As a student with social anxiety, you might feel like participating in class is an impossible task.
- How can you answer questions or participate in discussions when your voice shakes?
- How can you go to office hours and talk to professors if meeting new people makes your stomach turn?
- How can you do anything when the mere thought of talking to someone else makes it hard for you breathe?
The following blog post will help teach you how to participate in class with social anxiety without feeling embarrassed!
Asking a question is the best way to participate in class with social anxiety. Preparing a question to ask shows your teacher or professor that you’ve done your homework and you are engaged without you having to talk for a long time.
If you’d like more advice on how to participate with social anxiety, keep reading! There are lots of other strategies that you can use to make it easier to participate without feeling nervous or embarrassed.
(*Note: We all know social anxiety can be hard to manage. This book on Amazon is the best I have found to deal directly with the problem.)
Plan Questions to Ask During Class to Feel Less Nervous
Plan 1-2 questions to ask during class so that you don’t have to think of something on the spot or speak for too long. This should help you feel more confident.
- Keep a notebook and pen on hand at all times so that you can also write down ideas that come to you as other people are talking and organize your thoughts. You could even read from your notes if you’re worried that you’ll lose your train of thought when speaking.
- Talk to your classmate sitting next you and say something about what they have said (even if it was not directed at you), or pose a question directly to them. Remember that the whole idea of class participation is to generate discussion, and to allow you and other students to learn from each other.
- Ask a question of the instructor, which requires more than a yes-or-no answer (even if it is followed with “and why?”). If you ask important questions, it shows that you are engaged with the material even if you don’t have a lot to say.
Try to Speak Up as Early as Possible to Reduce Your Anxiety
This may seem counterintuitive, but the earlier you participate in class, the less anxious you will be. The anticipation of speaking up is often worse than actually doing it! So speak up as early as possible to get the anxiety out of your system. It’s okay if you don’t think what you have to say is perfect.
Know the Material Inside and Out to Feel More Confident
When you go to class, it’s important that you know the material inside and out. How can you do this?
- Go over your notes before going into a lecture so that you have an idea of what will be covered.
- Ask the teacher or professor if they can provide discussions questions ahead of time.
- When you have time after a lecture, review your notes and write down questions or items that were confusing to you.
Talk to Your Teacher or Professor About Ways to Participate
If your teacher or professor seems approachable or helpful, consider telling them that you feel anxious about participation.
- Ask for help and guidance on how you can participate.
- Reach out to them if you need a few moments alone, or more time to think about what your classmates are saying in order to formulate an answer.
- Ask them specifically how much participation they expect from you (in order to achieve 100% for that part of your grade). Then keep track during each class of how many times you talk and give yourself “points.”
Go to the Counseling Center If You Are in College or University
If you are in college or university, there is a good chance that there is a counseling center on campus to help students struggling with mental health concerns that impact their studies.
Often these services are free of charge for students to access.
Although you might feel as though it is a waste of your time, or that you are “not really that bad” (that’s your anxiety talking, just FYI), go today and make an appointment.
I guarantee you that it can help (speaking from experience). There are two specific ways that the counseling center could help you:
- First, you can access specific help that they offer for social anxiety such as individual therapy, group programs, and study tools
- Second, you may be able to access accommodations if you have a qualifying disability (a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act and qualifies). While you won’t be able to get out of aspects of the course critical to the program, there may be options for you. As noted by the University of Texas Services for Students with Disabilities, “Don’t feel like you are getting an advantage over other students because of your disability. This is to create an equal playing field.”
Get to Know People In Your Class So It Feels Less Scary
This only applies if you don’t already have friends in your class, but it can be helpful to have a few familiar faces or people that you talk to outside of class. There are a few different ways that having friends in your class can help:
- You can practice answering questions that you might be asked in class together
- It will feel less daunting to speak up in class if there is at least one person who you see as a friend
- You can team up to talk in class. For example, instead of saying “I thought that the book’s main character was….” you could say something like, “Jessica and I were talking about this before class. I think that the main character was X but she thinks that the character was Y. I’ll let her explain more about what she was thinking.”
I hope this article has helped you understand some of the ways to manage your social anxiety so that you can participate in class.
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If any of these tips make sense for you, try them out and keep me updated on how they go! Do you have any other suggestions?
Let me know in the comments below or reach out privately if it feels more comfortable.
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