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Holding the floor without melting down

October 17, 2012

You’re out with a large group, perhaps among friends, with a scattering of acquaintances and strangers for good measure.  Then suddenly you’re asked to tell a story or relate an anecdote.  All eyes are on you, and your social anxiety kicks into overdrive.

Oh no, you might think, I have to perform!  What will people think of me?  I’m drying up like a river in the desert.  Psychologist Robert Sharpe provides the following advice for when you are in these situations:

  • Use pauses – don’t be afraid to start by saying “let me think for a few seconds”; in this way you’re making it clear to your listeners that you’re being asked to do something quite difficult and they must bear with you
  • Don’t worry about pedantic accuracy – if relaying a story, don’t sweat over the details and backtrack; keep the flow steady even though there may be occasional minor inaccuracies
  • Gracefully exit – Take your cues from others, see whether anyone else is waiting to make a contribution and decide on a certain point to stop your storytelling; winding up with an invitation, eg. “Didn’t you have a similar experience recently, Anne?”

You can interact as part of a group.  Rely on your friends to support you in new social situations and let them encourage you to join in.  Take small steps to join the party and conquer your fears.

Source: Self-Help For Your Anxiety: The Proven ‘Anxiety Antidote’ Method by Robert Sharpe

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