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?
If you suffer with social anxiety, rest assured, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel uneasy interacting with people in many different ways – whether that means talking to their boss, a potential date, or a stranger at a party.
This kind of anxiety can be a real problem for some people. 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 and their relationships are suffering. Which is a real shame, because us humans are social beings, and we all need some company sometimes.
So it’s well worth finding out how to talk to people with confidence, before you start to shun any kind of social engagement.
4 ways 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’re up to; ask them follow-up questions based on what they’ve just told you. A good technique is this: imagine they’ve got a sign hanging around their neck that says ‘make me feel like the most important person in the world’.
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 dangerous 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 and I decided to make the effort to have a chat to the person next to me each time I waited for the bus into town.
I 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 younger people, 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.
4. Self-hypnosis for social confidence
Here’s a guided ‘self-hypnosis’ recording for you to listen to while relaxing. Listen daily to help build confidence and self-esteem.
*Please don’t listen while driving or doing anything that requires concentration*
So there you are: a few tips on how to talk to people with confidence.
If you’d like personal help and support in managing social anxiety and gaining confidence, then get in touch. I can help you learn how to deal with a variety of social situations.
Lisa Murphy is a hypnotherapist & counsellor based in Glasgow, who specialises in anxiety, stress, and weight management.