Social anxiety is something that affects many of us with ADHD. There are a number of factors behind this:
- We are not always able to pick up on social cues because we don’t pay close enough attention
- We are too busy thinking of what to say that we miss those cues and the conversation happening around us
- It’s a situation we’ve been in before and it makes us uncomfortable
- A social setting, such as a party, can contain a lot of stimuli which can distract us or overwhelm us
So what do you do?
Here are 5 ways to reduce your social anxiety:
- Try to be a really good listener. Use active listening skills such as repeating back parts of what the person has said and nodding to let them know you are listening. (Be sure you are!) This way you are not dominating the conversation and worrying about what to say. At some point you may feel the need to jump in with a remark, but by that time, you will most likely have relaxed.
- Find a friendly face or two and start there. Sometimes a smaller group of people – even just 1 or 2 – can make it easier to relax and get to know one another.
- Alternatively, find a loud, boisterous group and just blend in. You can listen and laugh, and maybe not have to contribute anything at all. Hopefully at some point, this group will help you relax and join in on the fun.
- If you make a remark that does not seem relevant to the conversation, laugh it off and say something like “Well that came out of left field, didn’t it?”. Often the conversation will just take up once again, but if it doesn’t, don’t let it get to you. Just excuse yourself and grab a snack or a drink. Everyone has made social gaffes before; don’t beat yourself up over it.
- Keep a drink in your hand to give you something to do (not too much alcohol, though!) and then just wander for a bit. Smile when you catch someone’s eye, say hi or hello, and move on. Slowly. Move slowly. Don’t make it appear that you are frantically rushing from one thing to another.
- Bonus: don’t stop going to social events because of this. Start with small friendly ones and take it from there. If you’re really brave, get a friend or two to give you some tips in the moment or to coach you through it.
Social situations can be a lot of fun, allowing you to meet new people, learn new things, and just relax. Stop overthinking it and just go and enjoy.
Oh, and just so you know – many of us drag our feet about attending such events, yet end up having a great time once we get there. Next time you think about declining an invitation, think twice. Then go and have a wonderful time!