The Range Of Results You Can Get From Improving Your Social Skills To Lower Social Anxiety
One approach for tackling social anxiety is to improve your communication skills, so you'll hopefully feel more confident and capable in the kinds of conversations that make you nervous.
Sometimes people try this angle, and it doesn't pay off. They still feel on edge in certain social settings. They may get discouraged and conclude they're a lost cause. The fact is no approach always pans out. This article will give you a more realistic sense of the spread of results you may get from trying to polish your interpersonal skills.
I find the effectiveness of trying to boost your social abilities varies from situation to situation. In one scenario practicing and getting the hang of some tangible skills may make a difference. In another you may find you're still jittery and insecure, even though you know what to do on paper.
These possible results are assuming you put some proper effort into improving your social skills. Of course, they may not get much done if you don't practice, chase ineffective shortcuts, or give up too early.
Of course, the premise of this article is simplified in the sense that most people with social anxiety don't work on their communication skills in isolation, while doing nothing to address the mental side of the disorder. Even if things aren't as neat in real life, I think the points below are still useful to quickly cover.
You get nervous at parties and other large social events. You feel like you have no idea what to do when you walk into one. You look up some advice on how to start conversations, join groups, make small talk, and so on. Just knowing you have some strategies makes you feel a bit more comfortable. You then begin practicing over several months, starting with what you can handle. It's not always smooth or comfortable, but before long you start to get the hang of moving from conversation to conversation. If you start talking to someone new, you know how to keep chatting for a while. Your anxiety eventually goes away because you now feel capable in that environment.
In some cases social anxiety is based on a straightforward lack of interpersonal knowledge and experience, and once the issue is addressed you're fine in that setting.
You're anxious at parties. Partially you don't know what to do at them. You've also got a bunch of insecurities, like believing you're boring and unlikable, and that other people are mean, picky, and judgmental. You learn a bunch of conversation tactics and try to practice them. In time you feel a bit more comfortable with mingling, but some of your nerves remain. Sometimes you're still too anxious to talk to anyone. If you do get into a conversation, you can technically make it last longer, and at times it even goes well, but you're often still worried about being disliked or rejected.
Social anxiety can be driven by a mix of missing knowledge and experience, as well as deeper insecurities. In these cases tackling the social skills piece may improve things a bit, but only to the degree that it contributes to the problem. If your fears are mainly driven by insecurities and scary beliefs about the social world, learning some small talk tips will only go so far. Still, every little bit helps, and sometimes a modest reduction in fear can make a noticeable difference in your day to day life, or put you in a spot where you can now make other changes.
You try to boost your social skills to overcome your fear of parties. It doesn't have any effect. You're as anxious as ever. You either already knew the social advice you came across, or it was new to you and now you know it in theory, but you're too nervous to put it into practice.
Plenty of people with social anxiety already have decent people skills. When they're comfortable around someone they have no problem keeping a conversation going. They may even be witty, interesting, and charming. Their nerves are fueled by their insecurities and beliefs about how choosy and cruel everyone can be. Others may have some social skills deficits, but their fear-inducing insecurities and beliefs are so strong they'll overpower many attempts to practice their conversation skills.
You try to improve your party-related social skills. It makes your anxiety worse. Reading all this advice about the proper way to make conversation amplifies your existing insecurities about how you're boring, that everyone is picky and judgy, and so on. You believe your social performance has to be perfect or you'll run afoul of everyone's high standards, and they'll think you're a dull, awkward loser. When you try to start a conversation you've got all this new stress about choosing the right things to say, having proper body language, and so on.
You don't need to be amazingly charismatic to make conversation and build a social life, but if you're already really insecure about how you come across, reading a bunch of communication skills advice can play into that mindset. It's not that all social tips are harmful, just that some people need to address aspects of their mental baggage first.