total makeover of your style of relating to others. All that's needed is increasing the frequency of just a few behaviors.
It all boils down to doing just four things. In the previous lesson we examined the four keys to interpersonal effectiveness: the Social Success Cycle. The premise of this course is that success in any endeavor can be tracked to a relatively small number of core skills. For example, the primary skill at Honda Motor Company is manufacturing efficient gas engines. At FedEx the core skills are the logistics of managing the movements of millions of pieces of mail and packages. In the same way, being liked by people and influential in dealing with them can be traced to just a handful of core skills. The good news in all of this is that being socially effective doesn't mean someone is a better person than the other. The difference is that one person is exhibiting a set of skills that the socially challenged person can't or won't display. Let's compare the socially challenged person to the socially outgoing one in a couple of common social situations. Social Situation Invited to a cocktail party. (Show up) On a three-hour Buries nose in a Leans over to the plane flight. laptop, book, or stack adjacent passenger (Start something) of magazines. and says, "Looks like we have clear weather all the way." During intermission between workshops at a regional conference. (Stay awhile) Says a few words to another person in the lobby and then falls silent until the other drifts off to the restroom. Carries on an animated conversation with another person, sharing information, asking questions. Socially Challenged Thinks about it briefly Accepts immediately. and then declines. Socially Outgoing
At retirement Spends entire party button-holed evening feeling by a long-winded trapped. talker. (Disengage)
Brings conversation to a natural close and moves on to someone else.
Let's look at the first scene, the invitation to the party situation. One person says "Yes," the other says "No." Is that a significant difference? You bet it is.
Not showing up is the single biggest barrier to connecting with others. Nothing else can happen if you aren't with others. The socially challenged person routinely says "No," and the socially outgoing person consistently says "Yes." Showing up goes beyond just accepting a social invitation. Showing up means giving eye contact to someone across the room, volunteering for duties as a committee member, and finding a hundred additional ways to make yourself available to others.
The airplane situation provides another contrasting set of responses. You're on a plane after a long, hard day. You can't wait to get home. The last thing you want to do is chat with someone for the next three hours. But you see in the human being next to you a living, breathing opportunity to gain fresh perspectives on life and to share some of your life view. So you lean over and start something. By doing this you distinguish yourself from the socially challenged person, who decides to pass the time alone. It may seem like a trivial thing. But without this proactive gesture of contacting another, social exchange goes nowhere.
Stay awhile Disengage
In the intermission situation, one person seems to have no trouble at all, while the other person has lost his audience. Small talk, chit-chat, shooting the breeze -- whatever you choose to call it -- few things win friends and influence people like a gift for gab. The ability to carry on a conversation clearly distinguishes one person from the other.
In the retirement party situation, we find the socially challenged person up to her neck in what can be called "conversational entrapment." Lacking the finesse to extricate herself, she spends the entire evening with the first talkative person she meets, missing the opportunity to interact with a whole range of others. Not so for the socially outgoing person. She wraps up one conversation and moves on to another and another, giving herself ample exposure to the widest range of people.
We hope you see in the contrast between these two individuals how straightforward the differences are. There are no complex dynamics to analyze, no mystery to unravel. It's all very clear and behavioral. The more functional social performance of one person doesn't make him or her a better or smarter human being. But it can provide a number of distinct advantages in acquiring the good things in life. This comparison highlights the behavioral differences between two people in the same social situation. Behavior is public and this matrix shows the public dimension. But there is also a private side to interpersonal effectiveness. The private side has to do with how you think and feel when interacting with others. In this section we will give you some ideas for building up your inner confidence.
Get an attitude
BUZZ: "Why would Andy want me?"
WOODY: "Why would Andy want you? Look at you. You're Buzz Light Year! Any other toy would give up its moving parts just to be you. You've got wings. You glow in the dark. You talk. Your helmet does that, that . . . whoosh thing. You are a cool toy!"
What is confidence?
Confidence is a concept with a lot of aliases: self-image, self-esteem, assertiveness, and personal presence. Essentially, confidence is the belief you have about your adequacy in facing a situation. Think of five people you know really well. Rank them in terms of the confidence they each have. Put the most confident at the top of the list and the less confident lower in the list. People near the top of your list have certain behaviors that cause you to view them as confident. They can start a conversation with anyone. They willingly take on challenging projects. They carry themselves with an air of self-assurance. These are all public things. Now, put yourself into the ranking. How confident do you feel you are compared to the people on your list? Would your friends rate you the same as you rated yourself? Publicly you may exhibit confident behavior, but inside the private world of your thoughts and feelings you may not be as self-assured.
Seven days to greater confidence
Day 1: twenty questions
We want to give you seven ways to feel and behave more confident. For the next seven days, try one of these techniques each day. Breaking the thought and behavior patterns that underlie your lack of confidence will, of course, take more than a week. But try on these seven techniques and see if you don't have a better feeling about yourself and your social potential with other people. Take out a piece of paper and write at the top, "I am:" and write 20 different things about yourself. The first three or four should come easily. It is the last three or four that can be really difficult. Stick with it until you record 20 things. Your list will probably include items in one or more of three categories. Personal: I am tall, middle-aged, compulsive, male, etc. Social: I am friendly, kind, discreet, diplomatic, etc. Functional: I am a husband, father, a brother, a manager, a son, etc.
Good work. Now go back and find three to four items that you feel are the most central and defining descriptors of who you are. In other words, if you had to drop all but three or four of your characteristics, which would they be? Depending on what's going on in your life when you do this, different aspects of you will be more prominent than others. If you have just started a family, for example, the role of mother or father will be central. The point of this exercise is to highlight the unique and irreplaceable ingredients that make you the person you are.
Day 2: spend some time alone
Today, do some things that don't require or involve other people. Be by yourself. Do solitary things. In preparation, make a list of things you enjoy doing solo: browsing a book store, going to a movie, taking a walk in the woods, spending some time with a hobby. You may protest that you have too much solitude already, that what you really want is to hang out with others. Or you may have a different reaction. Being by yourself may make you feel selfconscious. The purpose here is for you to get comfortable and relaxed with yourself. Discover what a good companion you are. As your comfort with yourself builds, so too will your conviction that others might enjoy your company as well.
