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How to overcome social anxiety: Tips to deal with social phobia at parties

Updated on August 29, 2012
Is the thought of attending a party making your nervous and edgy? Read on for tips that will help you overcome social anxiety at parties and other social gatherings.
Is the thought of attending a party making your nervous and edgy? Read on for tips that will help you overcome social anxiety at parties and other social gatherings. | Source

Should I go to the party even if I don't want to? What will I wear? Who will I meet? Will someone make fun of me? I'm afraid that I'll embarrass myself, is it better if I just don't go? These are some questions that could be sucking someone dealing with social anxiety or social phobia into a whirlpool of confusion and nervousness. This post is practical approach on how to overcome social anxiety and social phobia when it comes to attending parties, events, functions and ceremonies.

1) Plan and prepare: Think about who you are going to bump into before you attend

There are fewer better situations to quote the famous line, 'Fortune favors the prepared mind'. One of the best ways to avoid unwanted situations is to plan for them in advance. Before attending a party, it is a good idea to think about the people you could bump into and what kind of conversations you may face.

There is a fine line between planning and stressing, so don't go overboard with the details. Just think about how you will react if you are put in an awkward social moment, for example, bumping into an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend.

2) Wear nice clothes for a confidence boost

Overcoming social anxiety and social phobia is all about giving yourself a confidence boost and the easiest way to do it is to wear nice clothes.

Tips for men: If the party is a formal event, you may want to put on a suit, or a blazer teamed with a nice shirt and good looking denims. If the party is going to be casual, for example a house party, a nice shirt/t-shit with denims should do the trick. Don't go overboard with very bright colors unless you consider yourself a style guru and you know what you are doing.

Tips for women: Beautiful evening dress, a chic top and knee length skirt combination, a stylish button full sleeve blouse with dark jeans and pumps, or a shirt with sleek pant and heels, the options are really endless when it comes to attending formal parties, for example an annual workplace function. For both formal and informal gatherings - go stylish, go daring if you like, but make sure you are happy and comfortable with the clothes you are wearing.

3) Enter with an entourage: Take along a trusty friend or partner

If you decide to go to a party that you weren't sure about attending earlier, it may be a good idea to take along your best friend or a partner. Good friends look after each other and your trusted tag-along could very well be crucial in making you feel relaxed all the time.

You can even tell your friend in advance about the iffy situations you may face and how you want him/her to support you during an awkward moment. It can be something as simple as a supportive laugh.

4) Ice breaking tip: Take an appropriate gift or token for the host

An easy way to break the ice and reduce social anxiety at the beginning of a party is to get a nice little gift or token for the host. It can be a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers or any other token of appreciation that you find appropriate.

Besides being the right thing to do, a token is a great conversation starter. It is also a good way to break the ice and loosen up an otherwise nervous atmosphere.

5) Don't feel obliged to meet anyone

Would she feel bad if I didn't go up to her and say hello? Will he get angry if I don't say hi to him? Don't let questions like these bother you and remember that you are not obliged to meet anyone in the party except the hosts, and the people you care about and really want to meet.

If you think that meeting a particular person is outside your comfort zone, don't do it. And if that person walks up to you and says hello, you can hold a poker face and say 'Hey I didn't know you were here. How are you?'

6) Ward off smart comments with a sly smile

No matter how friendly you are or how popular you are, there may be someone at a party who chooses to pass a smart comment or take a dig. While you may chose to give a befitting reply to such a person, a clever way to ward off someone is to give a sly smile, indicating mockery.

In doing so, you will mock the person without uttering a word. Feel free to take support of your friends and look at them as you give out that vicious smile, so that they do the same.

7) Avoid knee jerk reactions during conversations

Knee jerk reactions can take an awkward social situation from bad to worse. While engaging in a conversation with anyone at a party, remember that the cool, calm and collected will always have the upper hand, even if he/she is wrong.

8) Take a deep breath every time you feel nervous

It is only human to feel nervous in situations that are outside your comfort zone. So if you feel nervous during a party because of social factors, don't put yourself down for feeling so. Rather, learn how to deal with it.

Calm down and stop feeling nervous by simply take a deep breath. Shut your eyes for a second and inhale deeply as you recollect your thoughts and give yourself a big dose of O2.

9) Don't depend on alcohol as a social lubricant

Depending on alcohol as a social lubricant is a very easy trap to fall into and you should always remember that social phobia and a few drinks too much can make a lethal combination. There is the obvious risk of losing control over your own behavior.

It can take just a few drinks to lead up to an embarrassing situation which can end up hurting prospects of recovery from social anxiety. Don't be shy of grabbing a drink at a party, but make sure that you don't depend on it as a social lubricant.

10) Expose yourself to basic food and cutlery etiquette

Ignorance about the different types of cutlery can cause unwanted nervousness and fidgety fingers. To avoid such fiascos at your next party, it is a great idea to learn some of basics of food etiquette which includes the use of different types of cutlery and table etiquette.

Regardless of whether you plan to attend a formal dinner party or not, it is always handy to arm yourself with knowhow. You will feel confident, whether it is munching on starters that go around the floor or dining on an elaborate dinner spread.

11) Remember that everyone is not watching and judging you

Social anxiety and the fear of attending parties often stems from the false notion of 'Everyone will judge me' If you are stuck in the whirlpool of emotions that go along with this thought, remind yourself that everyone will be busy having fun and doing their own thing at a party.

The last thing invitees will be worried about is to judge you on your clothes and behavior from the very minute you walk in. It is good to be conscious about your personal image, but it can be disastrous if you become obsessed with thinking about what everyone will think or how everyone will judge you on every move.

12) Don't try to stand out from the crowd if you are not prepared for a lot of attention

It may be tempting to wear a whacky fashion accessory, an attention grabbing dress or doing something different to stand out from the crowd. But if you are dealing with social phobia, being the center of everyone's attention may not be the best step forward.

Play it cool and avoid doing anything that will make you stand out from the crowd.

13) Carry a confident body language at all time but don't fake confidence

A straight back, broad shoulders, good posture and calm attitude are some of the crucial elements of a confident body language, which is a great asset to have in any social situation. So practice good body language even when you are not in a party to master the art of giving out a radiant, confident look.

Like many other things in life, portraying confidence too, can appear awkward if overdone. If you go too far, your artificial attempts to boost confidence levels may look weird and work against you.

14) Leave the party when you feel like it at an appropriate moment

If you feel like leaving a party, don't let thoughts like 'Will it be ok if I leave right now?' bother you. Feel free to exit when you think you want to call it a night. Unless you are in a party where it is obligatory to meet the host and thank them for their hospitality, it is ok to make a quiet exit.

15) Formal parties: Attend, greet and leave

Gatherings hosted by employers, award functions and ceremonies are the typical type of parties which are based on a formal tone. These gatherings are generally very social and often non-personal. If social anxiety is pulling you back from attending such parties, think again because all you need to do is turn up, greet the host, have a chat or two and leave when you feel like.

Formal events are all about making your presence felt. So you don't really need to be worried about how long you have to hang around and other social protocols at parties hosted by close friends or those that are on a much personal level.

Formal events are also usually held on a scale larger than personal parties so it really won't matter if you attend, meet the host, have a drink or two followed by a quick bite, and then leave.


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