By Vicky Witts | Advice Editor
With the UK government announcement that many of the English and Welsh lockdown restrictions will soon potentially be beginning to be lifted, many of us have begun to imagine what life will be like when we can do more of the things that we have not been able to. For a large number of people, this includes what we will get to do when we can finally go out clubbing or meet up with our friends again and become social once again.
However, for some people, the prospect of large social gatherings and an obligation to be more outgoing creates more of a sense of dread than joy. Whether due to pre-existing social anxieties, or the fact that they have become used to being more introverted and isolated, the transition back into a social society may be more challenging and stressful that all of the positive posts about the government’s plans percieve it to be. If you find yourself relating to such anxieties, it may be helpful to learn how to become more outgoing and confident, so that future social interactions feel less terrifying.
Start with something small
The idea of throwing yourself into large social situations with people that you do not know can sound frightening, and that is because, for most people, it is. Becoming more outgoing and confident in social situations does not mean that you should be able to talk to anyone and everyone like you have known them for year. Although it may be true of some people, it is important to know that most of us would feel nervous in such a large-scale social situation, and so, you should focus on getting more confident in smaller scale situations before working up to larger things such as public speaking.
Perhaps a good way to begin gaining confidence in these situations is by establishing what you consider to be your current boundaries or comfort level and try to implement circumstances into your day to push these slightly and help you to extend your comfort zone. For example, if you feel that you are happy within your own close friend group but feel anxiety at meeting new people, you could ask your friend to introduce you to some of their friends that you have never met before, when coronavirus restrictions are reduced. By doing this, you can learn to get more comfortable at introductions, whilst also being in a situation that is more comfortable than meeting a complete stranger, as you can ask your friend to tell you a bit about them before you meet and work out what things you may have in common to talk about.
Utilize your seminars
Whilst many of us hate the prospect of being in an online seminar and having to join a dreaded breakout room, there may actually be some benefits to using them, if you are able to overcome any initial awkwardness. For example, you are able to practice talking to people that you may not know very well, whilst also having a specific topic to discuss so you do not have to think as much about finding things to talk about. Additionally, if you find it hard to maintain eye-contact when talking to people, or find that it makes you feel uneasy, these forms of online interaction may be initially easier for you, as there is less expectation to maintain many of the physical aspects of conversation such as eye-contact than in an in-person meeting.
Overthinking things can often feel like a problem, rather than a positive, in most situations. However, in terms of becoming more confident and outgoing, it may actually be helpful to you in some degree, if you find that you are constantly worried about saying the ‘wrong’ thing. This is because, although it is virtually impossible to plan the outcome of every interaction that you have, you could choose to think about and plan what you roughly want to say, if it is possible for the situation. Doing this may make you feel more confident in yourself and the situation, and consequently make you appear a more outgoing person to whoever you are talking to.
This may be particularly useful to do in more formal situations such as interviews, meetings, or other situations where you may be concerned that what you say may majorly impact the situation. However, it is also important to learn that in most other circumstances, it doesn’t matter if you say something embarrassing, or become the cause of an awkward silence with someone that you have just met, as ultimately you will likely be far more worried about these mistakes than anyone that you are talking to.