Day 3: give yourself a guilt bath
Today, take out a piece of paper and write down all the dumb, regrettable, shameful, unforgettable things you can remember ever doing. Write down the time in grade school when you were caught in a lie by your teacher. Write down the time you needlessly hurt a friend's feelings. Recall the time you broke a promise to your child. Write them all down. Use several sheets if necessary. Now go back to each one. Spend time with each. Feel the regret and the embarrassment and the guilt. Don't try to hold it back. Then forgive yourself. Say, "I forgive you. You can let go of this. You're forgiven." This exercise honors your fallibility -- your ability to make mistakes. It reminds you to own all of you. To accept yourself is to acknowledge all aspects of yourself.
Day 4: look good, walk tall
Today, work on your physical appearance. Look at yourself in the mirror. Is your posture good and straight? When you walk, is your head up and your shoulders back? Look at fashion magazines or catalogues. Go shopping today and buy one article of clothing that you think might enhance your appearance. Don't be reluctant to ask a sales clerk what looks good on you. Buy a new cosmetic or a new cologne or aftershave that you feel comfortable with. How you look on the outside influences how you feel on the inside.
Day 5: Be Tolerant
Start this day with a loosely fitting rubber band around your wrist. As you go through the day, stop yourself whenever you are thinking negative thoughts about other people. For instance, another driver does something annoying. Replace, "Hey stupid, where'd you learn to drive?" with, "I bet I was in his blind spot. No problem, he sees me now."
Catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself as well. Each time you notice a negative or pessimistic thought, snap the rubber band on your wrist and replace the thought. Replace "I'm so impulsive" with "I have a lot of spontaneity." Replace "I'm stupid for not seeing that" with "Next time I will watch more closely." People lacking in self-confidence generally have a tendency to be overly critical of themselves. This judgmental tendency extends to being overly harsh in assessing others. With practice, this pattern can be turned around -- but the process begins with awareness. Pay attention to the earliest presence of a negative thought, either about yourself or others, and stamp it out immediately.
Day 6: go out of your way for someone
Today is a day for lending a hand or doing something nice for other people. Let someone break in line in front of you at the grocery store checkout lane. Take some flowers to a nursing home. Write a letter or send a card or note to a friend or relative. At the office, ask a colleague if you can get him or her a cup of coffee or other beverage. At the movies, pay for the ticket of someone behind you. Ask the ticket seller not to reveal it was you who paid for the ticket. Be on the lookout for small ways of showing thoughtfulness for others. Seeing yourself behaving in this unselfish manner will contribute to a more positive self-image.
Day 7: wish the best
Today, think of the three or four most important people in your life. This might be your parents, your spouse, your children, or your best friend. If you could give them a single intangible gift that would enhance the quality of their lives, what would it be? For instance, if you have elderly parents, you might wish
them good health or serenity. For your children, you might wish them the ability to live in the moment. Having done this, think of what intangibles these people would wish for you. What would your folks wish for you? What about your spouse or your children? Whatever it is, just for today, give yourself some of that gift. If your folks wish for you to slow down and take things a little more easily, how could you grant this wish to yourself? This technique allows you to treat yourself as you would a dear friend. When you see yourself acting kindly toward yourself, you can't help but think you are really worth it after all.
Breaking the habit
Quick methods for anxiety relief
Confidence is a personal bias about yourself and your abilities. Over the years, you have reinforced this opinion of yourself by looking for instances that confirm your belief. If you have high self-confidence, you see many examples in your day-to-day activities of how clever and gifted you are. As a result, new challenges are faced with boldness and energy and the expectation that you will excel. When your confidence is low, you view everything you do through critical eyes. The journey from feeling unimpressed with yourself to admiring and trusting yourself won't be accomplished overnight. No habit is broken that quickly. But many people who are confident today will confess to years of low self-esteem. Try the seven techniques as a starter kit to feeling good about you. It's okay to be skeptical. But at least give each technique each a try. There is a natural tendency to avoid things that cause discomfort. If social situations make you uncomfortable, your inclination -- given a choice -- is to steer clear of them. To a large extent, the newness of a social event is what makes it unnerving. Even shy people report being relatively at ease in familiar situations. But in new situations, anxiety goes up. To deal with the anxiety, you avoid the situation. The situation therefore stays new and unfamiliar so the next time, you avoid again -- and a cycle is set in motion. As a socially challenged person, you deny yourself the opportunity to get better in uncomfortable situations because you either leave the situation as soon as you can, or avoid it altogether. Two things then happen: 1) situations stay novel 2) you become more likely to avoid similar situations in the future. In no time, you have entrenched negative habits. The Social Success Cycle encourages you to "behave yourself" into overcoming your anxiety. By feeling the fear and doing it anyway, you learn that situations are not as unsafe as they may first seem. You can also address the anxiety directly. Here are some tips for doing that.
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Taking care of you
Anxiety about being with others is not just a psychological experience. To a great extent, your anxiety level is affected by how well you slept last night, how much coffee you have had, whether or not you had a healthy breakfast, how much nicotine you have in your system, and the last time you exercised.
In addition to working on a healthier lifestyle, don't forget to breathe. There are two ways to breathe. Upper-chest breathing is how you get oxygen when you are exerting yourself. It is also the breathing mode you go into when you're under stress. Belly breathing is breathing from the diaphragm. This type of breathing has the benefit of relaxing your entire system. One of the most powerful techniques for rapidly reducing a state of agitation is to take several slow deep breaths, pushing the diaphragm down and outward. Just as upperchest breathing can actually make you more agitated, belly breathing can bring on a state of serenity and well-being. Learning to take care of yourself will help you face social situations with less stress and apprehension.
Come across confident
Social skills at work
Feelings follow behavior. If you want to feel sure of yourself, act sure of yourself. When you enter a social situation, visualize confident behavior. Confidence is in your voice, your eye contact, and your behavior. You don't have to feel confident to come across confident -- by acting strong, you will feel strong. We are not suggesting you do anything totally out of character. But since emotions often lag behind behavior, you may need to fake self-assurance until you really feel it. We all bring different gifts and qualities to the challenge of making a life and a living. Some of us are particularly expert at technical things; others are outstanding in artistic and creative endeavors. There are some people, however, who possess talents that are more fundamental and central to success than any others. These truly gifted individuals are masters at human collaboration. They know how to leverage human nature. Some were born extroverted. Much of what they do comes easily. Others have no particular affinity for social interaction, yet they have made up their minds to go against their inclinations and be more sociable. Either way, life for these people is substantially enhanced. They consciously seek out other people. They exchange information, goods, and services. For them, networking is a lifestyle. They know what works and what doesn't. Their business is self-marketing, linking, exchanging with others. The largest slice of the opportunity pie goes to the people who are willing and able to leverage their energies by linking up with others. Why not get the fair share that you're entitled to?
