How to Manage Your Social Anxiety at Work

Social anxiety is more than just a disinclination to pack each weekend with parties. For sufferers, the average day at work can be a nightmare of stressful situations and reduced productivity. However, there are ways to manage and overcome this form of stress.

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Psychologist Dr. Lynn Bufka recently gave stress-reduction and stress-management advice to Reddit users. Questions included how to deal with various forms of stress, including social anxiety in the workplace. 

Social Anxiety and Work

If you are looking for a job, social anxiety may reduce your ability to call potential employers or show up for a scheduled interview.

If you are currently working, social anxiety may still decrease your performance and productivity. Making small talk with co-workers may make you uncomfortable. They may misinterpret your behavior and think you unfriendly or mean. Meetings may be especially stressful for you. Even in small meetings or one-on-one sessions with your boss, the stress of social anxiety may make it difficult for you to think clearly and communicate well with others.

One strategy when engaging in small talk or when meeting a client for the first time is to take the focus off of yourself and draw out the other person. Ask questions and get to know them a little. People love to talk about themselves, so you may endear this new client to you just by listening to them talk.

Think about the specific situations that make you anxious at work. You may practice that type of interaction with a trusted family member or close friend. For example, practice shaking hands, making eye contact, and making small talk. You might still feel anxious, but the role playing will give you experience upon which to draw to improve your performance.

Dr. Bufka reminds us that when we are talking to somebody and worrying about ourselves, they are often worrying about themselves, and not thinking about us at all. In other words, you are not center of everyone’s attention, even if it feels like you are. Even when you meet with your boss, the focus is on your work and not on you. Remembering that may relieve some of the pressure.

Can We Be Stress-Free?

As uncomfortable as stress can be, both mentally and physically, being completely stress-free would not be good. Stress may serve as incentive to work harder and get things done. Some very positive and beneficial situations in life, such as going to a job interview, may cause stress.

The key is handle stress well. If stress debilitates you before an interview, you will do less well. But if you recognize stress as a normal reaction and use it as incentive be well-prepared for the interview, you may get the job.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you handle social stressors at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.