Healthy Mind

4 Psychologist-Backed Tips for How To Be Confident Socially as Your Calendar Fills Up

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/cokada
With summer upon us, and the latest masking update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noting that fully vaccinated folks don't need to mask up in a number of situations (with many caveats), you may well find your social calendar filling up fast. In some cases, faster than you'd even prefer. After all, it's been awhile since you've had plans multiple days in a row—or any plans period, for that matter. If the thought of being busy is stoking some feelings of anxiety, you might want to warm up your social muscles and learn how to be confident socially.

First, know that it makes total sense if you feel a bit insecure about interacting with folks you haven't seen in what feels like forever, according to Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, the founders of Safe Conversations, a therapy workshop company focused on helping folks improve their communication skills. With that in mind, they have tips that may help. Below, check out their four expert-backed strategies for how to be confident socially as we enter the summer season and beyond.

4 tips for how to be confident socially, according to psychologists

1. Start small and ease into it

After over a year of limited at best in-person socialization, jumping straight into party mode may make you feel on edge. That's why you may benefit from starting to socialize with your nearest and dearest only—the people you are less likely to 'perform' for. By keeping your in-person socializing network small to start and only doing activities you're comfortable with for right now, you'll be more likely to feel confident about easing back into social situations.

"Work your way up to large gatherings and ease into things to avoid panic over social events." —Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD

"This will look different for everyone, but a gradual progression will help you feel more in control of the situation," Dr. Hunt says. "Maybe you start by having a few friends over, then going to dinner with friends, then attending a small party. Work your way up to large gatherings and ease into things to avoid panic over social events."

2. Set boundaries and say no

Another important strategy to help you be confident socially is to decline or separate yourself from situations that will make you feel exposed. "If you are uncomfortable, you can leave," says Dr. Hendrix. If you don’t want to be around people you don’t know, say something."

3. Go in curious, and ask questions

Why is that? Because if you're feeling self-conscious in a social situation, asking questions to others takes the spotlight off you. Plus, research shows that asking questions, particularly follow-up questions, can make you more likable. Use this opportunity to learn, and get massively popular with peeps.

"Make it a point to ask questions and mirror the person," says Dr. Hendrix. "Show genuine interest in what they are saying without turning it around to focus on yourself. Overall, this makes you a more interesting and engaging conversationalist, leading to better social interactions."

4. Establish a pre-social coping mechanism for your anxiety

A little self-soothing ritual can work wonders in quelling feelings of anticipatory social anxiety. Identify something you know to be a tried-and-true coping strategy, and make it part of your pre-socializing routine—as second nature as grabbing your keys before you leave.

"Anxiety, and how you cope with it, looks different for everyone, so it is important to find what works best for you personally," says Dr. Hendrix. "For example, [you can] use a mantra to focus your brain, adopt breathing exercises, take brief retreats to another room, or write."

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