Who needs people?
Let's look at the people who need people. Maybe you are a consultant starting a new practice or an entrepreneur seeking financial backing and qualified associates. If you are marketing ideas, programs, or products; operating in the political arena; working in a setting where who you know is as important as what you know, making a major change in career direction -- you need a talent for collaboration. In other words, to accomplish practically anything, you need to know how to establish and draw on informal interpersonal networks. According to the US Department of Labor, over 66% of all jobs get filled informally: through friends, acquaintances, and behind-the-scenes favors. Planet Earth may revolve on its axis, but society revolves on relationships.
Working with others in mutually interdependent relationships has a long tradition in our society. When you realize how things get done -- particularly how very successful people operate -- it becomes clear that collaboration is the key ingredient. Nothing substantial is achieved by working alone. America was built by groups of independent-thinking individuals linked together by a common interest and mutual interdependence. As a socially challenged person, it won't matter how many great benefits there might be in connecting with others -- it's still not going to be easy for you. Let's expose a few of the misconceptions that might be lurking behind your reluctance to play in this game.
"I don't want to be dependent on others."
Of course you want to be independent. We all want to stand on our own two feet and make our own way. But is it fair to you to be competing on an unequal playing field? If the successful players in your industry have a tool that you don't have or won't use, you are at an unfair disadvantage. In the business world today, connecting with others is what business is all about. Relationship selling, relationship consulting, relationship negotiating -- it's all about people working together in reciprocal relationships. It isn't dependency -- it is interdependency.
"It sounds so artificial, like I'm using people."
This depends on you and your motives. Certainly we all know people who exploit relationships, who take and don't give, whose only goal is feathering their own nest. But most people who collaborate with others are sincerely interested in exchange. You give of yourself to those who need your product, service, advice, and counsel. This advances you, certainly. And you, in turn, contribute and support others in equal fashion. It is truly an exchange economy. Those are the rules and the violators are soon seen for who they are.
Where are you going?
Let's deal with the very practical issue of where to begin. Let's assume that, for now, your goal is merely to increase the frequency of contacts you make with other groups or individuals. You can't increase the frequency of your contacts without showing up where other people are gathering. And you can't show up where others are gathering without targeting where you want to be. Outgoing people take the business of connecting with others very seriously. They approach it very systematically. You can do the same. Here are some potential targets for interaction. Informal Contacts: All the people for whom you have some type of informal affinity: relatives, friends, members of your bowling league, social clubs, sports teams or members of country clubs, crafts groups. Work Relationships: All the people with whom the connection is in some way related to your work or primary avocation: bosses, subordinates, peers, associates at related businesses, vendors, competitors, professional acquaintances, clients, customers.
Community Relationships: All the people whose association is civic in nature: volunteer organizations, fund-raising groups, cultural associations, chambers of commerce. Ancillary Relationships: All the people you have other levels of interaction with: fellow carpoolers, your personal doctor, lawyer, or minister, fellow graduates of your law school, and sundry other granfalloons. These categories should cover most people you know now or who are potentially on your radar screen. Let's take this one step further.
The social targets matrix
Pick one or two first targets for enhancing your social connectivity. Having a clear target is important because it adds precision and discipline to your project. Consider the example of two people who are vowing to change. One person resolves to stop chewing his fingernails. Another resolves to stop chewing one fingernail. The second person will be more successful. Use the matrix below to decide where you might want to begin. You Same Behaviors New Behaviors Current Network (A) Status Quo. This is business as usual. You continue to relate to the same people in the same way you are already relating. (C) New Behavior. In this strategy, you leave New Network (B) New Territory. In this strategy you take your typical style of interaction to new groups and individuals. (D) Brave New World strategy. You try new
unchanged your social styles of behavior with contacts, but you relate to brand new social them in new ways. contacts.
Where do you currently spend the bulk of your social time? This is your comfort zone. If you do nothing at all, you probably will be relating five years from now in the same way with these same people. There's nothing wrong with this unless you consider it a problem. As we have said all along, there is a lot to be gained by branching out into new relationships and behaviors.
In this strategy you are moving out of the realm of the familiar into new social circles. Basically, you are using your same style of relating, but you are exposing yourself to new opportunities. New territory might mean joining a new association or a support group on a subject of interest to you.
In this strategy, you risk new behaviors in your current social circles. For instance, you have always kept a low profile at meetings of the neighborhood association. You attend regularly, but let others take the leadership on different projects. Now you are volunteering to edit the next newsletter or to serve as chairman of the dues committee.
Brave new world
This strategy is really out of character for you. Not only are you branching out into unfamiliar social networks, you're also exhibiting behaviors that are likewise new. For instance, you decide to form your own mastermind group on interpersonal effectiveness. You call a planning meeting, recruit members, set agendas, and do other things that are brand-new for you.
Make a good first impression
Depending on what book you consult, you have anywhere from 10 seconds to four minutes to make a good impression on another person. People start drawing conclusions about you the minute they lay eyes on you. If you are well groomed and dressed appropriately, you will likely make a better initial first impression. Before you go in for that facelift or liposuction, though, take note. The ingredients for a positive first impression go beyond just physical features. We all have known people who are attracted to others whom we would never find appealing. "What does she see in him?" we ask ourselves. "Well, he's funny and he's nice to me," they respond. Attractiveness is more than what you see when you look at someone. It is the total package.
A person who smiles is more attractive than someone who is expressionless.
Someone who appears relaxed and natural is more appealing than someone who comes across as uptight or too formal.
People with an optimistic outlook on life are more comfortable to spend time with. People will find you attractive based not just on how you look, but who you are and how you conduct yourself in the first few moments of contact. But remember, it is the inside you that determines the ultimate impression you make. While people may draw a preliminary opinion of you even before you speak, it is the impression they gain through interaction that is more enduring. Making a good first impression puts everyone at ease, so that the inside you has a better chance of making an appearance.
