Cover Photo Credit to Celestine Chua
Everybody who’s ever been shy, quiet, or reserved knows exactly what this term means. Though it’s a pretty self-explanatory term in and of itself from the outside looking in, unless you’ve actually suffered with this debilitating fear you don’t really know what it is.
Definitions are words, and while they’re useful to describe something feeling it is an entirely different situation. I myself fought through with this for a large percentage of my life, so believe me when I say it’s not a simple situation to get over.
In this article, as long as it is, I wanted to tackle something that was a huge issue in the social skills development world. I wanted to tackle something that makes many nervous and quiver in their boots.
Read until the end friends, because after the advice on what to do, I’ll give you the first exercise to use in your arsenal of tools to get better and connecting and dating. When you get done here, hopefully I’ll have done my job correctly and you’ll rush out of the house to try the new tools you’ve been presented with, because I know that this was my number one exercise for getting my social muscles to start working as they should!
What is Approach Anxiety exactly? Am I helping my friends?
The biggest reason I decided to speak about this is because of its prevalence in our culture. If you look through the tales of history, you’ll see a common trait between males and females.
Which is that going out and speaking with others is a risky gambit, god knows how your relationship will pan out after the initial conversation. If you’ll be friends, lovers, the hated ex, maybe that person standing in front of you will make you fall so in love that if they broke your heart you wouldn’t know how to function correctly.
All that starts with simply going up and talking to someone? There’s a lot of things that can happen, and the grand scope of things often times freaks people out. They’d rather just be by themselves, that way they can hide away from the rejection that they’ve had to deal with their entire lives.
What happens if they reject me? What happens if they don’t? What happens if they humiliate me in front of all these people? All of that can inflict crippling fear into someone’s hearts, to the point where…
- They fear even approaching someone for the deep seated assumption that they’ll fail, or be rejected.
- They Fear approaching someone because they might hurt them in some way now or in the immediate future.
- They Fear approaching because in their minds the person is going to humiliate them for attempting to do so.
Deep huh? It may sound a little corny to those that have naturally be brought up to being outgoing and confident enough in themselves to just start conversations. But in all reality, these people’s fears are either irrational (just like your fear of deodorant weirdo) or it has been driven into their heads some kind of programming (personal or unintentional regardless) that this is a valid possibility.
So the next time you decide to ream into your friend that’s shy, go easy on them. It’s not like they’re intentionally trying to get out of it, we’re scared to, simple as that, and that’s exactly what we’re going to address today.
Many people that have friends with approach anxiety will often times do one of two things, thinking that it would help their friends. They either force them into the situation, or don’t push them at all!
Now I can understand exactly where these people are coming from, but these well-meaning individuals aren’t helping as much as they think they are. If you don’t push your friends to get better, they won’t have a support system they need to get confident.
That isn’t to say that they won’t figure it out, but having someone there to help encourage them and hold them accountable, you’ll see leaps and bounds of progress when they do figure everything out. So encourage them, don’t just let them suffer.
If they tell you they don’t want you to encourage them. They want to learn this on their own, which is absolutely fine.
As for those who push their shy friends into situations and force them to sink or swim, I can also see where you’re coming from. After all, I can attest to the effectiveness of it happening, but it’ll only work if the person you’re forcing is open to changing his habits, and even so will only work a percentage of the time.
Do it too often and all you’ll accomplish is having your already shy friend not want to go out and do things because they feel as if you’re going to just push them into things they don’t want to do too often. This makes you come across as pushy instead of coming across as trying to help.
Which if your pushy, you risk them shutting down on you, which believe me, is more frustrating than anything else. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give them a shove if they need it, just be sure you don’t do it too often or they’ll fall, and make sure they truly need it!
Where does Approach Anxiety originate from?
I firmly believe that Approach Anxiety is a learned habit, similar to getting shocked by a plug when you try to plug it in. After a while you’re not going to do it.
Which means that Approach Anxiety originates from some learned thing. So if you’re going to try and overcome your anxiety, you’ll need to observe what happens to your psyche when you try and force yourself to approach people.
Many times, you’ll have the same thought process, which often varies from individual to individual, it’s really a matter of whom is suffering from it. The pattern can be one of just epitomizing fear, it can show itself through an over-whelming amount of indifference, you might just feel yourself getting depressed, or often times you might just find yourself bouncing between different ones. As if you simply just can’t approach someone if the conditions aren’t perfect.
With this fear being a learned habit that usually means it been associated through past events, something, however small, caused you to have that little thing you do. It’s okay, after all habits can be changed.
But before we start to break down some of the elements of this process I want to make this clear, Approach Anxiety is not something negative. At no point should you look down on yourself for having it, even the bravest of people have gotten it at some point, because on a basic level it’s our own minds trying to protect itself.
It’s afraid of being hurt, which in all honesty none of us truly want. While that’s the reaction, it’s not exactly the origin. The origins of Approach Anxiety usually come from a long history of not being exposed to it.
As human beings, we get intensely effected by our own histories. So it’s not too far out of the mindset that a history of shyness compounded with stranger danger, combined with whatever associations we’ve made with being introduced to other people, that we create this shell of just being afraid of interactions with other people.
Not to mention the fact that since we haven’t had much experience interacting with unknown persons, we ultimately have no idea on how to even go about it. So in the long wrong we develop the mindset of Why Even Bother? Indifference, Sadness, Anger, Fear, if looked through anything, those can be portrayed as extremely powerful emotions.
They provide an odd foundation for anxieties of all types. Fear is odd like that.
