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Many people confuse social anxiety with being shy or timid. While someone can feel awkward about meeting others, they can still easily overcome their nerves. It’s like stage fright, wherein stepping into the spotlight could dissolve your fears instantly.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with social anxiety at work. When you have that anxiety, you become incredibly fearful and self-critical of your actions. Minor errors in grammar or clothing options suddenly feel like relationship-ending catastrophes. For example, a recruit comes to work without a tie. Typically, once the person realizes their mistake, they might apologize and promise to do better next time. However, someone with social anxiety might panic and overreact. They might think they’ve made a poor impression and offended their peers.
What’s worse about social anxiety at work is that it can lead to misunderstandings. If you actively avoid meeting coworkers or colleagues, they might mistake your behavior as unfriendly or overconfident. Because of this confusion, your peers could start disliking or avoiding you even when you finally decide to reach out.
By itself, social anxiety can cause a strain on your mental and emotional well-being. However, it can also affect your behavior or perception of work. Here are four ways that social anxiety at work can be problematic.
You might find it difficult to concentrate on your tasks when you’re in an office or workspace. Whether physical labor or writing projects, your focus is constantly diverted back to the social atmosphere. For example, you might be too nervous about your coworkers chatting around you to fill out a report. Worse, you might mistake their gossip or small talk as a conversation about you. Those with social anxiety tend to believe that people are watching their mistakes or speaking behind their backs. In many cases, it’s not true. However, the idea of others judging them is so scary that they can’t finish their tasks on time.
Those with social anxiety try to avoid interacting or speaking to others. This attitude can be dangerous when asked to clarify an issue. For example, if you actively prevent your superior, they might mistake your behavior as a sign of disrespect. This train of thought might make them dislike you and avoid you. A chain reaction of drama and personal strife follows, where team members and colleagues could band against you. In other words, you unknowingly risk causing unnecessary conflict amongst your peers, which affects any chance of cooperation or trust.
Any form of anxiety will cause you to question yourself and your abilities. Your fear or nervousness constantly harasses your mind. Without the right help or guidance, you could easily doubt your worth and feel unimportant at work. The most dangerous part of that mindset is that you deprive yourself of meaningful relationships. It’s hard enough when you question your abilities. However, with social anxiety, you also lose confidence in reaching out and forming support systems at work. Having no allies in your office can make your problems grow deeper.
Now that you understand the dangers of social anxiety, you’re probably wondering how to overcome it. Luckily, there are six practical and enlightening hacks you can use to your advantage. Here’s what you can do to manage your social anxiety and get back to work with a healthier mindset.
The first step to stopping social anxiety at work is to mentally relax. Your mind is drowning in multiple questions about how to deal with socializing. This can suffocate you and impede your ability to concentrate. To stop this issue, take a deep breath. It’s like a movie playing in the background; if you need to cut out the noise, you must stop the film for a moment.
One helpful method is breathing exercises. It’s a simple thing to do. However, these exercises can achieve much relaxation and clarity for your emotional and mental wellbeing. For example, WebMD recommends a tactic that uses long, deep breaths to reduce your anxiety. You can sit down or lie back in a bed to get comfortable. Once you start breathing, use your nose to inhale and let your belly fill up. Then, let all the air out through your mouth in a slow, drawn-out sigh. Take three more deep breaths and feel your body rise and fall with each movement.
Now that you’ve managed to relax your thoughts and slow down, it’s essential to let them out properly. Psychologists often recommend journaling your thoughts, allowing you to express their fears or ideas visually. By writing or typing it down, you can process your concerns about social anxiety at work.
A common issue with social anxiety at work is that you often perceive yourself as inadequate. You might worry about your presentation when you talk to other people. Perhaps you think you won’t have the right words or body language to make a good impression. Firstly, you must get rid of this mindset. Confidence is the key to overcoming your fears. You need to believe that you are capable of doing well
To foster this mindset, take the time to say five positive things about yourself in the mirror daily. Reshape any negative thoughts into uplifting words. For example, instead of saying “I didn’t do a good enough job.”, phrase it as “I tried my best and did everything that I could.” Healthline has a list of positive affirmations made from negative sentences or lines that you can use.
Once you feel more confident about yourself, it’s time to start learning how to reach out to others. You must moderate how you handle yourself in a social situation. Jumping into a party full of acquaintances or strangers can be daunting, even for friendly and outgoing individuals. Instead, practice your ability to make small talk. Simple sentences, like a greeting or a question about the person, can help start and carry a conversation.
To make it easier, spend some time with a person you trust. Whether a family member or a close personal friend, they can help you learn how to approach someone properly. Consider what lines fit each scenario and how you can say it. For example, you might not realize how quiet you sound or how awkward your body language is. You’ll learn to adapt to any social interaction and speak calmly with enough practice.
A rising issue in all social situations these days is when people shift to their phones. You might know friends or acquaintances who glance down or type on their mobiles while having a conversation. It shows that you don’t care to listen to the other person’s words.
Whenever you are in a social gathering or speaking to a friend at work, make sure to put your phone on silent or turn it off. Don’t check your phone unless necessary, such as during an emergency or an important call.
Now that you know multiple vital strategies to overcome social anxiety, you’re ready to start the work. However, before you go and meet with others, remember to set realistic expectations. Don’t pressure yourself if you aren’t prepared for a long conversation with a coworker. Remember that social anxiety at work can be a big challenge, so take it one step at a time. For example, you can simply focus on saying hello and giving one compliment to three people at the office.
With small, manageable goals, you can build rapport with others and develop your ability to open up from your shell. Don’t force yourself to be outgoing or high-spirited. It takes time to be sociable. As long as you strive for your goals and do it slowly, you’ll be able to make friends and develop relationships in the office.
Social anxiety at work can be dangerous for you and your colleagues. It happens when you become overly concerned or nervous about approaching others in the office. You might become fearful of what you say, how you speak, and why you do so. Social anxiety at work can make you avoidant of others and cause significant problems in forming friendships or allies.
To overcome this, you should remember to take it slow and express your feelings calmly. Take deep breaths and write down your fears to help process them carefully. Once you feel comfortable, build your social skills slowly. You can start by greeting others and giving them compliments. With enough time and effort, you’ll be able to speak confidently and build a rapport with your colleagues and bosses.
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