One of the most common things I hear from people, regardless of the specific situation their social anxiety arises, is that they don’t know what to say around people.
I know this one very well myself, and have done a lot of work to handle it.

But is that true, do they really now know what to say?

Did I not know what to say?

It’s not true at all, and though in rare cases it can matter (and I mean rare), it really has very little to do with knowing what to do or say.

If people just spoke their minds and expressed themselves freely, just as they would around close friends, or family…there would be no issue.

Whether it’s a business meeting at work, or meeting people in your personal life, even talking to store clerks or baristas at the coffee house.

Of course, if it were that simple we’d be able to simply stop doing it. We’d be able to beat our biology and do anything we wanted.

It’s all about the fear and anxiety response and letting it control you – letting it create a mood of how you live your life, instead of letting the emotion come and go, like people without social anxiety disorder do.

Because, you see, if you ask me what to do or say in a given situation, you might remember it or write it down, because you feel comfortable talking to me as your coach, and are more open in a relaxed mental/emotional state.

However when it comes time to say it in a social situation, or do it, it’s like you can’t even remember what I told you. You usually go into flight or freeze.

So what to do? Is all lost?

No, it’s not, thankfully. But here’s the clincher: waiting until your anxiety goes away completely before acting, trying to manage your anxiety and make it go away, you’ll never get over it, and never believe that you can figure out what to do or say, ever.

Well, at least you won’t BELIEVE that you know, but certainly you’ll feel that you don’t know what to say. You’ll become an “anxiety manager” instead of a “life manager”.

You focus on managing your anxiety and do everything to not experience it, instead of allowing it to be there, while you focus on what matters to you in life, and experiencing your life – which includes anxiety, depression, fear, love, joy, sadness, guilt, hurt…on and on!

Welcome to the human race. :)

Many folks with social anxiety constantly say “I feel that I don’t know what to say” or “I feel that everyone is judging me.”

THESE STATEMENTS ARE BELIEFS, that are actually more on the surface beliefs, more akin to symptom, that point to core beliefs about  how you view the world at a deeper level, even more core to the causation of your social anxiety.

When you say that you “feel you don’t know what to say” you actually ARE NOT talking about your emotions. You’re coming from a set of deeper-rooted beliefs.

You see, emotions are temporary and they come and go, neurobiology has shown this. You are really talking about your belief about how you feel.

I also call this “living in a mood”. Emotions come and go like waves, but moods are persistent and consistent in your life.

Moods are more like a storm on the ocean, that you keep following, sometimes knowingly, but mostly unknowingly.

With something like social anxiety, the networks of beliefs are sitting there, waiting for the emotion to come, to prove the belief right, and when it does, you get to be right about your story around anxiety.

And the cycle continues.

So this “social anxiety mood” must be held in place with beliefs, or assessments, about how you view yourself and the world.

It’s about your story (network of beliefs), combined with hooking onto negative emotions to continue fueling it, and vice versa. It isn’t a linear process, but integrated.

Beliefs are not just words or linguistic – they are in your body, even on a cellular level, some say (see Bruce Lipton’s book , “Biology of Belief)”.

I find it is very, very difficult to change emotions and negative thoughts, because of their erratic nature. If you’re reading this you are probably already in a constant war, everyday, struggling to win.

You can’t win that war with your mind by fighting it.  You need to work with it, because it’s not going anywhere, I’m sorry to say.

I’m not saying you should never listen to or follow what your thoughts and emotions are saying, but trying to fight them, or fully believing “I have social anxiety and that’s just the way I am – and I’ll always have it” is a fantastic way to keep it in place.

You’ve been very successful at it, I imagine.

This is deep stuff here, I’m not talking about a superficial technique or a one-off change process. It’s about shifting our fundamental understanding of how we work as human beings, how our minds work, and what we can and cannot change.

And shifting our entire approach to life, because I’m willing to bet that what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working too well up to this point.

It is much easier to change our relationship to our thoughts and emotions, rather than change the thoughts and emotions themselves and that’s what I primarily teach and coach around.

Is there a benefit to shifting thoughts in the form of rationalization and possibility?  Absolutely!  But it isn’t a complete approach.

