I wanted to write this blog post for everyone who feels "you" are the ONLY one who feels uncomfortable, shy or otherwise uncertain in groups of people when you may be perfectly comfortable 1-on-1 or in small groups.
You would be amazed at how common this is…while people can be freaked out by the opposite (being 1-on-1) we do get roughly 4X more people that are trying to improve their comfort zone in groups than in individual interactions.
In fact, I would say that being able to interact in social groups is the 2cnd most common driver people have for working through the system in Attracting Greatness…and perhaps the #1 benefit they see coming out of this effort.
I can certainly relate, given the choice I would much rather meet individually or in small groups to interact with friends or business partners, but over time I have figured out some ways to become much more comfortable and much more effective in larger groups as well.
First, let's look at some of the reasons why groups make people shy or feel uncomfortable:
- Lack of control: This is a big one for most people who consider themselves "shy", "introverted" or a little on the quiet side. For those of us who prefer slower, quieter interactions with people we tend to know better, control is a major factor in those relationships. It turns out what we fear most in social interactions is our own ability to "keep up" or appear to "perform well" which becomes tougher when things aren't as controlled or staged.
- It's All About Me…But Is It? Another related concept to #1 is the pressure and attention we put on our own role in social interactions. We place such huge importance on our part of the interaction the pressure to perform (again feeding back into the need for control) is immense…in 1-on-1 interactions we can both "perform" better and limit the impact of a bad performance. Nothing is more terrifying to someone battling shyness than looking bad in front of a large group of people who are judging us.
- Doubt Our Own Skills: Again, not unrelated to the previous two concepts is our self-perception…namely, the doubt we have reinforced in our subconscious mind over the years in our ability to interact in large group settings. From one uncomfortable event our minds can expand the impact to such a degree that we have defeated our chances of ever interacting in groups again.
So what can we do about shyness in groups?
- We can get used to operating without total control. It really is not healthy having to have full control of every situation in your life at all times anyway, so this is something you want to get used to giving up in your life. Oddly enough, when you learn to not FORCE control you actually get more of it by gaining confidence in yourself. How do we get used to operating without control – just do it (as Nike says!). As with anything else, the more you practice, the more you see that you CAN do well, that you DO have strengths you were previously unaware of and that the worst that can happen is typically nowhere near the worst you imagined.
- Put the focus back on the group (and take pressure off of yourself to perform). At the very worst, you end up blending into the background as you "learn the ropes"…so what? Let's be realistic here, in larger group settings it is NOT all about you…in fact, it's mostly NOT about you, so be comfortable with that, ease up and just work on blending in and watching other people.
- Reverse the years of self-doubt…just as we have built layers and layers of self-doubt about our abilities interacting with groups, we can tear those down by replacing them with positive affirmations, images and self-talk that will (over time) take the place of the negative conditioning. Focus each day on positive thoughts, images and statements about our ability to be comfortable, likeable and effective in large groups. Within days you will notice a difference and over weeks you will notice BIG changes in your ability to communicate with groups.
Shyness around large groups of people can be overcome…take it from yours truly.
I have to say I still prefer to interact with people 1-on-1 or in small groups, but I have long since overcome that terror of being a small pea in a large group…and now there is very little effort to be myself in these group settings. Put these principles into practice and the same can go for you.