So to make things a little clear here, your fear of approaching and talking to other people comes from a pretty straight forward process. A lack of experience, backed by fear due to societal standards. After all, if there’s one thing people like to talk about, it’s staying in your lane, not straying from the path, and making sure you don’t cause waves.
But I can tell that if you WANTED to live a solitary life of a worker, then you wouldn’t be reading articles on how to get better with people now would you? The origins of Approach Anxiety tell a large story.
How So You Beat Approach Anxiety? What Does it feel like?
I’m going to give you a fair example of what I feel when I deal with Approach Anxiety. But since I like to tie in personal stories to shine a better light, I’ll pull a direct example of something that happened just a few years ago:
I was standing in a mall, just milling about in Auburn Hills, MI. It was December, I remember because I’d just finished buying my Christmas gifts for the year.
I was walking through the building, when I saw these two gorgeous woman (remember that approach anxiety tends to intensify if it’s in relation to introducing yourself to members of the opposite gender, mostly because of lack of experience in flirting and dating).
I pushed my chest out just a little more and walked in their direction, a smirk on my face. Right when I got close to them, the girl on the right uttered a shy little “Hello”. I don’t know why it took that, but for whatever reason I just became completely gripped in anxiety.
I started sweating, my hands twitched and I felt out of breath. It wasn’t because I was too frightened to talk to them, it’s because I let my anxiety get the best of me. The fact of the matter is that anxiety doesn’t make you scared, it overwhelms you it becomes too strong to ignore.
It’s quite a heavy aspect to face down the monster that is AA. It’s tough matter to ignore Approach Anxiety entirely (though that naturally comes with experience), but it’s another matter entirely to lessen or even prevent the events of Approach Anxiety.
So, how do you go about preventing Approach Anxiety? EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE! You work that muscle until your exhausted as frequently as possible.
Your Social Skills can get as good as you want them to, but you have a work them! Fine Tune, practice, put yourself in the moment of each experience, which if you don’t know where to start can be hard to discern.
At some point, I’m going to develop and write an e-book that has all these in it. But for now, I want to Show you the first, and arguably most frequent, Social Exercise that you’ll be working on. It’s also an exercise that will help throughout your ENTIRE process of getting better with people!
2 Minute Talks
It’s a rapid fire motion tactic that was introduced to me by the dating coach Carlos Xuma, who’s work in the dating community helps remarkably. I loved this method, and it’s so simple to implement. When you’re thinking of this method, I implore you to run with the motto, Strike while the Iron is hot!
The mindset you use when using this method is quite simple, before you walk out into the public world. I want you to take a minute, maybe twenty minutes if possible, and drill every happy thought you’ve ever had from interacting with other people!
All of these memories wouldn’t have been possible with out the friendship or acquaintance that you have with these people. Remind yourself of the positives of the day. Ultimately, you want to walk out of the house with the positive mindset of, I’m capable of handling everything, and I believe that today, and this period in my life, is going to be awesome!
Go to a busy area, one with lots of people, the more you immerse yourself in the crowds, the better. I usually pick malls, busy areas of towns, in between concert sets, anything with a lot of people to interact with.
Give yourself a second, and locate the most intriguing individual you can find. A pretty girl, and eccentric artist, a man tinkering with an interesting tool you’ve never seen, someone reading a book, something along those lines.
Now, within a few seconds of seeing this individual (You want to avoid the excuse generator in your brain) you want to go up and introduce yourself. Go say hello. This helps you fight through that pesky excuse generator that kicks in, giving you a ridiculous excuse to not do whatever it is your going to do.
Next, you want to compliment them on the honest thing that caught your attention. Your pants have a cool seam, that book looks intriguing, anything, don’t be afraid to make it a little hare-brained. This allows you to give yourself a bit of experience with opening up.
You’re making your true self known, expressing what you think. So no matter what the compliment is, I want you to make sure that it comes from a place of Genuine Expression. In other words, you need to mean it, and not just say it with the expectation that they’ll say something back.
Heavy sounding title right? I thought so to. The truth is where you’re admitting what it is your doing. You’re literally telling them the truth, it doesn’t need to be a big truth, but exposure will show you that other people aren’t something to be feared. After complimenting them on whatever it is that you do, You want to tell them the following…
“I’m not the best with social situations. So I’m making efforts to get better at it by taking a walk everyday and talking to every interesting person I see. So thank you for speaking with me, you’ve done more good than you intended.”
9 chances out of 10, they give you a high-five, or say best of luck, or give you some small piece of advice that helped them. Regardless of what form it comes in, most people will support your decision to get better with people. Which gives you a new habit to form, with a new foundation from society, and a new emotion to tag onto the feeling you get when you meet new people.
It’ll start as a different kind of anxiousness, one where you start off excited, and eventually it descends into a desire to meet new people, one where you’re looking forward to doing so!
One thing to be noted however, is the fact that you need to do this A LOT. If possible, everyday or every other day. And while your out, I’d recommend doing it as many times as possible. For instance, when I do this, I aim for at least 20 people everyday.
Remember that Approach Anxiety is a reflex, and your reflex can be changed, because it’s only happening due to what you think you know. If you build a new way of thinking and gain some perspective on the matter, you’ll almost always find that you’ll be presently surprised.
So get out there, go for it, try it, go see how much happier you become at these 2 Minute talks that you have with other people!
For More information on Excuse Generators Click Here!
For More Information on Confidence Click Here!
For More Information on being Genuine Click Here!