Now that we have looked at ways you can capitalize on your new social confidence and competence, we are ready to move to our next lesson, where I will give you some ideas on maintaining what you have achieved and continuing to grow.
This lesson showed you how to wow a crowd with your dazzling personality. You've learned how to increase your self-confidence and social skills and received guidelines for making yourself more appealing to others.
Assignment #4 Quiz #4
A) B) A) B)
In Lesson 5 we will go over the steps needed to ensure that these changes are permanent. Before moving on to that lesson, be sure to complete the assignment and take the quiz for this lesson, then head over to the Message Board to discuss what you have learned with your fellow classmates.
Identify and list the things you focus on when you are socially anxious. Do you focus on appearance, physical sensations (blushing, sweating, etc.), body language or the type of impression you're making? Once you learn to recognize that you are fixating on certain responses, you may be able to move past them. Question 1: Confidence is the belief you have about your adequacy in facing a situation. True False
Question 2: This breathing style is characterized by breathing from the diaphragm and has the benefit of relaxing your whole system. C) D) Question 3: Upper-chest breathing Body breathing Belly breathing Nose breathing
According to the US Department of Labor, only 20% of all jobs get filled informally: through friends, acquaintances, and behind-the-scenes favors.
The threat of relapse
Changing for good
A) B) True False
Gain a better understanding of the concept of relapse and what to do to prevent it. Learn the importance of a balanced lifestyle and develop skills for continuing your growth beyond this course. After months of steady progress in her efforts at becoming more socially outgoing, Cynthia is depressed and demoralized. One of the situations she wanted to master was a monthly after-work function. Cynthia had faithfully attended the last three events. But at last night's get-together, she felt unusually self-conscious and left abruptly. This morning she feels terrible that all her progress has gone down the drain. "What a loser. What's the use? I'll never get over this crazy problem."
Creating new habits is hard enough without misinformation. Cynthia's feelings of failure, embarrassment, and guilt are the unfortunate byproducts of telling herself untruths about relapse and the process of change. The confusion about relapse is a result of two fundamental misconceptions. The first is the belief that change progresses in a straight line. It doesn't. Change takes place in stages. You progress to a stage, stop there for a while, and then move forward to the next stage. It is important to know that moving back to a previous stage is also quite common. The second common mistake is labeling any slip a failure. Slips are a natural and inevitable part of any program of change. In this section, I will discuss the four stages of change and what you can do to maintain momentum on your journey to social confidence and competence.
The enthusiastic beginner stage The disillusionment stage The waffling stage
In this stage, you've accepted that being socially challenged is limiting your potential and you feel good about your decision to put this behind you. Your spirits are buoyed up with anticipation of the wonderful benefits change will bring. You feel relief that you are finally taking some concrete actions. You may even share your plans with some of your friends and family. Disillusionment happens to everyone. Honeymooners experience it. Buyer's remorse is a form of it. You'll know it when it hits you. Your enthusiasm begins to wane. You're doing things that stretch you socially, but it is harder than you thought it would be. You are not moving as fast as you expected. You are having trouble remembering why it was so important to do this. At times you wish you hadn't even started. This is the hot-and-cold stage. Some days your feel you could tackle any situation. Other times, the chill of disillusionment creeps back. This is a maintenance phase in which new behaviors are taking hold even as old patterns continue trying to reestablish themselves.
The mastery stage
Your ultimate goal has been reached. Your social apprehension no longer presents a problem for you. Only occasionally do you even think about that phase of your life when social things were a source of concern. You have won the contest over your fears and impulses to become the socially confident and competent person you have always wanted to be.
Cynthia, like so many people intent on self-improvement, sees her progress in black-and-white terms. Her turmoil would be less intense if she congratulated herself for even the small steps she is making. Cynthia should also understand that a temporary return to previous patterns is perfectly natural and happens despite the best-laid strategies to change. Of one hundred people setting out to break some type of habit, less than five will make it to the Mastery Stage without a setback. What this means is that it is normal to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. Here are some additional ideas for dealing with lapses. 1. Be reasonable. Recognize that few people achieve change the first time around. The important thing is not to dwell on your setbacks. Accept them as normal. Ignore your guilt, relax, and plan your next move. 2. Recognize the stages of change. When you are feeling particularly discouraged, remind yourself that disillusionment is a normal stage in the process of change. Keep handy the list you made back in Lesson 2 of your Pushes and Pulls. Do pleasant things for yourself when the going is rough. Touch base with the friends and associates who know of your efforts. They can help you see progress that is less apparent to you. 3. Review the plans you have set for yourself. Most people underestimate the time and energy required to achieve personal change. Remember the Myth of No Sweat from Lesson 1.You may want to scale back some of your efforts. It's better to achieve small consistent gains and stick with your plan than to feel overwhelmed by a plan that is overly ambitious. 4. Watch your moods. The single most common factor in setbacks is emotional upset. Negative emotions are energy drains. Keep a log of daily events and feelings. Keeping a log will help you identify high-risk situations. When you are aware that a high-risk situation is at hand, plan better ways to deal with it. 5. Watch your thinking. The next time you find yourself discouraged, ask yourself, "What am I telling myself, making up, or believing that is causing my feelings? Is there more than one interpretation of the event? What is the objective data that either supports or negates my interpretation of the situation?" 6. Stay focused. Remember the race between the turtle and the hare? Although he had greater speed, the hare lost because of his inconsistency and smug attitude. The turtle was slow but sure. He won because of his consistency and because he stuck to his plan. Have your priorities and goals as clear as practical. The clearer you are on what you want to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it, the easier it is to remain focused. 7. Involve your friends. Friends can support your efforts to change. Involving your friends serves another purpose. Those closest to you may have feelings of uncertainty about the new person you are becoming. They may even unconsciously try to hold you back. Once they have become invested in your program, your friends will have less anxiety and be more of a resource to you. 8. Remove the word "relapse" from your vocabulary. It sounds too much like failure. There is no failure in a setback. Change is a cycle, not a straight line. Next time you hit a bump in the road, think of yourself as merely re-cycling around to a previous stage. This will get you back to your program faster and with less energy-sapping guilt.
