Do you want to have a conversation with your socially anxious friend respectfully? Here is a guide to address the whys, hows, and the whats of conversing with someone with Social Anxiety Disorder.

Understand Social Anxiety

Unarguably, the chief prerequisite of learning how to talk to someone with a social anxiety disorder is understanding what they go through. Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia or SAD) refers to an anxiety disorder characterized by incapacitating fear and embarrassment while dealing with others. Social anxiety is not just an extreme version of shyness; it associates with the continual presence of anxiety that is out of proportion to the actual situation. The fear of being judged and humiliated drives avoidance of specific social circumstances that causes functional impairment in most spheres of life, including an inability to talk to people, meet new people, perform in front of strangers, etc.

Initiate conversation

individuals with social anxiety are more likely to avoid uncomfortable circumstances. A range of social scenarios can trigger discomfort- – from meeting someone new to conversing with a friend in public. Inexperience, coupled with the fear of judgment, may prevent someone with social anxiety from diving headfirst into social situations. So, be the first to take the initiative and be respectful. A simple ‘hey’ can go a long way in forging a friendship and helping someone ease into a new experience.

Be patient

Ask questions but be sure to give them sufficient time to formulate a response that they deem appropriate. The fear of being humiliated characterizes Social Anxiety Disorder; this fear can lead to prolonged spells of silence in the course of a conversation. That said, it is even more pertinent to note that the conversation will not get awkward unless you choose to make it so.

Avoid criticism

In some cases, social anxiety can force an individual to strive for an unachievable level of perfection in conversations. This can lead to overly self-critical thoughts. Creating a safe space for your socially anxious friend entails choosing to ignore slip-ups and embarrassing moments in the conversation, avoiding poking fun at them, and learning to pick up on their cues. Flushing, trembling voices, and going blank are all physical symptoms associated with SAD. Try to learn to recognize these cues and attempt to alter your behaviour to make them more comfortable.

Be a listener and show them that you’re listening

To someone with SAD, talking to you may have been a courageous attempt to overcome their insecurities. Listen. Pay attention to every word they emphasize, every joke they crack, and every story they decide to narrate. Ask for details to show them that you care. Don’t let them think they’ve gone out of their comfort zone in vain. Reassure them and validate their feelings.

The Golden Rule of talking to someone with social anxiety

Remember, the golden rule of striking up a conversation with someone who has SAD is to let them be themselves. Give them the freedom and provide them with the space to express themselves but refrain from forcing them to join a conversation. Don’t try to ‘fix’ a mental illness by pressuring them to do something they don’t want to do. People with SAD are on different journeys at differing paces. Let’s help them lift some of the roadblocks on their path to recovery and not ask them to jump over high walls.

By clicking on this article, you, my friend, have shown immense empathy and sensitivity. I would like to thank you for your compassion!

Written by : Nerika Mishra

Categories: Blogs


Shreya · 23 June 2021 at 1:24 pm

This was really helpful!

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