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How To Be More Social When You’re Feeling Shy or Awkward

Two women at lunch laughing with each other

Everyone experiences occasional shyness or awkwardness, especially in new or strange social situations. But for many of us, it’s tough to maintain a social life and spend time with others when we feel shy or awkward. This may even get to the point where we can’t summon the courage or interest to attend social occasions for fear of making a misstep in a social situation.

If the thought of social activities like attending a party or spending time with friends gets your heart racing, don’t worry. You aren’t alone, and there are tricks and strategies you can use to learn how to be more social. Let’s take a look at some smart strategies now.

Focus on Your Breathing

Breathing is the key to social confidence and relaxation. Right from the get-go, one of the easiest ways to overcome insecurities and be more confident in social settings is to practice deep breathing, especially if you feel the telltale tremors or gut aches of anxiety starting to drag you down.

Many symptoms of shyness, nervousness, and anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms like stomachaches, chills, sweating, twitching, and more. Taking a few deep, calming breaths can do wonders for reducing these symptoms and helping you look and feel confident at the same time.

You don’t have to take deep, dramatic breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth from time to time, and you may find yourself feeling a lot less anxious than you felt before. Plus, you may feel a lot less left out of social interactions.

Pay Attention

It’s also important to practice mindfulness and pay attention whenever possible. Sometimes, social anxiety comes from an inability to fully understand what your social circle means, what people want, and what different facial expressions or vocal tones mean. This can be doubly true if you find it difficult to meet people due to low self-esteem.

But in truth, the key to social confidence is paying attention. Channel your inner extrovert by making eye contact with the people you speak to and listening to what they say at social events.

If you pay attention to those around you, such as who is nearby, what they are talking about, and what their body language says, you can be better equipped to respond cleverly and humorously to questions or statements.

Plus, practicing mindfulness and paying better attention to your social environment can help to dispel the inner fears and subconscious worries that might drive your nervousness. This can help you embody confidence whenever you step out of your comfort zone to make new friends.

Mind Your Body Language

Speaking of body language, you should mind your own in addition to paying attention to the body language of others. This is an important social skill for an introvert — even extroverts can learn a thing or two about body language.

Your body language says a lot about your mood, energy, and confidence. If you want to be more social and more confident, your body language needs to reflect that desire. 

Here are some ways to maintain positive, confident body language:

  • Maintain eye contact with others, and remember to blink.
  • Stand up straight and own your space.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets and use them to emphasize your statements or ideas.
  • Turn your body toward someone you want to speak to, whether you are sitting or standing.

These basic steps can help you look and feel like a much more attentive listener, which people always love. You might also feel more social since your body will be totally tuned into what other people are saying, enabling you to make the right judgments and respond appropriately to statements.

Practice Small Talk With Friends

Practice makes perfect, which is why you should practice your small talk regularly with your friends and family members. Chat about the weather, hobbies, and other topics that make good conversation openers.

By practicing small talk, you’ll always have a conversational line ready to go whenever you strike up a new conversation, even with a stranger. Plus, practicing small talk can help you avoid the uncomfortable lulls or silences that can accompany a lot of chitchats.

Practice Active Listening

Similarly, you should try to practice active listening with both people you know and with strangers you meet every day.

Active listening, in a nutshell, is the art of fully listening to what someone has to say without waiting for your turn to speak or trying to interject constantly. If you listen actively, you’ll better absorb what they have to say and be able to respond better to the conversation.

Furthermore, when you practice active listening, you can learn more about what the person you’re speaking to wants, what they like, and how to appear more confident and social to them in any situation. In short, practicing active listening is great for building up your self-confidence and helping you be more social in any social environment.

Ask the Right Questions

Part of being social and confident is knowing the right questions to ask. Indeed, if you ask the right questions to a conversational partner, they will be delighted to keep talking to you, which can help build up your confidence and self-esteem.

Specifically, try asking open-ended questions to get the conversation going. Open-ended questions allow your conversational partner to elaborate on topics or ideas that they enjoy, which can tell you more about them as a person. On top of that, you can ask personal questions.

Generally, people love to talk about themselves (odds are you do as well, even if you are a little shy or nervous). When you invite people to talk about themselves, you give them a chance to show you their positive qualities while practicing conversation at the same time. It’s a win-win.

Talk to Yourself in the Mirror

Improving your self-esteem starts with what you tell yourself in the mirror. In truth, you should try to practice positive self-talk when you wake up and before you go to bed each night — especially if you aren’t the most social person.

No matter who you are, you have a lot of great qualities. Emphasize those! Tell yourself what your best qualities are, hype yourself up, and get yourself ready for an upcoming meetup or networking event with a lot of people. Even if introversion is more your forte, giving yourself positive feedback from positive self-talk could help you strike up new friendships.

Part of building up your confidence is simply telling yourself positive things. It might feel silly at first, but you’ll become better and more confident at this practice as time goes on.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

By the same token, you should not call yourself “shy,” “nervous,” or anything else that you might negatively associate with being in social situations. Our minds have a tendency to believe the things that we say about ourselves, so the best way to protect your ego and help yourself feel more social is to avoid these negative terms entirely.

Instead, call yourself “bold” or “confident,” even if you don’t believe it quite yet. Sooner than you think, your brain will start to internalize these terms, and you may feel more social than ever.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

Lastly, don’t discount the possibility that you might have social anxiety, which is a diagnosable mental health condition. If you think that your shyness or nervousness can’t be improved with a little positive self-talk and the tips above, speak to your healthcare provider about potential medication or therapeutic assistance.

In some cases, a therapist can help you work through any deep or internal issues that might be impacting your anxiety or social confidence. In others, a hormonal imbalance might be the root cause of your low self-esteem. In this case, the right medication may help you get back on your social feet.

Just remember that social anxiety disorder isn’t always the cause of nervousness or shyness. You might just be an introverted type of person — which is part of what makes you unique.

Learning How To Be More Social

All in all, feeling more social – even when you’re shy or anxious – is all about attitude and practice. As the old saying goes, “fake it ‘till you make it!”

As you practice these strategies, you may feel more socially confident and begin to enjoy the occasions, parties, and events you get invited to. Who knows? Maybe you’ll eventually invite people to social shindigs of your own. Check out 1AND1’s other lifestyle guides and tip resources to improve your social prospects even more.


NIMH » Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness |

The Power of Positive Thinking | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Business Communication: The Power of Body Language | GCF Global