Another hazard to your motivation is the notorious "foot-in-mouth" problem. Everyone has a story to tell of embarrassing themselves in public. At this very moment, someone, somewhere is asking a woman who only looks pregnant, "When are you due?" Or saying something negative about someone standing within earshot, or getting someone's name wrong, or mistaking someone's sister for her mother. These unfortunate mishaps happen to all of us. And most of us can laugh it off and recover quickly. But when you are socially challenged,
an innocent mistake becomes a disaster. Overwhelmed with shame, you vow never again to show your face in public. Here are some things you can do to minimize embarrassing yourself in public.
When in doubt. . .
The best policy is don't assume. At a restaurant just this week the wait staff asked me, "So, are you the grandfather of these two lovely children?" I politely informed her I was the father. Don't assume things. Play it safe until your hunches are verified.
Engage brain, then mouth Look around
Try to keep in mind to whom you might be speaking. For instance, think before you say, "Aren't you just totally revolted by people who chew tobacco?" You might be speaking to a person whose favorite pastime is a slow chew at the end of a long day.
Don't say behind anyone's back what you would never say to their face. This is a sound policy for all times and places. It will go a long way toward enhancing your credibility. If you must say something less than flattering, be careful about who might be standing nearby.
Don't exaggerate the consequences
Don't blow out of proportion the consequences of a public faux pas. Maintain your sense of humor -- don't take yourself too seriously. Convince yourself that there is not an embarrassing thing you could do that others have not done before you.
Achieving balance in professional and personal lives
The ideas in this section can protect your morale against the destructive forces of setbacks and public embarrassments. But even higher levels of resilience can be realized when your life is balanced. This is the subject we will take up in the next section. It's rare that you get the luxury of dealing with one thing at a time. More often, there are multiple problems demanding your attention. The hedge against this type of overload is balance. A lack of balance, particularly between the professional and personal domains of our lives, is the most commonly reported source of stress in our society. Imbalance is generally easy to spot. For instance, when your tires are out of balance, the whole car is affected. When your checkbook is not balanced, you find out about that soon enough. When the tightrope walker loses her balance, the crowd gasps and hopes she can recover. But a life out of balance is a slow boil. It may be years before the problem is apparent enough to register on your radar screen. You may be the last person to realize it. Gary loves his family. He also loves his work. Lately, he has not been successful in giving equal amounts of attention to both priorities. He's on a fast track at work. The more he does, the more recognition he gets. The more recognition he gets, the more hours he puts in. Due to frequent conflicts with his wife, Gary is now spending time at work even when there's no pressing need to do so. He wonders how things got to this point.
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Gary's life is imbalanced. He is spending much more than 40 hours out of the week's total of 168 hours on his career. When he is not at work, he is taking time dressing for work, commuting to work, thinking about work, and decompressing from work. He may be a star at the office, but the rest of his existence is withering. Gary is on a gradual downhill trajectory. The very pattern that is earning him accolades today will ironically lead to a decline in Gary's health, peace of mind, and ultimately, his productivity.
If life were perfect you would have a job that offered enough challenge to be interesting, enough ease to be enjoyable, enough fellowship to be nourishing, enough money to pay the bills, and still leave you enough hours to spend on your relationships and self-renewal. But that's not the real world. The real world is full of compromises and consequences for the choices you make. The real world is a place where trying to have it all can mean losing it all. In this section we will give you a couple of tips for achieving balance in your life.
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Ultimately, there are just three priorities: work, relationships, and self. When you wake up in the morning you are given a pie. This pie is equal to the amount of energy you have for the rest of the day. You only have one pie per day. Every Sunday, take time to reflect on how you will divide the pies for the coming week. Each weekday morning take a few minutes to decide what slice of your pie will go to work, which slice to relationships, and which slice to yourself.
Separate your family and work roles Take something off your plate
Train yourself to block off office time from time at home. Try not to worry about your children or other home things when at work, and try not to worry about work when with your family.
The single most important thing most people say they could do to bring order to their lives is learn to say "No." Don't be afraid to remove things from your overloaded plate. Not everything has equal value. Discriminate among what is worth doing well, what is worth just doing, and what is not worth doing at all. Don't say "Yes" right away. Stall by asking, "Can I get back to you on that?" Then consider carefully what you will take off your plate if you add another thing.
Remember your legacy
Which inscription will be placed on your tombstone: "Beloved Parent/Brother/Son" or "Off to Another Meeting"? You need some principle to guide you in resolving the inevitable conflicts between family and job demands. Some people follow the maxim "Family needs come first." Make a list of the roles you play in your life: father, mother, son, daughter. For each role ask yourself, "How do I want to be remembered by the people who depend on me?"
Cultivate a sharing attitude with your spouse
Sit down periodically with your significant other and discuss what you can do for mutual support in your respective jobs -- at home and at work. Many
husbands and wives report great relief when their partners lend an ear to their complaints, offer a sounding board, and supply advice and encouragement.
It is impossible to reach an ideal in both family and job. Aim for the best balance among your various activities. Don't expect to be a perfect spouse or parent. Lower your standards on the home front and accept some degree of disorder around the house.
Do something for yourself
The remarkable thing about taking care of yourself is that it is the most unselfish thing you can do. Have a "just for me" fund of money to spend each month on a new book, some new clothes, a new record, or some other tangible reward for working so hard at meeting your responsibilities and fulfilling multiple roles. These refreshing, energizing benefits will increase your tolerance and make you a more giving person. While many are embracing the fast track as the surest path to success, others are cultivating a different set of values. In increasing numbers, professionals both young and old are taking control of their careers rather than letting their careers take control of them. Studies show that most people would be willing to take a salary cut if it meant more family and personal time.
Continuing to grow
You don't have to give up the intellectual, emotional, and financial rewards that go with professional success to achieve balance. But there are tradeoffs and tough choices. In bringing greater order and moderation to your life, you will find you can deal more effectively with problems. Your productivity will increase dramatically and you'll gain higher self-esteem and confidence. Most important, you will have the energy and clarity of mind and spirit to continue to grow toward your full potential. A man was found dead in the desert. Near him was a package. If he had opened the package he would not have died. What was in the package?
