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Can Improving Your Body Language Reading Skills Help Lower Your Social Anxiety Stress?

By Krista

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Last Updated: April 22, 2022

When you have a social phobia, social events are probably not exactly your go-to for relaxation and leisure. In fact, you’d likely rather just avoid them altogether (totally understandable!).

Yet, if there’s anything the past two years of this pandemic have taught us, it’s that socializing and connectivity are undeniably important for overall mental well-being. At the same time, this pandemic has also made social anxiety that much more prominent in our society. It’s kind of like a double-edged sword.

But what if you could challenge your anxious thoughts and feelings by expanding your knowledge about others? What if learning about the basics of body language could help you overcome some of your fears and potentially truly enjoy those social interactions? 

In this article, we’re going to uncover whether or not you can lower your social anxiety stress by improving your body language reading skills. Is this a worthwhile endeavor? Let’s find out!

 

Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness

The truth is everyone (and yes, even that ultra-confident person that’s always chit-chatting) gets embarrassed or feels foolish in front of others. This is only natural. Yet, WebMD states that social phobias usually tend to arise due to genetics or an overactive amygdala (the fear center of the brain).

But this doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it.

The cool thing about your brain is that you can 100% override certain neural pathways and programming. Usually, it just takes some practice. And here’s the other thing: Genetics aren’t the end-all, be-all.

Remember the ol’ nature vs nurture debate from your eighth grade science class? Well, your environment and what you do can also override your genetics.

So, now that we’ve determined social phobia isn’t a life sentence (phew!), let’s get down to some practical information. How can you take steps to overcome it? Can learning communication skills help?

 

Do Communication Skills Help with Social Anxiety?

According to anxiety experts, individuals with social anxiety often tend to struggle with starting conversations, as well as, to put it bluntly, getting out of their own head (aka not thinking about what others might be thinking about you). 

However, learning communication skills can actually help increase your confidence, taking the fear out of socialization! In fact, a 2018 study found that students with strong communication skills had lower social anxiety.

So, what communication skills should you learn? 

If you’re not up for conversing quite yet, you can focus on non-verbal communication to start. This involves focusing on your own body language and improving them. A few tips…

  • Keep your head up
  • Uncross your arms
  • Avoid fidgeting
  • Make eye contact 
  • Nod as you listen
  • Smile
  • Stand tall
  • Use a firm handshake
  • Walk with big strides (and stand up tall again!)

These can help you not only appear more confident but feel more confident. In fact, research shows good posture can work wonders when it comes to improving your confidence from the outside-in (literally!).

Next up, before having to say anything, it can give you a peace of mind to note the body language of others and what it means. If someone is exhibiting the body language from the list above, you can rest assured that they are likely being open and honest with you. In cases where they are trying to be deceptive or something else, you might notice they:

  • Play with their hair
  • Sit or stand with a stiff posture
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Look down

At the same time, it’s really important to note that these cues alone don’t necessarily indicate deception. Someone could look down or twirl their hair because they are the ones that are nervous! It’s crucial to take in someone’s body language and words as a whole. 

For clarification, you can always ask questions, as well as take notice of their tone of voice and the context of the situation. There are always a ton of unknowns in communication and interactions, and surprisingly, many of them have nothing at all to do with us (and everything to do with someone else’s insecurities or life).

Related Article: Reading Body Language: How to Improve Your Ability to Read Nonverbal Communication

 

What Reduces Social Anxiety?

Besides reading body language and improving your own communication skills, what else can you do to overcome your social phobia?

  • Visit or talk with a therapist on a daily basis - They can provide you with techniques and different ways of thinking of things (such as CBT) to help you cope and overcome it.
  • Expose yourself to situations that cause your social anxiety - This is similar to “exposure therapy,” where you confront your fear a little bit at a time to reduce the feelings around it.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts - This means challenging those thoughts where you think everyone is judging you with something else. Could they actually just be self-conscious themselves? Or maybe they are eyeing your hair style because they like it? You never know
  • Use relaxation techniques - This may involve deep breathing before entering a gathering or practicing meditation so you can get a handle on your thoughts.
  • Limit alcohol and/or drugs - These can alter your mental state, making it that much harder to get a grip on your social phobia.

Related Article: Are You Struggling With Social Anxiety? How to Identify & Helpful Ways to Overcome 

 

Reading Body Language: Start Taking Small Steps Today!

Tom Ford has famously said, “The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.” 

Overcoming your social phobia can help you make those irreplaceable and vital connections. While it will take work, it’ll be some of the most rewarding steps you can take in your life. Don’t let fear hold you back. Some of the best things in life wait beyond it.

Read Next: How to Overcome Fear: The Practice of Facing What You Are Afraid of

Photo by Jopwell

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2 comments on “Can Improving Your Body Language Reading Skills Help Lower Your Social Anxiety Stress?”

    1. Lol. We thought so too! If only we learned some of these things years ago, right? But we can always learn something new and grow with it. 🙂

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