Northern Voice and Social Anxiety


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.

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  1. Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    a few weeks ago, i complimented a woman at a museum, because she was wearing a gorgeous hand woven shawl. i was nervous about saying something to a stranger, but it was such a good thing to do because she was so happy that i noticed her shawl. i thought to myself, “must do that more often.”

  2. Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been getting tons of comments on my bag and people telling me how cute/awesome/great it is. I love taking note of someone’s awesome accessories/clothes/shoes/etc. and having the courage to tell them. Thank you for reminding me to keep doing it!

    P.S. Thanks for speaking at Northern Voice today. I really enjoyed the Fibre-love.

  3. Posted May 10, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I loved your panel at NV on Saturday! I’m wildly jealous of people with fabric talent, and you were so entertaining!

    Also, thank you so much for the comment you left on my site – I’ve gone back and read it about half a dozen times, and it makes me smile everywhere. You are awesome!

  4. Posted August 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve often told myself I should be more generous with compliments. I haven’t been good at following up on it, but thanks for the prod.

    I think often we’re in critique mode, imagining we’re elevating ourselves by putting things (and sometimes people) down… “I’m such a sensitive artist that I know the band is lame, the meal is uninspired and the band is cliche…” So it takes real effort to admit “Dammit, I like that!” AND say it out loud.

    I remember knowing a kid who was maybe 5 who gave you a compliment every time she saw you. Clearly her mother had been drilling her in social niceties and it was often pretty silly when she said she loved your beat up old shoes or told you that your unkempt hair looked pretty today. But she probably got a lot better at it, more genuine, and I bet people enjoy her because they feel good around her.

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