People give a wide variety of answers to this classic riddle: water, food, a map, a compass, a cell phone. Every once in a while, someone will give the right answer: a parachute. When you are falling through space nothing matters as much as a parachute. The larger question is, why didn't he open it? It was there, available to him. It seems outrageous that he didn't make use of it. One theory is that he thought he had one of those chutes that opened automatically. He didn't realize he had to pull the ripcord. All the way down, perhaps right up to the last hundred feet, this poor guy fully expected things to happen all by themselves. It cost him his life. This man's attitude is fairly common. A lot of people are falling through life, waiting for their parachutes to open all by themselves. David Burns, in his book Intimate Connections, calls this the "spontaneity belief." People with this attitude would never expect to get a job without interviewing for it, or a new home without applying for a loan. But when it comes to success in interpersonal relationships, they expect things to happen spontaneously.
Continue to challenge yourself
By expanding and building upon your abilities and skillsets, you're giving yourself the chance to continue to improve yourself and make progress. » HP Total Education One
You are not one of those people. You took this course because you recognize
that life returns to you what you invest in it. Congratulations for staying with the course through all the lessons. We have covered a lot of ground in a relatively short time. We hope that in the following weeks you will continue to make progress and achieve even higher levels of social confidence and competence. To enhance your continuing progress, we would like you to apply some of the things you have learned in this course. What follows is a series of typical social situations. Picture yourself in each situation and imagine what you would do in handling each.
Scene 1: one on one
You are taking a non-credit course at a local university. While waiting for all participants to arrive, the instructor has suggested that those already present break into twos and get acquainted. You turn to the person next to you. How would you begin?
Scene 2: in the beginning
You are at a party where you don't know anyone and are feeling very selfconscious. Although your initial impulse is to nurse a drink in the corner by yourself, or try to maintain a facade to conceal your uneasiness, you decide to walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself.
Scene 3: the produce department
You're in the produce section of a supermarket. You are squeezing avocados to select a ripe one when you look up and notice a person you met at a PTA meeting. Your first instinct is to turn your attention back to the avocados or hastily flee to another aisle, but you decide to make the extra effort you have promised you would exert in such.
Scene 4: out of words
You are having a discussion with someone at a barbecue, someone you know relatively well. Suddenly the topic of conversation has exhausted itself. You find yourselves staring at each other. Your mind goes blank for a minute. Calmly, you tell yourself to relax. You flip quickly through your repertoire of conversational topics and come up with something appropriate to the situation.
Scene 5: the monologue
You are having coffee with a friend. You have been looking forward to talking with him, but after half an hour you realize your friend has been dominating the conversation with a nonstop monologue. After being polite and nonassertive for longer than you want to be, you decide to introduce a topic of your own.
Scene 6: grand entrance
You are at a party. You walk into a room where people are chatting in an animated fashion. Everybody seems to be talking to somebody else. You hesitate, mustering your courage to introduce yourself to a group of people. You walk over to three people who are laughing and talking as you arrive. They pause; you take advantage of the lull.
Scene 7: grand exit
Moving to the next level
You are very pleased that you met all your goals for this social event. It is time for you to leave. For the past 15 minutes you have been talking to the same individual. You want to move on to say goodbye to the hostess before leaving.
Larry Wilson in his book, Playing to Win, uses a medical analogy. When you go to the doctor, it is generally because you are sick. The doctor prescribes medicine and applies other procedures to move you from being sick to being not sick. But you may not be thriving. You may still have high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, and other ailments. To go from not sick to the next level requires a conscious effort. What can you do to take yourself to the next level?
Baseball legend Sandy Koufax, who won the Cy Young award as best baseball pitcher three times in his career, was once criticized for being nervous while standing on first base. "Sandy, why are you so jumpy?" the announcer asked. "You must kick that base 25 or 30 times while you're standing out there." Sandy replied, "I kick the base but it's not because I am nervous. I know if I kick it long enough and hard enough I can move it an inch or two closer to second base. That may be all I need to steal second base." It is the little things done consistently that bring success. Little things like reading 10 pages per day, every day of the year. In a year, you will have read ten 350-page books. Little things like the slow, steady erosion of a river created the spectacular Grand Canyon. Little things like just 90 minutes each day, five days a week, in a year add up to 400 hours -- the equivalent of ten 40-hour weeks. Imagine what you can do when you take just a little time each day to grow yourself. Here are some tips on continuing your progress.
Change that occurs too quickly can be unsettling and may create new problems Pace yourself as you move toward getting better at dealing with social situations. Don't rush. Make self-management a lifelong project rather than something you have to achieve in a week.
Choose techniques carefully Monitor yourself
Use only those techniques that work best for you. Experiment with one technique at a time. Trying too many solutions at once works against the effectiveness of all of them.
Begin keeping an anti-avoidance notebook. In it, record the times you choose to avoid rather than enter into a social situation. Record also the thoughts that you had at the time, how you felt, and what you did. In addition to tracking avoidance, monitor the times you stretched beyond your comfort zone to perform in a socially outgoing way. Record how it felt to have this achievement. You may surprise yourself with how much you actually are doing.
Set behavioral goals
Remember in setting your goals to be sure: 1) the goal is observable by you and others; 2) it is specific and concrete; 3) it can be broken down into small steps. "I want to be more sociable" it is not a behavioral goal. Ask yourself, "What would it look like? What exactly will I be doing? How would I start, what
would be the first step?"
Don't look too far ahead
Don't think too far ahead in working toward a goal. This can lead to discouragement and abandoning the task. Just take one step at a time. Think of a slogan like, "A mile's a while but an inch is a cinch."
Watch for bumps in the road
There is nothing wrong in withdrawing temporarily from a task when you hit an obstacle. The real danger is in giving up completely. When you hit interference in what you are after, remind yourself that this is merely an annoying delay that you can work around. It is okay to stop momentarily on a task.
Don't spread yourself too thin
Don't be compulsive about self-improvement. Take a hard look at your commitments. If you are attempting too much, you may be headed for overload or depression. Occasionally indulge yourself in fun activities. Pleasure is so important in life. Try to plan for it, and give it to yourself without guilt or desperation.
This lesson went over some practices that ensure you're on the right track. The important thing is to not get overwhelmed or discouraged -- change takes time. In Lesson 6 we will discuss options for professional help and medication when dealing with social anxieties. Before moving on to that lesson, be sure to complete the assignment and take the quiz for this lesson, then head over to the Message Board to discuss what you have learned with your fellow classmates.
