August 12: Today’s top stories in 60 seconds
August 12: Today’s top stories in 60 seconds

Sarah Gill

This traditional Irish cottage tucked away in Cashel, Co. Galway is on the market for €250,000
This traditional Irish cottage tucked away in Cashel, Co. Galway is on the market for...

Sarah Gill

First date deal-breakers: The seven absolute worst things to do on a first date
First date deal-breakers: The seven absolute worst things to do on a first date

Geraldine Carton

Your reaction to the childcare crisis: ‘To avoid childcare costs, I work at night. I can’t afford to work full time’
Your reaction to the childcare crisis: ‘To avoid childcare costs, I work at night. I...

Dominique McMullan

How to pack just hand luggage for a two week holiday
How to pack just hand luggage for a two week holiday

Louise Slyth

Irish women in film: Annie Atkins, graphic designer for film
Irish women in film: Annie Atkins, graphic designer for film

Meg Walker

Lunchtime Fashion Fix: Inject some fun into your wardrobe with a splash of green
Lunchtime Fashion Fix: Inject some fun into your wardrobe with a splash of green

Sarah Finnan

Saturn, a meteor shower, and the last supermoon of 2022 will share the celestial stage this weekend
Saturn, a meteor shower, and the last supermoon of 2022 will share the celestial stage...

Sarah Gill

Supper Club: Mussels and bucatini pasta
Supper Club: Mussels and bucatini pasta

Meg Walker

This traditional thatched cottage in in Co Mayo is on sale for €179,000
This traditional thatched cottage in in Co Mayo is on sale for €179,000

Megan Burns

Image / Editorial

How To Socialise If You’re A Shy Person At Christmas: Part Three


By IMAGE
21st Dec 2017
How To Socialise If You’re A Shy Person At Christmas: Part Three

Do they always find you in the kitchen at parties? CLAIRE O’MAHONY offers some tips for the socially unconfident this Christmas.

There seems something Scrooge-like about admitting that you fear and loathe the social whirl the festive season brings. I just adore small talk, said no one, ever, but for some people (I include myself here) the notion of a diary heaving with work-related events, gatherings with friends, family occasions and all the randomness that accompanies this time of year – and from mid-November onwards – seems like a huge challenge. Panic begins to escalate as potential pitfalls build in our heads: What if I don’t know anyone there? What if nobody talks to me? What if I’m inappropriately dressed? What if my poor grasp of current affairs is exposed? What if I can’t find the bathroom? What if my dull and limited personality repels people?

Of course, everybody’s fears are different and there are many reasons why someone might be apprehensive about social events. There’s good old-fashioned shyness, which affects most people at some time in their lives. Perhaps you’re an introvert, in which case it’s not that you are averse to socialising, but large crowds and networking are not to your tastes, you’d prefer the intimacy of a one-on-one conversation and you’re happier in your role as an observer rather than active participant. Then there’s social anxiety, a disorder that affects an estimated 7-8 percent of the adult population. This is characterised by a fear of being judged negatively by others, and being extremely self-critical of one’s public performance. At its most acute, it can be debilitating and spills over into all aspects of the sufferer’s life and not just the socialising aspect. It can result in avoiding any interactions with strangers and can be extremely isolating, but it has been proven to respond well to cognitive behavioural therapy. If shyness is a general discomfort and self-consciousness, social anxiety has deeper roots and will more than likely benefit from professional help.

But if you’re sitting uncomfortably somewhere on the spectrum of social awkwardness, the good news is that party apprehension does not have to be a cross you must always carry. You may not become the Dorothy Parker of your generation, but you don’t have to be afraid.

Feel Awkward And Acknowledge It

Recognising your vulnerability is a large part of the battle, according to Allison Keating. If you allow yourself to recognise that you are uncomfortable, there’s nearly a release in that, rather than pretending that you are the most confident person in the room. Perhaps you’re not, but I’m sure you have many other aspects of your personality that

Recognising your vulnerability is a large part of the battle, according to Allison Keating. If you allow yourself to recognise that you are uncomfortable, there’s nearly a release in that, rather than pretending that you are the most confident person in the room. Perhaps you’re not, but I’m sure you have many other aspects of your personality that are wonderful and that people really like. Maybe part of your strengths is that you’re a good listener.

Find A Role Model To Copy

As well as potentially striking you dumb, nervousness can have the opposite effect and cause you to lose any self-editing capacity, as you prattle on, unable to stop your verbal flood. Keating points to Barack Obama as an amazing orator. What he does is that he pauses and takes his time, and that’s how he commands the respect and attention of people, she says. It’s a skill. Look for people who communicate well and observe, and you can emulate that. Sometimes that is pausing, taking a second and being mindful that if you are talking too much, just to stop.

And Finally, Harsh Truth Alert

We are the centres of our own universes. We are not the centre of anybody else’s, however. There’s the spotlight, where every client I have with social anxiety thinks everyone is thinking about them, and the truth is that everyone else at that party is thinking about what everybody else is thinking about them, says Keating. There is nothing self-absorbed about that – we can only come from our place of how we perceive the world. Even people who come across as confident can experience social anxiety and be very shy. So, you are not alone. And retrospectively, are these things ever as bad as you feared they would be Liz Wright suggests that you write down what you worry might happen before you go and then reassess this upon your return home to see if you can challenge any negative beliefs. After you come back, you can say, I predicted nobody would talk to me and, actually, one person asked me if I wanted a drink and another person asked me about the weather. So, it’s to challenge those catastrophizing beliefs and to realise that you weren’t the life and soul of the party, but those two people did speak to you briefly. It makes you a bit more realistic.”

READ MORE: The Shy Person’s Guide To Socialising: Part One

The Shy Person’s Guide To Socialising: Part Two 

This article originally appeared in the 2016 December issue of IMAGE magazine.