Research shows that being part of a supportive social network not only makes you happier, but is very important for health and long life. We all get fed up with our friends at times, but what can you do if you no longer feel able to connect to your social circle? Don’t give up – there are ways to be in good company again.
Understand the following topics:
- What went wrong with your social skills
- Quality matters more than quantity in friends
WHAT WENT WRONG?
If things have changed for you socially, the first important step is to understand why.
Have you changed? We all move on, so there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you haven’t really noticed how your values and the activities you enjoy have shifted, and you’re expecting to get the same buzz being with people with whom you no longer have much in common. This can happen at any age, but is most common when you’re in your twenties. Change is natural, and it’s sad when old friendships wither, but that’s life. Much better to face this than to try to cling on to what has little meaning
Have your friends changed? That’s possible, and that also is life. If your friends have moved on then it’s pointless trying to drag them back. The sooner you see this for what it is the sooner you’ll be able to find new friends that fit the bill.
Have you developed social phobia? This is quite common and does not have to take the form of full-blown panic. It may be that you’ve had a few knock-backs and you now feel vulnerable, or it could be that one of your friends has let you down or even been spiteful. It’s only natural that you want to protect yourself but social phobia needs to be taken seriously so it doesn’t harm you. See below for more helpful tips.
PURSUE YOUR INTERESTS
Chasing friendships can be counter-productive. People can sense if you’re desperate and they may withdraw. This isn’t because there’s anything in you to dislike. It’s just that folk may realise that almost anyone will do for you, and they don’t feel special.
If you get involved in what you love then everything will seem more natural. You will have lots in common with those around you and friendships will gradually form. Be patient! However much someone likes you, there’s only so many hours in the day and if a potential new friend already has loads of commitments and contacts, they may just not have time for you.
QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
You do not have to be a crazy extrovert to have a healthy social life. Some people love the feeling of having 500 friends on Facebook, others are contented with 5 good friends. Lots of friends does not mean you have any real connection to anyone, so concentrate on quality.
Sometimes you may fear you’ve lost your social skills when actually you’ve become more discriminating. Don’t judge your sociability by anyone else’s standards. Stick with what makes you contented.
OVERCOME SOCIAL PHOBIA
Most of us fear certain social situations some of the time. These arise because of our very primitive survival need to be part of a ‘pack’. In tribal days to be cast out meant death, and so any form of unpopularity can be very threatening, especially if you’re sensitive and lack confidence.
Don’t let social phobia cripple you, however long you’ve been suffering from it. Try these strategies:
- Face the threat. However hard this may be it’s the only way to introduce actual reality into the situation. Your brain has created a fear that’s not real. If you challenge this, gradually that faulty thinking will be corrected. Take small steps at first and get lots of support
- Stop imagining what others are thinking of you and focusing on how you appear to them. If you have any form of social phobia, your impressions will be distorted. Instead try imagining everyone naked, or using the toilet – this makes them all seem human and less powerful
- Don’t overthink. Easier said than done, it’s true, but overthinking and worrying are quite simply worse than useless. They are harmful. Embrace this fact and make a commitment to stopping this
- Change your lifestyle. This may seem irrelevant, but it isn’t! Get enough sleep, exercise properly, avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. If you can, stop smoking and drink only in moderation. De-clutter, adopt positive habits such as mindfulness and manage your stress. If you feel more ‘sorted’ it will increase your confidence
- Limit your use of social media and try not to judge yourself by your success or otherwise on it. True social skills and meaningful connections can only come face to face
HOW WE CAN HELP
We’ve looked at what might have gone wrong with your social skills, how to pursue your interests, realising that quality matters much more than quality in friendships and how to overcome social phobia. Hopefully this will have helped you with your social skills, but lots more support is also available, just at your fingertips. If you’re lost, lonely, confused or down, contact our helpful team of Readers and be lifted and put on track again.
PUBLISHED: 10 April 2018