Conquering your fear of meeting new people can open you up to new opportunities and life experiences. Interacting with strangers is necessary to be successful at work, to develop meaningful relationships and to succeed in everyday life. If you are shy, introverted or suffer from social anxiety, you probably experience a great deal of stress regarding these normal interactions. Patience and practice can help you reduce this fear.
Start Out Slowly
Don't expect your fear of meeting new people to be conquered overnight. Start out by challenging yourself to take small steps toward being more social. Create a goal, such as smiling at a stranger in the checkout line, that you can work on for a couple of weeks. Once you become comfortable with your small goal, you can move on to tackling larger goals. Breaking down the process into small steps will reduce your fear and make your goals seem more attainable. During the process, you will probably experience some of the things that you feared, such as being rejected or ridiculed. But the experience may help you realize that your fears are not as terrifying as you made them out to be.
Work on Lowering Your Anxiety
Just the thought of meeting a stranger can trigger anxiety symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating, if you suffer from shyness or social anxiety. An important part of facing your fears is to lower your anxiety levels in general. Work on reducing stress in every area of your life. Practice yoga, meditation, exercise or any other activity that can provide anxiety relief. Schedule at least 30 minutes each day to work on developing a more calm and centered attitude. Many professionals recommend using visualization to conquer fears. According to Calm Clinic's website, you can practice a visualization exercise by relaxing in a comfortable place and engaging in deep breathing until you are in a completely relaxed state. You then begin to visualize yourself talking to strangers and continue working on deep breathing to stay relaxed. After some time, you will find that your anxiety symptoms will be reduced when you are actually interacting with a new person.
Reframe Your Thoughts
Negative thoughts are often a debilitating factor in people with social anxiety. These thoughts can paralyze you by making you feel inadequate, unprepared or the subject of ridicule. Replacing an unhelpful thought, such as "people will think I'm weird if I talk to them" with "people will enjoy talking to me" can help you gather the courage to approach new people. Numerous studies have found that cognitive behavioral therapy that involves reframing negative thinking has been successful in treating people with social anxiety. A study published in the October 2013 issue of "Cognitive Therapy and Research" studied 606 subjects with social anxiety and found that those who worked on reframing their thinking felt more in control in social situations and were able to approach new people.
One of the biggest concerns about meeting new people can be not knowing what to say to them or having an awkward conversation. Prepare yourself with conversation topics that you can use if you don't know what to say when meeting a new person or when you come across an uncomfortable silence. Make a list of subjects that your friends seem to enjoy talking to you about. Stay up to date on current events, sports or news that you can use to break the ice when talking to a stranger. If you feel prepared, you will feel less nervous about having a conversation with a new person.
Lauri Revilla has been writing articles on mental health, wellness, relationships and lifestyle for more than six years. She moved to San Antonio, Texas, from Mexico in 2006. She holds a Master of Science in Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University.