Being nervous around other people can prevent you from making friends and even from making a good impression. You become anxious and quiet and act awkwardly.
In order to function properly in social interactions you need to know what causes nervousness around other people and what you can do to prevent it and make it go away.
Nervousness has clear causes and it can be prevented by making this series of (secret) changes to the way you approach social situations.
Does Every Person Make You Nervous?
I’ll bet that they don’t. Most people who experiences nervousness only do so with some people, not all of them. You probably have a brother or sister or parent or friend that you can hang out with and not feel nervous at all.
And haven’t you ever noticed that you feel more nervous when you’re talking to attractive people of the opposite sex that are your age than when you’re talking to overweight old people?
You feel nervous around people who you consider to be higher up on the social status ladder than you are.
This is why you feel nervous around authority figures such as your boss and why you feel more nervous around attractive people than ugly people.
It’s also why you feel comfortable around friends and family, you intuitively understand that they share a similar social status to you.
The natural question at this point is: why do we feel nervous around people who have a higher social status than us?
The answer is that people with high social status are more likely to have an effect on our lives (doctor, teacher, police officer) or they can make our lives better or worse (agreeing to date us, becoming friends with us, not badmouthing us to other high status people).
Do They Really Have High Status?
If you’re being nervous around someone then does that mean they have a higher social status than you?
Not at all.
A lot of the time our brains make the mistake of classifying someone as higher status when in reality they’re no better than we are.
Our brain looks at another person and analyses a combination of factors to determine social status. These factors include: physical attraction, eye contact, confidence, clothing, sign of material wealth, whether or not they’re with friends, humour, etc…
But obviously someone can be dressed nicely and yet have no more social status than you.
Social status analysis works like a comparison system. This means that you’re only nervous around those people who your brain compares to you and thinks they’re higher in status than you.
But your brain can be totally wrong.
If you have low self-esteem then your brain is going to make you nervous around a whole lot of people. You could be a millionaire and very attractive but if you don’t like yourself and think you’re a loser then you’ll still get nervous at the McDonald’s counter.
Should You Try To Build Your Social Status?
One way to stop being nervous around other people is to simply increase your social status. If your brain thinks they’re inferior socially to you than you won’t get the “get nervous” signals.
But this is a losing strategy. You’re always going to be worse looking or poorer or less charismatic than someone. You don’t want to go through live trying to be better than everyone else and collapsing emotionally when you encounter someone better than you in some way.
Bettering yourself is always a good thing and it will make you feel better. Dress nicer, workout, apply yourself in your career and hobbies and you’ll soon feel more confident socially.
But to totally get rid of your nervousness you need a different strategy.
The Mindful Approach To Stopping Nervousness
In order to stop nervousness you need to be mindful and aware of what exactly is causing that nervousness.
When you run into an attractive girl and start feeling nervous think to yourself: “What exactly is causing me to get nervous? Would I be nervous if this girl was ugly or smelly?”
Instead of trying to distract yourself focus on what is causing the feelings of nervousness. If you were sitting alone in your room you wouldn’t be nervous. But something about the person you’re talking to is triggering these uncomfortable feelings.
The Audience Applause Sign Metaphor
When you identify the source of your nervousness get amused.
Stay with me here. Let me give you an analogy:
Have you ever been to a live taping of some sort of talk show? Maybe something like Jon Stewart or Colbert or one of the other late night shows. There is always an audience signaller that flashes a sign telling the audience when they should laugh, when they should jeer, and when they should cry out.
This is what that person making you nervous is doing. They’re holding up an imaginary sign and your body is just mindlessly responding to it.
Isn’t that ridiculous? We let someone walk up to us and basically trigger how we’re going to feel inside.
If you recognize that this entire thing is just stupid you can be amused about it. Maybe even a little resentful of it. And this feeling of amused resentfulness extinguishes your nervousness in an instant.
Next time you’re talking to someone and you feel that nervousness starting just imagine that they’ve flashed a big sign that says “Get Nervous”. They’re standing there looking at you, holding that sign, and expecting you to be uncomfortable and unhappy just because they held up the sign.
Are you going to let someone control you like that? The only one who should get to decide how you feel is you.
This is what I do. Whenever I feel nervous I immediately take a close look at the person in front of me and see them holding these imaginary signs. Perhaps if it’s a cute girl I imagine her holding a sign that says “I’m attractive, get nervous”. This mental image is so preposterous that I immediately start smiling in disbelief and the nervousness evaporates into thin air.
Let me know below what makes you nervous and how this technique works for you.