A Reader Writes: You’ve really nailed the nuts and bolts of approach anxiety. The problem is, I know this stuff, but every fucking time I go to act, I shut myself down. I justify why I can’t do this right now, how I’m just too scared. I imagine myself walking up to a woman with ease, but cannot even begin to actually try it. I even did a workshop last year, was too scared to do most of the approaches suggested by the coach, and did not do any further approaches following the workshop.
This is a great question. One of my recommendations, if you want to make the most amount of progress with the least amount of pain, is to do one approach every day. But what if you can’t even do one approach?
It’s important to understand that what you are dealing with is social anxiety and social phobia. All people have different amounts of ability to act with freedom in social situations.
Approaching women you don’t know IS NOT EASY. For some people it’s easy, but for most people it’s not. Most people have difficulty walking up to a stranger and engaging them in a conversation. A lot of people just don’t try. It’s actually most people’s biggest fear.
People don’t usually put themselves in a position of doing something that gives them anxiety. If they are afraid of talking to strangers, then they’ll just wait to talk to people they’re introduced to. And if they’re not introduced to someone they’re into, then they’ll wait forever.
So don’t think social anxiety is some weird disease. It’s not. You’re brave for deciding to change yourself. The guys I work with, I give them all the credit in the world for doing what they do. There’s nothing braver you could possibly do in your life then to face your fears and grow as a person.
So where do you start if you can’t even walk up to one girl?
Getting better at this stuff will depend on how often and how consistently you are willing to interact with other people on ANY level. You can start small.
In fact, you’ll have to start small. If you can’t swim, you shouldn’t dive into the deep end of the pool. You’ll drown. It will cause you more fear and re-enforce your negative reactions.
Social anxiety is a negative loop. You expect people to react badly when you approach them. Because you expect them to react negatively you act self-protective. Your self-protective behavior makes them self-protective and they do react negatively toward you.
So you avoid interacting with people on whatever level you’re uncomfortable with.
You learn to avoid and it becomes the way you do things. Whether your avoidance is not getting into conversations with people unless you’re in a “safe” environment (a party or social circle introduction.) Or maybe you don’t talk to any people at all. Maybe you don’t have conversations with your co-workers. Maybe you don’t talk to your neighbors. Maybe you keep yourself shut away from even your family.
Every time you have an option to open your mouth, you instead try to avoid.
Getting out of this negative loop takes practice. You can teach your body that people won’t react negatively to you. If you can’t full-on walk up to a girl and talk to her, try taking some small steps every day to reduce your social anxiety.
But the key is that you need to be CONSISTENT. You need to set up a plan and do it ON A REGULAR BASIS.
Here are some things you can set yourself up to do every day:
- Greet neighbors and co-workers. Just say “Hi, how are you doing.” Talk about the weather if you want. It’s all good. You don’t need to be an award-winning conversationalist. Just doing it will help you improve.
- Talk with sales clerks.
- Ask strangers for directions.
- Give a stranger, friend, or co-worker a compliment.
- Be friendly with people on the phone
- Whenever you talk with someone you don’t know, sincerely ask “How are you doing?” or “How’s your day going?”
Get comfortable doing this stuff.
Do some things pro-actively, like going out and asking people for directions. Set up some goals for yourself. Write down how you are progressing. The more frequently and consistently you can do this stuff, the better.
It will get easier after a while.
Every day you’ll have the opportunity to interact with people. Always choose yes. I wrote a post a while back Open Your Mouth and Keep Opening it.
Banter and Joke with People All the Time
Every time you go beyond the “normal” interaction withs someone, you are pushing your comfort zone and improving.
Try joking around with people. Humor helps reduce anxiety. And when you start to see smiles on people’s faces, it makes you feel great. It makes you want to keep doing this stuff.
I was at the store this morning buying some stuff. I was trying to decide if I should interact with the clerk. It could have gone either way. I opened my mouth and she ended up laughing.
“Can I return these cookies if they’re not as delicious as everyone says they are?” She laughs.
It doesn’t always work. But I keep doing it anyway.
Here are some things to get you started:
At the deli: “I’m gonna need 17 sandwiches. Nah, just kidding, I just want a bagel.”
Go to a Starbucks or McDonald’s ask someone in line: “I’ve heard so much about the coffee/food here, is it good?”
Talk about the weather: “You wish it were a little nicer out? You know what, I’m gonna talk to my people and see what we can do.”
Speak Loudly in Every Situation
Another thing you can try, once you get comfortable with asking for directions every day, is to speak loudly and boldly when you aks for directions.
When you sound confident, everyone around you is so much more comfortable. As Juggler said in his ebook, when you speak quietly, you creep girls out.
Talk loudly to everyone. Talk just slightly louder than the normal talking level of the environment. You’ll be surprised at how much attraction this generates.
It even makes your jokes funnier.
If you’re not quite ready to walk up to a girl an approach her, there a number of small, confidence-building things you can do to get yourself out of your protective shell.
And if these small interactions don’t always go totally smoothly, that’s okay too. You’re learning. You’re STILL IMPROVING even if these interactions don’t go to well.
It’s okay to feel embarrassed or rejected even at that level. Accept all your feelings as much as you can. Don’t ruminate if it doesn’t go well, just tell yourself it’s all part of the learning process.
Spend a month or two going out at lunch and asking three people for directions every day.
Even if you are able to walk up to a girl and talk to her, you might want to ask three people for directions anyway. We call these “warm-up” sets.
Nobody gets to be great by starting off great. Do small things every day and it will get you there.