Newswise — Does the thought of having to make polite conversation with relatives you only see once a year, or with your coworkers at the annual holiday bash, leave you tongue tied? Many of us have experienced social anxiety, or at least felt a little uneasy when faced with a room full of people you don’t know well. However, Dr. Martin Antony, a Ryerson University psychology professor and leading expert on social anxiety and shyness, can help put those fears to rest with helpful tips to bring out that social butterfly out in all of us:
Making Conversation1. This sounds simple and is easy to do. Start by reaching out to someone at the party. Smile. Make eye contact. Be approachable and open to conversation.
2. Join an ongoing conversation at the social gathering. People often walk about, moving in and out of different conversations. See if you can join a group that is discussing a topic that interests you, or that you can tell a humorous anecdote about.
3. Ask questions. Here’s a chance for you to catch up with coworkers, friends or family members on what they have been involved with this past year and share some experiences of your own.
4. Be an active listener. Reflect back that you understand what the other person is saying and talk about an experience you’ve had or tell a story to keep the conversation rolling.
Quelling those “butterflies”1. Don’t assume that your anxious thoughts and predictions are necessarily true. Examine the evidence for your beliefs and do your best to think realistically. Ask yourself questions to challenge your anxious thoughts such as: “What is the likelihood that others will notice my anxiety?”
2. Avoiding fearful situations will only worsen your anxiety. If you’re shy, talking to others will be hard at first, but will become easier over time if you keep trying to be social.
3. Trying to fight your anxiety at a party may make it worse. Just accept those uncomfortable feelings and try some of the other tips to banish those butterflies so you’ll have a good time.
Office parties: advancement moves1. Research the dress code before you go. Ask the organizer or someone who attended last year’s party if you’re not sure. When in doubt, it’s best to stick to business attire.
2. Shake hands with your boss and other senior managers and wish them a happy holiday season. Make sure your manager sees you at the holiday party, and also remembers speaking to you. When it comes time for promotions, your boss is likely to pick a pleasant employee who seems happy to be working at the organization.
3. Office parties are also great opportunities to cultivate new relationships and network, but you’ll need more than one conversation. Use the party as a starting point, and then follow up with colleagues later to arrange future get-togethers.
4. Before you leave, remember to say goodnight and thank you to the most senior staff member in attendance, the party organizer and your boss before leaving.
EXPERT AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS:
Dr. Martin AntonyProfessor and Chair, Department of PsychologyRyerson University
www.martinantony.comAuthor of The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook (2008, New Harbinger Publications)Not available after Dec. 21, 2011