Community//

How to cope with difficult social situations

Enjoying social events - business, family, friends - can be really difficult for some people. But they don't have to be.

people socialising

The idea is that we should like social events – family reunions, business events, parties, etc. – but, in fact, many people dread them in advance and find them difficult to cope with at the time.

So, here are some ideas about how you can help yourself and other people to enjoy these events more.

Are others better than you in social situations?

Firstly, many people who suffer higher levels of anxiety over social events have unrealistic views about other people: they see them as being confident in these situations.  Ask some close friends about things that make them uneasy or afraid – you may be surprised. In fact, many people experience some level of stress and anxiety in social situations, but many are better at disguising it.

Are you too short, too fat, too ugly?

A lot of people worry about how they look – too short, too fat, too spotty, too ugly – but, in truth, many other people are too worried thinking these things about themselves to be concerned about how you look. And remember what Mae West said:

“A man can be short and dumpy and getting bald but if he has fire, women will like him.” 

If you find it hard to maintain your self esteem, consider the Bach Flower Remedy blend Confidence and Power from Neal’s Yard.

Helping others can help you

Often the best way to cope with scary social events is to look around for someone who looks like you feel (or even worse) and go talk to them and make them feel better. Usually they are so relieved to have someone talk to them that they relax and become friendly, and you can feel good for them and pleased with yourself.  People often don’t want to do this, because they feel the person standing on their own has been rejected by everyone else and is a loser, but this is not necessarily true. Many people clam up and present a hostile appearance at formal social events, but can be intelligent, amusing people once you get to know them – they just lack those immediate social skills that put themselves and others at their ease. Maybe just like you?

In social situations many people feel that they have to put on a false persona to be liked but remember: we tend to like people who are themselves, who don’t pretend to be something they’re not. So, be yourself and be liked.

The actor Michael Caine has said:

“I think one of the great things you can do if you want to be a seducer is make her laugh.”

This doesn’t only apply to seduction. Making people laugh is a great way to break the ice and become relaxed and at ease. If you know some children will be present at the event, think of some jokes you can tell them. For some people getting conversations started with children is much easier than getting them started with adults.

Family events can be the most stressful because we all carry so much emotional baggage with us. If your parents are annoying you, remember that part of the reason they are like they are is because of their own parents. If all else fails, get things in perspective by working out how long the event is as a proportion of your whole life. For example, if you expect a life span of 75 years, that’s more than 657000 hours, so the four or five hours (or even the whole week) is such a small part of it. Thinking about it like this can help you keep your temper, not have the last word or sulk and make everyone else’s life a misery.

Maybe it wasn’t about you!

When we get annoyed or hurt or upset by something someone has said or done, we often assume that they meant to do just that. An aged parent who is full of self-pity did not necessarily intend us to feel guilty; he/she may have just wanted to tell us how bad they feel. The freind who ignored you may have simply been in the middle of a difficult conversation with someone and just not seen you. The Harvard Negotiation Project researchers give a piece of advice that works in business and in family life:  when you deal with difficult situations assume that you don’t know what the other person’s motivations are, because chances are, you don’t.

So, go do your best to enjoy those social and family events. Don’t be hard on yourself – you may not get it all right. But try something different if you normally come away feeling distressed, upset, angry, guilty or humiliated.

Like this article? You can get more insights and practical tips on Jane’s blog www.janethurnellread.com

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