I’ve been really frustrated with myself lately because I have a hard time feeling comfortable in group situations. I do have friends and I like to do things with one person at a time, but when I am invited to do something in a group of people I often feel nervous and scared. I have started to just stay home and say, “no” when my friends want to go out in a group. I would like to go, but it is so uncomfortable that I usually end up not having any fun. Is there anything I can do to feel better in these situations?
Answer: Feeling comfortable in a group of people is often hard for many teenagers, so don’t feel like you are alone. One of the most important things as a teenager is to be liked and accepted by your peers. It is natural to feel uncomfortable in situations where you don’t feel confident. The worst thing you can do is to stop challenging yourself and to avoid these situations.
Following some simple skills and practicing them in social situations will help you begin to feel more comfortable in these settings. First, make a goal to have one new conversation with someone in the group. Stick to a topic that is general and not too personal. For example talking about something familiar to school or asking them about something you know they are interested in. Make sure you are using open-ended questions rather than close-ended questions. Close-ended questions can usually be answered in one or two words such as yes, no, or fine, where as open-ended questions you have to answer with more detail. If you feel like you are doing most of the work when talking to someone, it is probably not going to be very enjoyable to you. Open-ended questions help you do less work. You can easily practice this with your family and friends one-on-one.
The other thing you need to learn is how to listen. Most people that are anxious are often thinking about what they are going to say next and they miss what the person is actually saying to them. Be sure to let the other person know that you are listening by making eye contact and following up on what the person has said with either a question or a comment.
Lastly, you want to do some self cheerleading. Remember cheerleaders get the team going before the big game. You need to cheer yourself on to get yourself going before the big social event. Before you even leave to go out give yourself some positive cheerleading messages.
Telling yourself, “You can do it!”, “People like me!” and “Above all else I am going to have a great time tonight” are cheerleading statements you can use to increase your confidence.
The hardest part will be taking the first chance, but once you do you will be able to take more and more.