How Social Skills Training Can Help Social Anxiety
Have you ever been curious about social skills training?
While not everyone with social anxiety needs help with their social skills, it’s true that many people don’t get the same opportunities to learn how to “speak human” because of having social anxiety.
When you don’t spend as much time talking to people, you don’t have the same role models to follow or chances to practice.
For this reason, mental health professionals have developed what is known as social skills training programs.
These programs are designed to help build up your social skills.
While often these are aimed at people with other mental health issues as well, some have been designed specifically for people with social anxiety.
And, there is research proving that they are effective and do help.
If you are curious about what you might learn in social skills training,
I encourage you to sign up as a subscriber on this post (you’ll see spots to sign up at the top and bottom, as well as a specific conversations printable—though all these spots will take you to the same place, my resource library!)
How often do you start conversations with strangers, people who are acquaintances, or people you would like to get to know better?
If you want to make a new friend, making conversation will be the first step to get there.
While it’s possible to make friends without having a lot of conversation (think of being part of a regular group situation such as a yoga class), it’s unlikely that the friendship will progress much if you don’t do much talking to each other.
Building your conversation skills is one type of social skills training that can help.
Conversations contain a lot of moving parts.
How do I introduce myself?
What do I talk about next?
How do I change the topic?
These can be broken down into tinier steps that you work on one at a time, until you become more comfortable with the process. Kind of like riding a bike.
Do you have trouble standing up for yourself?
Assertiveness isn’t just the art of saying no; on the contrary, it’s all about telling people what they can do to make you feel satisfied.
It can also mean giving compliments or graciously receiving compliments.
Many people with social anxiety try to fade into the background or not make their needs known.
Maybe it feels too confrontational to ask for what you need or to tell someone no.
Social skills training helps you to build up your assertiveness first by learning what it means to be assertive and then by practicing the skill.
Ah, the telephone. Isn’t it a dinosaur or relic from the past? Possibly.
I know that when I was growing up, the telephone was our main method of communication (Full disclosure: I was born before cell phones were invented).
These days, most people are more likely to use email, text message, FB message, or some other method of communication.
But, telephone skills truly aren’t going out of style; they are just morphing.
There are still simple skills that you can build such as etiquette for taking messages, leaving messages, answering the phone, etc.
Perhaps it’s a lost art, but especially if you will be working in a job that requires use of the telephone, it’s a necessary skill.
This kind of goes hand in hand with making conversation; how do you feel about asking questions during a conversation?
Asking someone questions shows that you are interested in learning more about them.
It’s also a way to move from small talk to more interesting conversation.
There’s also a lot more to asking questions than it seems.
Do you have that one relative who makes you feel like you are under an interrogation lamp?
Asking a series of yes/no questions will have that effect on other people. Don’t do that.
Instead, social skills training will teach you how to ask open-ended questions that get other people talking.
There will be times when you just need to make conversation. That might be in a work setting or at a family gathering.
Then there will be times when you are making conversation because you want to make friends (or find a romantic partner, but that’s a topic for another time).
The truth is that all of the skills you would learn through social skills training build upon each other to help you make friends.
I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to have people who have sought me out and befriended me, and they all mostly followed the same series of steps to do it.
If you’re curious how people make friends and haven’t figured it out yet, social skills training will help you do that.
Ah, the lost art of listening.
How often do you find yourself thinking of the next thing to say instead of listening to what the other person is saying before you formulate your reply?
The truth is that being a good listener is not our natural default state; we are all more naturally inclined to be thinking about ourselves when talking to someone else.
If you truly want to be a good listener, take a page from the book of a therapist.
Therapists are skilled at listening intently, reflecting back what is said to them, and asking probing questions to get at the heart of the matter.
Actually, journalists are good at this too, I suppose. Just the goal of the encounter is different.
So, if you want to be a good listener, imagine yourself as a therapist or journalist while you are listening to someone talk.
The final piece of the puzzle when it comes to social skills training is learning about body language.
Did you know that most people with social anxiety inadvertently push people away with their body language?
Any time you cross your arms, point your body away from someone or stand too far apart, you are sending the message that you don’t want to be there.
And while social anxiety itself can naturally interfere with your body language (for example, feeling anxious will make it harder to make eye contact), simply learning about your body language (and the body language of others) will go a long way toward making small changes and sending a better message.
How about you? Are there particular social skills that you would like to work on or social interactions that you find the hardest?
Feel free to share in the comments.