I’m attending (and speaking at!) Northern Voice this weekend. Today I went to a great session about dealing with social anxiety, by Kimli Welsh. I think I generally deal pretty well with my social anxiety these days, but it’s still a constant in my life.
Here’s one of my little mantras for dealing with my social anxiety, I wish I could remember where I first heard it: “People are usually too busy worrying about what they’re saying themselves, to be as critical as you are about what you’re saying.” I’m sure it’s not always true, but thinking it helps me be much bolder than I’d ever thought I could be.
Also. Years ago, after thinking about how much of a lift I get whenever I receive a compliment from a stranger, I decided to just start complimenting strangers more often. Usually I’ll just say “I love your haircut!” or “What a fabulous jacket!”; sometimes I’m brave enough to say “You look amazing!” (A woman said that to me once, at more length and with great and charming sincerity, on a day 7 or 8 years ago when I really needed it. It still makes me happy to think of it.)
Sometimes after paying a compliment I feel like a fool, sometimes the recipient seems to feel uncertain of my motives, but most often their surprised smiles and thanks really brighten my day…. and I like to think I’ve brightened theirs. Even better, sometimes a compliment will result in a fun conversation that makes us both feel good! Having a successful conversation with a stranger is still a big win in my book, and it keeps getting easier the more I practice.