Do I need to learn and practice conversation skills?
No – its entirely up to you. Many people with social anxiety have great conversational skills. In general there is no need to change “us”, or how we speak. However, anxiety does funny things to our brain, and it may sometimes mask our natural ability to communicate.
Sometimes it is just useful to have a gentle reminder of good conversational practice – so we have skills to use when anxiety is high.
Why might people with social anxiety may struggle with communicating
• Persistent negative thoughts, fear of negative judgement and worrying about what to say can make it harder for conversations to flourish.
• It can be hard to think/speak fluently and freely when your mind is racing.
• It can feel hard to make conversation if you think you aren’t good at it.
The ways in which people struggle conversationally
Communication is more than just the words we speak. It’s about the ways we say them, our tone, our intonation, our posture, facial expressions and body language.
When you have social anxiety you may :
– struggle to start or continue a conversation
– have closed body language
– be quiet and miss opportunities to speak through worry
– be unassertive, passive or monotonic
– stick to “safe” subjects and avoid telling others about yourself
– struggle with fluency (being unable to get the words out!)
– rehearse things in your head before saying them
– feel rushed and speak too fast
– feel you have nothing to talk about
– struggle to laugh or join in
Improving conversational skills
As we emphasised before socially anxious people are generally as skilled as anyone else at making conversation but may find it helpful to have tips to fall back on when feeling anxious.
For some it can help to practice conversation and small talk with peers in support groups. Just being with others with the same problems can help and in some support groups people deliberately practice things like starting a conversation, small talk, changing subject or ending a conversation if you need to move on.
Further reading below:
www.aboutsocialanxiety.com – How to manage conversation anxiety
www.aboutsocialanxiety.com – Conversation skills
www.heretohelp – Improving your social skills
www.verywellmind.com – How to socialize when you have social anxiety disorder
www.verywellmind.com – 10 Best and Worst Small Talk Topics
www.nationalsocialanxietycenter.com – Conversation anxiety
www.nationalsocialanxietycenter.com – Small talk nuts and bolts
www.succeedsocially.com – How To Make Conversation
www.scienceofpeople.com – 30 conversation starters