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Socially Anxious? Conversation Skills Can Change Your Life

Mar 26, 2008
Most of us take conversation for granted. After all, how hard is it to talk to someone? Conversation skills are part of the basic foundation for social interaction and communication. It's hard to imagine life without being able to communicate effectively with others.

If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, conversation skills do not come naturally. Most sufferers struggle just to maintain a functional level of verbal communication. The very idea of striking up a conversation can ignite feelings of anxiety and fear. Ultimately, this fear leads to social isolation as the risk-versus-reward is simply too great.

Everyone experiences fear in social settings. Even the most outgoing people can experience anxiety, depending on the situation. For example: Giving a speech. It's been said that many people fear public speaking even more than death (as incredible as that sounds). Now, imagine feeling that way while attending a party, family reunion, or wedding. Imagine feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and panic while simply talking to a small group of people - or even one person.

Welcome to the world of the socially phobic. In its simplest terms, social anxiety is extreme shyness marked by an unnatural fear of any social setting. Usually, conversation (or the possibility of conversation) is enough to trigger the worst anxiety and fear you could imagine. For this reason, many sufferers lack a competent level of conversational skills.

Now, having said that, it's important to note that you cannot group everyone together. At one end of the scale, there are those acute sufferers that cannot function in any social setting and avoid social interaction at any cost. At the other end, are the functional types who are able to carry on in a normal fashion, while hiding their shyness. They are able to engage others in conversation with relative ease and function quite well in low-level social settings. In fact, anyone witnessing their performance would not think they were suffering from this condition at all.

Most people; however, are somewhere between those two extremes.

It's been estimated that between 3-7% of people suffer from social anxiety disorder. Many of whom will struggle through life paying the price socially, academically, and financially. They will never seek treatment or be officially diagnosed.

Conversation makes things happen. It is the glue that holds society together. Unfortunately, if your conversational skills are poor or non-existent, you will (through no fault of your own) pay the price through isolation and missed opportunities.

However, don't despair. All is not lost. Regardless of how poor your conversation skills are at the moment; you can make an improvement (yes, even while living with this condition). The not-so-great news is that you will, most likely, have to start from square one.

Does social anxiety have a stranglehold on your life? Do you long for a group of close friends and the ability to converse with confidence in any social setting? Are you tired of feeling awkward and foolish while talking to others?

As a social anxiety sufferer, your lack of conversation skills may be only a small part of a bigger picture. You need to address the underlying problems first.

If you are determined to make a difference, the best way to start is by consulting your family doctor and getting a referral to a qualified psychologist - preferably, one who specializes in the treatment of social anxiety disorder and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Ideally, they should also offer group therapy sessions with other patients suffering from SA. This setting is immensely valuable, in that you will be able to practice speaking to a "safe" group.

You can improve your conversation skills, regardless of how "too far gone" you feel you are right now. Is it worth the effort? Only you can answer that. However, if you do decide to get help with this, be prepared to work hard and appreciate every small achievement you make.

The rewards could well be worth your time as you gain confidence, make new friends, land that promotion, and gain the respect and admiration of others. It could literally transform your life.

You just need to take that first step.
About the Author
Drew is the author and webmaster of www.shyandquiet.com. A website chronicling the daily life of a Social Anxiety sufferer and offering practical advice for others. Do you suffer from Social Anxiety? Check out these practical conversation tips!
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