“New” can sometimes feel a bit scary: getting out of our comfort zone is often a challenge that can leave us feeling anxious. In this article, we'll talk about how to feel more confident facing new social interactions, no matter the circumstances behind the “newness.”
There are several reasons why you might find yourself in a new place, surrounded by new people. For example, if you move to another country, city, or even just one street over, you’ll feel the anxiety that comes with a new place and new people. It’s not only the fact that you have to re-acclimate to your surroundings and get to know your neighbors, but you potentially need to find a new dentist, doctor, etc., and those things can be pretty unnerving if you have social anxiety.
You'll face new interactions daily if you have to rebuild your social circle. Some of those will come with a shot of confidence, and some will leave you scrambling for what to say.
Even if you’re not moving away, but you’re vacationing somewhere else or starting a job at a new company, you’ll still find yourself in a new place, with new people, again having to face new social interactions. This can all become overwhelming fast if you’re already dealing with low confidence and unsure how to interact with people.
Once the layers start building up, you’ll have difficulty getting back to the basics and seeing the road ahead.
You need to ensure you’re staying on top of the narrative that’s happening within you so you can control the direction it takes. If you lose sight of it, you’ll have a more challenging time steering yourself back. The best thing you can do to avoid that is to pay attention to the feelings that come up during new social interactions.
It’s beyond normal to feel nervous or anxious in new situations, as it’s the body’s and mind’s way to prepare themselves for what’s to come. There’s a reason why the feeling of nervousness is the same as that of excitement; any entertainer can vouch for that as they run into them each time they anticipate an event. These feelings are intertwined because they’re both fueled by the neurotransmitters dopamine and adrenaline.
Ultimately, it’s not about the feeling but your reaction to it. What is leading the way for you: your nervousness or your excitement?
For example, you can either be nervous about meeting your neighbor and procrastinate on knocking on their door, which might make them think you’re unfriendly (potentially), or you can be excited at the prospect of having a close relationship/friendship with someone so close to you (regardless of whether that’s the outcome or not). You can either be worried that your new co-workers won’t like you and think you’re incompetent or excited at the prospect of working with really smart and cool people you can learn from.
It’s all a matter of perspective, but the side you find yourself on matters tremendously. It’s the difference between approaching a new situation with insecurity or confidence.
Now, apart from working on shifting your mindset and perspective, here are 4 things you can do to feel more confident facing new social interactions:
1. Keep your body language in check
The impression you put out comes back to you as a reaction. If you get a positive response from someone, your confidence will improve, and vice versa. You’re probably thinking, “it’s out of my control!” To a certain extent, it is, but you have control over more than you think. There are ways to come off as more friendly and approachable, making it easy for you to create a great first impression. For example, pay attention to your posture; are you slouching? are you looking at the ground? These can make you appear less interested and less approachable. On the flip side, if you stand up straight, turn your body towards the person, relax your shoulders, and smile, you'll immediately come off as friendly.
2. Be interested instead of trying to be interesting
This technically means focusing on asking questions instead of trying to take over the conversation. But not just any questions; they have to be open-ended to keep the conversation flowing. There's a difference between asking someone, “Do you like living here?" and "What's the best part about living here?" Asking open-ended questions creates opportunities for in-depth conversations. Nothing will make you feel more fulfilled or confident than finding yourself in an engaging conversation you don't want to end. Being interested also takes a lot of pressure off of you to come up with what to say.
3. Practice makes confident (improve your social skills)
Becoming more confident is a matter of practice. Think of it as the confidence muscle that needs a regular workout to stay in shape. As your confidence muscle grows, socializing becomes more straightforward, even around new people and in new places. If you want to feel more confident when facing new situations, you need to build your confidence. The only way is if you get out there and practice your skills.
4. Focus on active listening
This one should come as no surprise, yet the world seems to be lacking this skill. You're sending out the right signals when you truly listen to what someone is saying. You appear more confident, and people feel connected to you. Active listening is the opposite of passive. This means you must show the other person that you understand what they're saying. You affirm back to them what they're saying while also looking directly at them when they talk. This might take some practice, especially if it's a new person you're talking to. Body language is also associated with being a good listener: turning toward the person, shaking your head at the right time, and making eye contact are ways to show you're actively listening to them.
Piece all these together and watch your confidence soar. It's a misconception that people are born with confidence, charisma, and social skills. These are all things that can be learned. There's no reason why you can't feel more confident facing new social interactions, given practice and time to adjust. It's important to remember that the initial jump is always a shock to the system, but you can recalibrate and find ways to be more comfortable with each new interaction.
Ultimately, it's not about the new people or the new place but about how you see yourself in relation to those. Perspective is everything.