Socially Awkward
October 30, 2009 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of some good reads on conversation and social skills? I'm not suggesting that you can learn these subjects entirely by a book, but what I'm looking for is some methods to make communication a little bit easier when meeting someone or groups of people.

It's rather embarassing, but I'm getting more and more uncomfortable with meeting new people as time goes by. The strange part is that when I'm around friends or family that I know, I come off as articulate, thoughtful, and at times funny.

This all disappears when I'm meeting new people. I'll either wait for someone else to say something or I'll just go completely blank.

I've seriously considered trying hypnosis for this problem as I can't stand how uncomfortable I am when I'm in these types of encounters. I don't even understand why this has become such a problem for me, but it is getting worse.

I'll ususally plan some questions for when I'm in these situations, such as checking out the news or making sure to ask people open-ended questions, but boy do I have a hard time when it comes time to do it. I'll completely forget what I had planned out and then I'll get stressed when people ask me questions.

After the encounter is over, I'll be able to think about a ton of different things I could've asked or responses I could've made.

Unfortunately, when I'm in these situations my brain seems to shut off and all that I keep thinking is remember to smile, don't talk about yourself, pay attention to the people's body language, don't be so serious.

If anyone has some suggestions on books or methods that they've used to get over this, please let me know.
posted by Garden to Human Relations (8 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

books by Leil Lowndes: (1) How to Talk to Anyone, (2) Goodbye to Shy

Previously. Previously. Try this AskMe search.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:07 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

How to Win Friends and Influence People is an oldie but a goodie. Highly recommended!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:07 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding HTWFAIP- Winsome beat me to it.
posted by saradarlin at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2009

Best answer: I have quite a bit of social anxiety and I found the Social Anxiety & Phobia Workbook to be very, very helpful in terms of providing exercises I could do to make myself more comfortable with social situations. I used to be very much like you seem to be -- very comfortable talking with people I knew, but I would clam up and feel all awkward around new people, and rarely have anything to say (until well after the fact).

A lot of the exercises in this book really helped me to chill out about social interactions. Now, whenever I feel myself getting nervous in a social setting, I can remind myself of some of these exercises, and a few of the new mindsets I've learned to "put on", and can function much better.

What I try to remind myself:
- It's pretty irrational to think that a person isn't going to like me based on a conversation.
- If they don't, it really doesn't matter anyway. Seriously, worst case scenario is they don't like me or think I'm weird. The world will not end if this person does not like me. It is pretty irrational to think that everyone is going to like me, after all, I don't like everyone else!
- If I have nothing to say, ask them questions about themselves or what they are talking about. People looooove to go on about themselves for the most part, and it makes you seem like a really good listener!
posted by dumbledore69 at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, another thing -- if your mind is blanking or you feel flustered, instead of getting embarrassed, try to laugh about it. Admit it and laugh if you draw a blank at a simple question like "What do you do?". I blank at this all the time because most people don't really "get" what my job is, and I wind up babbling.

I guess my point is ... if you can learn to relax and put it in perspective (it's not a big deal what people think of you!) and laugh at yourself and your conversational quirks, you'll probably enjoy social situations more.
posted by dumbledore69 at 12:17 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is on the list posted above by maishuno, but I liked Conversationally Speaking enough to buy it after having read it as a library book.

If you are having trouble meeting new people at gatherings, try The Art of Mingling.
posted by catquas at 8:09 AM on October 31, 2009

The Luck Factornot only has tips on talking to strangers but a good argument as to why it will improve your life.
posted by mearls at 11:58 AM on October 31, 2009

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