I’m going to share with you a little secret that most conversational experts won’t often admit… On average, the first three to five conversations that you start every day will suck.
That’s right! No matter what level of proficiency you‘re at, or how talented a conversationalist you are, the first few exchanges of the day will probably be a little rough around the edges. You’ll be prone to stumble over your words, get tongue tied and run out of things to say.
Here’s some good news: this phenomenon is completely normal and nothing to get worried about!
Approach anxiety, the so-called term given to that icky feeling we experience at the prospect of breaking the ice, is a product of the fear of being judged by others. Unfortunately, the first few conversation you have every day will likely not be your best.
I suspect our mind secretly knows this on a deep level, which leads to it making us continue to behave in a way that keeps us stuck in the dead-end position of avoiding conversations entirely (and safe from being socially judged by our rusty performance).
This is why very often, we’ll see someone and think about talking to them – only to duck out at the last moment and do nothing. It’s almost like you want two opposite things, to be social and safe.
This little mental battle in your mind will often direct you to the safer route of not talking to anyone at all. Here’s a (friendly) wake up call: nobody cares what is going on in your mind! If anything, other people are far too busy trying to deal with their own thoughts, fears, and psychoses!
The key to overcoming approach anxiety is to first accept that you will almost always be dealt a daily dose of rustiness, whereby your first conversations of the day will be stumbling affairs. Now, just like a good athlete will warm and stretch his muscles before he sprints down a race track, you need to warm up your brain and vocal gear before throwing yourself head first into (real) conversations.
Warming up will help you push through that impairment of getting tongue tied, so make a goal that each day you’ll get your first few conversations out of the way as quickly as possible. Doing this will put you in a more talkative mood.The more talkative you are, the more you can express your emotions, which as I’m sure you’re aware by now is the key to a successful conversation.
Once you have this momentum behind you from warming up, you will soon feel like you’re on a roll, and this is where the magic happens as you’re spontaneous alter ego gladly takes over.
Three important tips when going through your warm up conversations:
Remember, if you’re on your way to an important social event, or something that requires significant social interaction, make sure you get warmed up beforehand! After all, I don’t want you pulling any muscles.
As shown in this video, the conversations don’t have to be anything amazing, it’s just about having a laugh and getting yourself into a positive talkative state, ready to take on the rest of the day in style.
Doing warm up conversations helps you to build powerful momentum: just like a boulder gathering pace as it rolls down a hill, you’ll build up more and more energy until you find talking to everybody not quite as big a deal as it was earlier in the day. Of course, at the end of the day, you fall asleep and the momentum drops once again. This is why the conversations you have the next day will be rusty once more.
Hence, I recommend you stick with this exercise for 21 days. That’s a sizeable commitment in discipline but it will absolutely nuke your momentum, hopefully to the point where the feeling of talking to random people becomes as simple as tying a shoelace and you’ll not feel the need to warm up because you have overcome your approach anxiety!
Somewhat paradoxically, your battle with approach anxiety will last as long as your journey to improve your social skills. Most people do not get approach anxiety because they are living quiet and shy lives and simply have not encountered the phenomenon! Look at approach anxiety as a symptom of you bettering yourself -it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in a losing battle with it though! With enough grit and determination, you’ll come to view anxiety as a challenge that 99% of people dare not face (and who will never be charismatic either!)
Now it’s worth remembering, your social skills are always prone to slumps: these are periods in your life when you feel like you’re right back at square one and all your hard earned skills mysteriously vanish. A slump usually happens once you stop practising your communication skills. In the same way that an athlete will lose his muscle mass if he stops training, you will eventually lose your momentum.
This is when approach anxiety rears its ugly head once more and keeps you firmly stuck in a rut. You’ll know what I mean if you feel too nervous or shy to talk to anybody, which reinforces your frustrating position. The good news is you can beat it again, you just have to get used to warming up once more. Make it fun like I did in the video, and slip some cheesy lines in!
Here’s to your success!
PS: If you’re wondering what to say to people when you do approach them and break the ice, then be sure to watch the next two episodes of The Vault: I’ll share several simple techniques that’ll help you to never run out of topics to talk about!