By Loretta Della Mora

Frequently, I meet with students who struggle with every day interactions. They report becoming immobilized with anxiety, fear, self-consciousness and embarrassment. A fear of being judged or of looking foolish is inevitably accompanied by harsh, critical self-appraisal. This creates a vicious cycle of avoidance. None of us likes to feel threatened, right? Unfortunately, if avoidance of social interactions is our primary coping strategy, we deprive ourselves of many experiences that could increase our self-confidence and help us to recognize that the world is not as scary or judgmental as we feared.

Socially anxious people tend to be passive communicators neither offering their own opinions nor standing up for themselves. They may “beat around the bush,” avoid responding at all or offer comments very softly or apologetically. This sets the stage for others to take over.

Feeling that their needs are not being met, resentment, frustration and unhappiness builds. This can lead to an overreaction at some point (losing self -control by lashing out) damaging interactions which further reinforces avoidance. The pattern repeats and habits are formed.

If this sounds even a little like you, try the following tips. They may feel awkward at first but as with any other skill, with practice, they become more comfortable with smoother delivery.

• Act confidently…. act the way you want to feel.
• Change your thoughts from “I can’t” to “I can.” Feeling anxious isn’t the problem, avoiding social interaction is.
• Stand tall with an open posture. Tilt your chin up slightly so that you can make eye contact.
• Keep the muscles in your face relaxed to avoid a scowling presentation. Never underestimate the power of a smile!
• Talk.
• Have an idea of what you wish to say; don’t script it too much so that it comes across naturally.
• Speak loud enough to be heard in a clear voice.
• Practice sharing stories, jokes and small talk in all the areas of your life.
• Actively listen to what the other person is saying. Build on the conversation by asking questions and by sharing similar experiences.
• Practice assertive behaviors… then practice some more
• This is all about respect, for yourself and the other person.
• Clearly express your opinions, needs and feelings without apology using a firm but friendly voice.
• Be prepared to make some compromises but make sure your voice is heard. You owe it to yourself.
• Get involved.
• Congratulate yourself at each step of your progress!
• Change your critical self-talk to something kinder.
• Nobody gets everything right all the time; focus on what you did well.

Resources:
• Treating social anxiety disorder: https://www.verywell-
mind.com/treatments-for-social-anxiety-disorder-3024949
• 7 Ways to Overcome Shyness and Social Anxiety:
psychcentral.com/blog/7-ways-to-overcome-shyness-and-
social-anxiety
• Book an appointment with a counsellor. Typical wait-times are two weeks for regular appointments. Call 780.378.6133 or visit HP Centre room W111PB.

NAIT Counselling Loretta Della Mora Student counsellor

Supplied photo.

Hi! My name is Loretta Della Mora. I’m a Registered Psychologist at Student Counselling. I really enjoy working with the students of NAIT. I continue to be in awe by the specialized skill sets you are learning. Away from work, I lead a relatively quiet life which suits me well. I enjoy the company of friends and family, a good book, ethnic cuisine and I love animals… especially the little ones.