“There has to be an easier way to do this.”
Those were my thoughts as I was drinking my third shot of whiskey, watching the bartender stare at me, probably wondering why an underage kid is sitting alone at the bar. I’m sure there was an easier way to do this but, at the time, I couldn’t think of a better solution.
Every year I’d go on vacation with my family and would be bored out of my mind. On this particular night, I decided to do something about it. Some time ago, I noticed a group of girls on the shore. For the past hour or so, I was building up the courage to go over and talk to them. I’ve walked the same path a dozen times, feeling like a vulture stalking his prey.
After pacing around the shore didn’t help, I settled for spending the little money I had on me to buy some liquid courage, hoping nobody asks me for my ID. Upon finishing my drink, I stood up and started walking along the shore, hoping they hadn’t already noticed me and labeled me as a creep.
“There has to be an easier way to do this.”
I calmed myself down and started walking towards them: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. As I was getting closer, one of them noticed me and started looking in my direction.” Shit! There’s no backing out now.” Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
I panicked, picked up my pace, and within moments was standing in front of them, as the three cute teenagers were waiting for me to explain why I had just walked over. I had one shot to mesmerize them with something clever. After a long moment of silence, this is what finally exited my mouth:
“Hey, so, yeah, like, you know, I was, like, yeah.”
They were looking at me even more confused than before. My heart was pumping so loudly I was worried they might hear it and think I’m carrying a bomb. I mentally slapped myself, calmed my thoughts, and gave it another shot:
“Hey, so, I’m Phil, and I’m stuck in this place with my parents for a few more days. You guys seem cool and I was wondering if you want to get a drink with me or something.”
What followed was one of the longest pauses I have ever experienced. Not because the pause was actually that long. I learned all those years ago that the pause will only seem as long as you perceive it to be. The more comfortable you are with the silence, the calmer you can be.
As you can expect, I wasn’t comfortable at all. In the following few seconds, which seemed like an eternity, I managed to reexamine every life choice I have ever made that led me to this point. I became convinced that I’m an idiot for even coming over and wasting my time worrying about what they will say. I know what they will say. They will call me a creep, tell me to go away, and throw rocks at me until I leave.
One of the girls from the group interrupted this flow of thinking when she looked at her friends, then nodded, and replied: “Uhm… sure. Why not?”
Why is being social so hard in the first place?
I’m sure the story above sounds eerily familiar to you, even if you aren’t a guy or aren’t interested in girls. The internal thought process I went through, the feelings I experienced, the soul-crushing anxiety of talking to strangers — that is what you can relate to.
In its simplest terms, social anxiety is being nervous in social situations. You feel uncomfortable, you start sweating, your hands start shaking, and you feel like running home and hiding under your bedsheet covers. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo noted that about 90% of all people will experience the effects of social anxiety at least once in their life. And this is where things get interesting.
If I asked you why you have a hard time being social, you could respond in a number of ways. You could say you have a hard time talking to people because you’re not sure what to say. Maybe you have low self-confidence. Or is it low self-esteem? Then again, could it be you’re just introverted? Afraid of being judged? Scared of rejection? Or too smart for other people?
The reality is that you do not know.
Social anxiety is used as an umbrella term for every issue in regards to socializing. Whatever you search for online, you can find a ton of different “hacks” and “tricks” to overcome that issue immediately. So you pick a term you’ve heard somewhere, assume it’s your problem, then try to “delete it” from your life as if it’s an embarrassing photo on your phone.
In reality, you don’t know what any of these things mean. And that’s why none of the tricks and hacks you tried so far work either, because they aren’t solving the real issue. Hell, you don’t even know what the real issue is.
A lot of other blogs and websites give you “confidence hacks” and “self-esteem boosters”. I’m sure you’ve tried at least some of these methods. They don’t work. Almost 0% effectiveness in the long-term.
They don’t work because it’s not about saying or doing anything specific. It’s about HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF.
Two people can say exactly the same words, stand the same, and move in the exact same way. One will appear confident, the other insecure. That’s because one person is genuine and honest, not trying to impress anybody or make people like them. So their words and behavior appear in line with their personality. This makes them “real”.
The other person… well, they’re trying to score “social points”. They want to look cool, be the life of the party, and have everybody like them. This makes them appear “fake”.
In most situations, it’s obvious who’s genuinely confident and who’s just pretending. And while “confidence hacks” do help you feel better about yourself, their effects are only temporary. They’re called “hacks” for a reason. They’re just a quick replacement for a real, better solution.
The only way to appear confident in social situations is to actually be confident.
How to Improve Your Social Skills
Changing how you feel about yourself is a long process, but the best way to start is by changing HOW you behave.
Yes, you will still appear “fake” and you will still be awkward for a while. That’s good. The more you practice, the more relaxed you will become. Over time, your thoughts will start reflecting your behavior.
But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
I created a starter’s guide to boost your social skills. It’s a short 25-page ebook called “Destroy the Boundaries of Your Comfort Zone”. You can download it for free. In the book, I describe a proven 2-step process for building your confidence the right way. Here’s a quick recap of that process:
- Stop avoiding little things – The more you train yourself to avoid little challenges in your day, it will be easier to avoid bigger challenges as well.
- Start making small changes – Big plans and big moves can’t burn you out or scare you off. Instead, start small and improve every day.
But right now, I want to just clarify one thing. You see, self-confidence means “how much do I trust my own ability to do something”. This means you can be highly confident in one area of your life (“I know I can finish that video game level”) but the complete opposite in another (“There is no way I can just start a conversation with a stranger”).
The key to this process is the fact that confidence is built through experiences.
If you’ve never approached a stranger, it seems scary and frightening. But after doing it a hundred times, you will feel much more confident that you can do it one more time. This is why this 2-step process works so great. It helps you start developing those experiences in small, non-threatening ways.
If you’re just starting out and need help in choosing the first small step, here are some suggestions I’ve personally found work great:
- Ask a stranger for the time. If you’re shy, asking out your crush or joining a group you don’t know is scary. Start small: go outside and ask the first person you see: “Hey, what’s the time?” Look at that, you just talked to your first stranger!
- Say NO to somebody. A lot of times, you try to be “too nice” so people take advantage of you. Take back control of your life. When someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, tell them “No”. Just once.
- Ask one extra question. It can be someone at your gym, cashier at the store, or the mailman. You see these people every day, but keep your conversations with them on autopilot. Today, ask them one extra question. It can be as simple as “How is your day going?” or “What’s your name?”
Making a small first step is essential to improving your social skills. Starting, even it’s in the smallest possible way, is the most important thing you need to do right now. Analyzing, planning, discussing… this won’t build your confidence.
Neither will tricks or hacks. The only way to build confidence in yourself is by DOING things outside of your comfort zone.
Start Here: Best Articles for Being More Social
Mind of Steel is a philosophy that promotes building mental strength in various aspects of your life. Here are the most popular articles for being more social and improving social skills. You can find a list of all articles on this topic if you scroll down.
- How to Become Social as an Introvert. Do you label yourself as an introvert because you have bad social skills? Stop it. Being an introvert does not mean you can’t be social. This is why.
- How to Be Fearless by Building True Confidence. You make choices all the time and those choices define you as a person. Here is how to be fearless by using a simple method for building true confidence.
- Get Rid of Toxic Friends and Expand Your Social Circles. Learn how to expand your social circle and fill it with better friends. After all, you are the average of five people you spend the most time with.