Assignment #5 Quiz #5
A) B) A) B) C) D)
Think honestly about how you feel about the issue of medication. Have you considered it? Would you consider it? What are the pros and cons? Go to the message board and discuss. Question 1: Which of these is not one of the four stages of change? Enthusiastic beginner stage Disillusionment stage True Manic stage Mastery Stage
Question 2: The single most common factor in setbacks is emotional upset. Question 3: False
Which of the following is not a good way to prioritize your life? A) B) A) B) C) D) C) D) Question 4: Which of the following is not a wise way to continue your progress? Separate your work and family roles Learn to tell people no Go slow Be realistic Focus all of your attention on work Try to do as much as possible Monitor yourself
The value of counseling
Why seek counseling
Where do I go from here?
Set behavioral goals
Evaluate the progress you have made, and examine the options of professional help and medication. You will also learn how to handle a potentially shy child. If you could walk back through the corridors of time, at some point you might witness a young man picking up a basketball for the first time. Watching his awkward, fumbling first efforts, you would never guess this beginner would later become the phenomenon we know today as Michael Jordan. The exceptional "physical fitness" of any great athlete is the direct result of disciplined practice. But there is another factor that accounts for outstanding performance: professional guidance. In this section, we will discuss how your "social fitness" can be facilitated through the guidance of professional counseling. Counseling helps with the harder parts of personal growth. For instance, there are two powerful techniques recommended by Dr. Barbara Markway in Painfully Shy. The first, intentional mistake making, involves purposely opening yourself to embarrassment: deliberately trip in front of someone; pay for something with the incorrect amount of change; greet someone by the wrong name. Do each of these things on purpose and you achieve two things:
The second technique, the paradoxical approach, zeroes in on the physiological symptoms of social anxiety such as trembling hands, overactive sweat glands, and blushing. What's frustrating about these symptoms is the more you try to contain them, the worse they seem to get. What if you deliberately tried to make these symptoms even more prominent? Would this make things better? The answer is yes. Paradoxically, not suppressing the normal instincts to fight, freeze, or flee, sends a calming, reassuring message to your body's primitive security center. Both of these powerful techniques fall under the heading of "exposure" therapy. What they have in common is that they keep you in the presence of something fearful long enough to discover there is nothing to fear. But like the old cliche "Don't try this at home," few people have either the knowledge or the motivation to self-treat using these methods. This is where a counselor could come in handy. With the right professional, armed with these and other tools, you could significantly accelerate your growth.
1. You give yourself a lesson in tolerating the feelings of imperfection. 2. And, as an added bonus, you find that those terrible things that you expect will happen when you do something wrong or unusual never materialize.
Choosing the right therapist
You have choices of professionals who can provide support and competent guidance. Here are some things to consider.
Interview a prospective therapist. Many therapists do not charge for the initial visit. During the interview, be sure to ask what experience they have had with the problem of social anxiety and methods they employ. Ask about their fee structure, cancellation policy, insurance reimbursement, and how long they have been in practice. Sometimes it takes a few "tries" to find a good match. It is OK to shop around until you find the right therapist for you. There are many types of licensed mental health professionals, differing in educational backgrounds, training, licensure, philosophy, and technique. Psychiatrists are medical doctors and can prescribe medication. Psychologists usually have a Doctorate in Psychology and have completed an internship under supervision. Counselors usually have a Master's degree in Counseling and have completed an internship under supervision. Clinical Social Workers typically have a Master's degree in Social Work and have completed a supervised internship.
Also think about whether you would feel more comfortable with a therapist of your gender or the opposite gender.
After getting all the information and talking with several professionals, you will need to make a decision. At this point the best advice is to trust your gut feelings. Perhaps the most important consideration is rapport. It is important that you work with someone with whom you feel safe, can talk easily, and a person you feel you can learn to trust. Remember that therapy, in the hands of a skilled therapist, is a powerful and life-changing experience. It has been shown to be effective for a variety of illnesses and problems. If you need therapy and work as an active participant in your own treatment, you can expect it will be well worth the time and money you invest. But counseling alone may not be sufficient. Which brings us to the subject of prescribed medication.
The wise use of medication
It is never a good idea to misuse or abuse drugs. Getting high and getting drunk, making yourself comfortably numb -- these are not constructive ways of coping with stress. The problem of drug abuse has preoccupied our society for decades. It's no wonder that many people distrust drugs. Because of this, they hold off seeking the support they might gain from prescribed medications. While some people develop a dependency on prescription drugs, the majority of people on medication are not abusing the drugs they take. These people owe their ability to face life to prescribed medications.
Many experts feel that extreme shyness, depression, and other disorders are the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring compound that helps send electrical signals between nerve cells. In normal conditions, serotonin is sent from one nerve cell to be absorbed by another. In those with social anxiety, depression, and other anxieties, these signals are out of balance. One example of a medication for correcting this imbalance is a drug known as paroxetine HCl. This is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that works by stabilizing the brain.
Research results indicate that about 70 percent of social anxiety disorder patients achieve worthwhile gains from medication therapy. While the amount of improvement with medication varies, millions of people are able to function professionally and find fulfillment in their lives because they take prescription medication.
Should you consider medication?
Not everyone with social anxiety needs to be on medication. There are many factors that should enter into this judgment, such as severity of the condition, conferring with your doctor or counselor, your psychiatrist, other medications you take, and your general medical condition, and the way you know your body responds to medication in general. But if you are facing anxiety problems related to social
anxiety every day of your life, medication may be the recommend course of action.
In Painfully Shy , Dr. Markway, suggests you consider three issues in making your decision regarding medications.
Support for the shy child
Perhaps the best approach to settling the debate over whether or not to take medication is, as Dr. Markway suggests, asking yourself what is the most loving, caring, reverent thing you can do for yourself in this situation. You won't get "cured" by just relying on medication. Medication is a "tool" and an "encouragement" while undergoing other strategies for building confidence and reducing anxiety. Medication will allow you to practice social skills better and reduce your anxiety in daily functioning. While medication can be helpful, real improvement occurs by learning to think and feel differently.
