Do you wish you knew how to talk to people with confidence? Do you find yourself becoming nervous and anxious when talking to certain people?
Rest assured, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel uneasy interacting with people in certain situations – whether that means talking to their boss, a potential date, or a stranger at a party.
This kind of social anxiety can be a real problem for some. Without noticing it they can gradually start to avoid certain situations – eg parties and nights out – because they just feel too anxious at the prospect of facing people.
Then before they know it their social life has disappeared. Which is a real shame, because humans are social beings, we all need some company, if only from time to time.
So it’s well worth finding out how to talk to people with confidence, before you start to shun any kind of social engagement.
How to talk to people with confidence
1. Let them do the talking
One of the best things you can do is cultivate a lively curiosity about the person you are talking to.
Instead of worrying about what interesting things you should be talking about, simply encourage THEM to talk.
Forget about yourself and become immersed in what they have to say. Ask them how they are, what’s going on in their lives, etc.
I’m not saying you should interrogate them of course! Simply show a genuine interest in what they are up to; ask them follow-up questions based on what they’ve just told you.
Imagine that they are really nervous too (you never know – they might be – they might just be better than you at hiding it), and act appropriately: be kind, be genuinely interested in what they have to say, and allow them the space to talk.
Most people are usually glad of an opportunity to talk about themselves, when asked the right questions.
We’re so used to people not really listening, but just ‘waiting for their chance to talk’ that we can really open up when somebody makes the effort to really listen.
2. Practice makes perfect
If the thought of actually doing number 1 gives you The Fear, then how about practising it first?
Choose a situation (and a type of person) that isn’t too challenging: for instance an old lady at a bus stop. They’re usually really pleased with an opportunity to talk!
You could ask if the bus is due soon, or simply enquire how her day’s been.
Practising like this on somebody who doesn’t seem too daunting will give you the chance to flex your social muscles, and will also start to send messages to your mind that it’s actually not that terrifying to engage in conversation with a stranger.
Bus stops are generally great places to try this out, as people are usually glad of the chance of something to occupy the boredom of waiting around for the bus to show up.
Recently I was on holiday with my partner and we decided to make the effort to have a chat to the person next to us each time we waited for the bus into town.
We ended up having some great conversations with people from all over the world. It made those waits so much more enjoyable!
What I found really enlightening was that people were always really happy to chat – even the kind that I might have expected to be a little withdrawn – for instance young couples, or even people who didn’t speak English very well.
These random encounters can be so memorable and enriching. And let’s face it, far more enjoyable than hanging around bored waiting for the bus to show up.
3. Positive posture
As I mentioned in my previous blog on job interview confidence, posture is so important. The way we hold ourselves tells those around us a lot about how we’re feeling, even if they’re not body language experts.
So practise standing in a confident way, with a straight back and shoulders relaxed. Try it out in front of the mirror until you feel confident you’re sending out the right signals.
Remember to breathe deeply into your abdomen area: this will help keep you feeling calm and in control.
So there you are: a few tips on how to talk to people with confidence.
Do you have any particular techniques that work for you? Please share in the comments below.
And if you’d like some individual support in building your confidence and self-esteem, get in touch to find out how I can help.
Lisa Murphy is a hypnotherapist & counsellor based in Glasgow, who specialises in anxiety, stress, and weight management.