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How to Keep From Getting Tongue-Tied

by Boze Herrington

Being tongue-tied refers to an emotional state in which a person has trouble speaking in front of or interacting with others, often as a result of nervousness or panic. People who struggle with this form of social anxiety may tense up in public settings, lose track of their thoughts or have difficulty verbalizing them. However, they may mitigate the worst effects through confident thinking, support groups and relaxation techniques.

Breaking Negative Thought Habits

In some cases, shyness and social anxiety are rooted in insecurity. People may have difficulty speaking in front of others when they fear what they have to say might be negatively received, or if they're constantly analyzing the reactions of others for signs of disapproval. Internalize new ideas about yourself to develop confidence. Recognize that other people may be just as fearful and anxiety-ridden in social settings as you are. Begin to think of yourself and what you have to say as valuable.

Exposure Therapy

Some psychologists think that one of the most effective methods of reducing social anxiety is to place yourself in situations where you're forced to confront your fears. In parties, at school or in other public settings, test whether your perception that others disapprove of you is accurate by repeatedly walking up to people and trying to engage them in conversation. Note the number of positive and negative responses. Have a friend standing nearby who can act as an observer so you don't misinterpret a positive response as a negative response. Not only can this method demonstrate whether your perception of how others see you is inaccurate, but it also may make you a more confident person in the process.

Relaxation and Breathing Techniques

Different emotions physically manifest in different ways. Take note of how your body reacts the next time you're in an anxiety-inducing situation. You may find your stomach tensing up, your neck hardening, or your breathing becoming short and restricted. Learning to control these physical reactions through simple breathing exercises may ease the emotions that cause them. One such exercise involves inhaling slowly through your nose while counting from one to four. Hold the breath for a count of two and then exhale for six seconds. Practice this exercise repeatedly in private before going out in public so that when you feel yourself becoming tense, you can do it without effort.

Join a Support Group

Support groups may be beneficial for both physical and emotional health. They provide the tongue-tied with small, safe communities in which they're free to stay quiet and listen or to speak. Where jumping headfirst into the social world may be daunting, these groups create a space for smooth and gradual transition in which people connect with strangers, form relationships and learn that others struggle with many of the same fears and anxieties.

About the Author

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."

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