Length of time. How long has social anxiety been a problem for you? The longer you have struggled with overcoming your shyness, the better the case for considering medications. Impact of shyness. How much has shyness interfered with your day-to-day activities? If shyness is a minor annoyance, that is one thing. But if it is having significant negative impact in one or more areas of your professional or personal life, you may want to look into the support that might be gained from medication. Depression. Very importantly, if the anxiety of shyness is coupled with feelings of depression, then there is an even greater cause to consider medication.
Social anxiety appears to run in families. Since you are shy, some or all your offspring may share the trait. This doesn't mean that if you have had extreme problems with social interaction your child will have the same difficulties. Genes predispose these characteristics; they don't predestine them. But it is understandable that having felt the loneliness and discomfort of shyness yourself, you want to do all you can to minimize the disruption social anxiety might have in the life of your children. Here are some strategies you might consider if you are concerned for your child's social development.
Make sure it's a problem Don't label
Your own painful experiences with shyness may be making you see things that are not there. At some ages, certain behaviors such as clinging to your leg when a stranger approaches, weeping over every goodbye, and refusing to join in group activities are natural and even expected. Talk to your child's teacher or your pediatrician or other experts to determine if your child's behavior is within or outside the range of age-appropriate behavior. If your child seems okay with being shy, if she seems to be genuinely happy playing by herself, entertaining herself, then let her be. Putting any kind of label on a child is rarely of any value. Avoid comments like, "Oh, he's my shy one." After all, he may not even think of himself as shy. But say it often enough, and he'll come to believe it. And even if your child considers herself shy, he may not think that being shy is such a big deal. Talking about it as if it is sends the message that he has some sort of defect. Don't allow others to label your child either. Consider saying, "It takes him a little while to get comfortable in a new situation."
Get them started
The hardest part for most children is initiating play. Your child may look at other children and circle around them, but not really talk to them. Pushing a child into a situation that she sees as threatening is not likely to help the child build social skill. But you can help your child get her feet wet by going with her to another child and spending a few moments getting acquainted. Often once a child gets through those first difficult moments of connecting with another, she can interact comfortably.
Shy children may have negative self-images and feel that they will not be accepted. Reinforce shy children for demonstrating skills and encourage their autonomy. Praise them often. Being sensitive to
the child's interests and feelings will allow you to build a relationship with the child and show that you respect the child. This can make the child more confident and less inhibited.
Pairing with others
To bring a shy child out of his shell, consider pairing him with a child who is very outgoing and outspoken. Each child seems to change the other. The outspoken child may calm down a bit and the shyer child will be a bit louder. A variation of this is to have your child associate with someone who is even more shy. This will often give the child confidence and a feeling of competence.
Leave your comfort zone
A recent campaign in my area to get more kids to buckle up has the slogan, "If you do it, they will." As parents we can influence our children's behavior more by our actions than our words. Make a conscious effort to model proactive social activity when with your child. Reach out to others, greet others, make small talk with strangers, and let your child see you demonstrating confident social interaction.
Seeking professional help
Keep in mind, you may not be the best judge of your child's interactions. If you are concerned that he always seems to be alone, ask your daycare staff or school teacher about it. It's possible that you don't see those moments when he's happily interacting. If, however, they agree that your child is having more trouble socializing than most kids his age, talk to your child's pediatrician, who may suggest a developmental evaluation. The key is meeting your responsibilities as a parent without losing perspective. Shyness is not all bad. Not every child needs to be the focus of attention. Some qualities of shyness, such as modesty and reserve, are viewed as positive. Your child may be popular and attractive to other children simply because he doesn't have to have the limelight. As long as a child does not seem excessively uncomfortable or neglected around others, drastic interventions are not necessary. The trouble with shyness -- for those who struggle with it and the people they interact with -- is that it dominates everything else. But shyness doesn't exist in a vacuum. It is but one ingredient in the larger stew of what makes you who you are. For years, your shyness has preoccupied you. But as you progress in mastery of the problem, your attention may now be turning to the vital questions that humans have wrestled with ever since we acquired the intelligence to contemplate our own mortality.
Life after shyness
Edward Deming, the father of the quality movement, captured the essence of these timeless issues. He said there were three questions that only 20% of all managers could answer. What is my job? What really counts? How am I doing? Dr. Deming's intended these questions to be applied to the business world. But they are just as applicable to the business of making a life. To paraphrase Dr. Deming: What is a successful life?
Many people, when asked to rate their success in life, first turn to external measures such as net worth, their fame, power, or status. These four things may be the most hotly pursued goals in the twentieth century today, but according to philosopher Tom Morris, acquiring them is no reason to consider yourself successful.
Material things can be useful as stepping stones to other things in life; but when you pursue them as ends in themselves you are on a journey for which there is no final arrival. The craving for material success is insatiable. It is easy to become obsessive about getting more stuff. More money. More power. A bigger house. Another house. A more luxurious car. Or a faster car. The more you give in to it and try to satisfy it, the more it can grow, until it is literally out of control.
If seeking success in external things is temporary and hollow, what's the alternative? The answer given by all the great philosophers is to find it within yourself. To find success within is to achieve contentment. Contentment is emotionally accepting your present as being what it is, without being filled with resentment, frustration, or irritation at anything you are undergoing. Everyone fantasizes about a state of existence in which they have gotten their lives together once and for all. This vision of some future state in which life problems evaporate and life begins to run flawlessly is an illusion. Life will always present you with challenges and personal distress. Just when you think you're gaining in some area, a crisis knocks you off balance. The important thing is to get back up and start again.
Assignment #6 Quiz #6
A) B) A) B) A) B) A) B) C) D)
Thanks for joining us in this journey of personal discovery and change. We wish you continuing success in your pursuit of personal happiness. Keep growing and learning, and have a great life. Go to the Message Board and discuss the challenges and successes you've had as you've taken this course. Think about whether medication or therapy might be for you. Weigh the options and share with your classmates as you wish. Question 1: Why should some seek counseling? It can accelerate your growth Insurance will cover it It's the easy way out It's a miracle cure True True
Question 2: Research results indicate that about 70 percent of social anxiety disorder patients achieve worthwhile gains from medication therapy. Question 3: If your child is shy, you should assume they have severe social anxiety. Question 4: To find success within is to achieve _________. C) D) Failure Contentment Intelligence Professionalism False False
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