What we say to ourselves is important, and can generate how we behave.  But even when we tell ourselves something positive, we must hold it lightly, not as if it’s absolute.

Noticing how our beliefs show up expressed in our thoughts, emotions and body sensations, and learning to be a curious observer FIRST.

Then decided if we like that assessment of ourselves and the world around us.

If you’re interested in working with me one-on-one as a coach, are committed to do what it takes to dissolve your social anxiety, check out my coaching page

    10 replies to "“I Don’t Know What To Say” – Being At A Loss For Words Around People"

    • Sam

      I dont know, say you have a friend that you would like to know better, but everytime you bump into them you cant seem to carry a conversation long enough, or you want to start a conversation with someone you kindof know but you can never seem to think of how to start a conversation or for some reason you are scared to!

      • Sam

        and you cant seem to think of the right thing to start a conversation with!

        • David H.

          Well like the article describe I can tell you what to say, but that’s not the issue. There’s not enough information here to get into what it really going on with you. I love questions these days, for exploration and expansion. :)

          For instance you say “you’re scared”…

          What does that mean for you, exactly?
          Be specific, just saying I’m scared means different things for different people, even with social anxiety.

          What thoughts and feelings are going through your mind and body?
          Are you aware of them, or can you not identify them?

          How are you behaving that is shutting down the conversation. Again, it all starts with becoming more aware of what you are thinking, saying to yourself, images in your mind, feelings in your body etc. You must, must start paying attention to all of this. Saying “I don’t know what to say” is actually not the real issue.”

          Are you asking questions of this friend, are you sharing freely about your life?
          What is the risk of doing this, and what is the potential reward?

          I suggest you explore these types of things, to go deeper under the surface of what is going on hold your version of a social anxiety belief system, in place.

        • David H.

          If you are having a problem starting a conversation, you need to focus on them, or the situation at hand.

          Here are some questions to help you explore this…

          What do you observe about them?
          What are they doing, what are they wearing that you think is cool, that you can compliment them on?
          Are they reading an interesting book that you can comment on?
          What kind of question can you ask?
          Are you making eye contact to start? Non-verbal plays a role here, and many people with SA have problems with eye contact.
          How about saying “hi, how’s your day going?” as a conversation starter?

    • Sam

      Hey there, thanks for replying, I think I understand what you’re getting at, still a bit confused though.Is it okay if you can give some kind of hypothetical example of someone in this situation to help understand haha?

      • David H.

        Sure, go ahead I’d be happy to explain around an example situation. Go ahead and post it.

    • sam

      I’m glad you posted this because I had a situation where this happened today. Read this three times but still confused, you say that trying to fight your emotions isn’t the way, but then you say that believing you’ll always have social anxiety isn’t the way either. Can you clarify what you think the way to deal with this is? Thanks.

      • David H.

        Glad to hear it was relevant to you Sam!

        To clarify, your emotions ARE NOT your social anxiety. Emotions come and go biologically speaking. However your “mood” or anxiety state is held up by your beliefs that continue to generate social anxiety. Beliefs are in lanaguage, yes, but also are “embodied” in your physical body. too.

        You have to become mindful and aware of how your thinking and belief system is holding this all in place. Then take a look at how you talk to yourself, what images come up over and over, that help perpetuate your social phobia.

        It’s very tricky stuff, at first, but once you start putting this into practice, it becomes easier and easier. And the beauty is it works with anything that is getting in the way, not social anxiety. Does that help clarify it?

    • Ken

      How do you really change your view of yourself and the world around you.

      • David H.

        Become aware of all the beliefs/thoughts/feelings that you think causing your social anxiety, and are getting in the way of your life. Have you sat down and listed out all your beliefs about yourself and being in social situations? This is a great place to start. This is your social anxiety “story”, as it were. After that, write out your life without social anxiety, beliefs, thoughts, feelings that would be there if you were living your life fully, without SA.

        Then go back and read your social anxiety list. Notice how you feel about your life, and the possibilities of action that show up. Do the same with your “fully engaged life” list. Notice the same. What do you find?

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