Fear of the Social World

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

This might be one of the most hardest of questions because i am really hard to understand.

I am considered on the lowest part of the ladder, no one in my school hates me but at the same time dont love me, there not like ”hey wassup dude wanna hang or stuff?” with me, they also dont even say a word to me in class. Im always silent in class so that te teacher wont punish me plus i have one best friend and he is the only friend i hang out with. I never leave my house, i am always at home watching tv or playing videogames. Even when i go online on msn no one even says anything to me.

Now this is the main issue and i bet is the main cause of my dillema: i have no idea of social interaction: i dont even know what people talk about between each other. Let’s pretend i was with my school friend, what do we talk about becuse i have no idea, ill aways stay silent. There is this girl i met which is one of the teacher’s daughter in my dad’s university and when i sit with her, i dont say a word because i have no idea what to say or talk about. I am sooo depresed and im sure that no one understands me and i just want to know how can i become a social person? Thank you

A. I’m sorry that you are experiencing such a difficult time. Social interaction has been a challenge for you but it may not always be that way. It may be something that you’re struggling with now but you are not destined for a life of isolation and solitude. Social skills can be developed with practice.

You may be surprised to know that many people struggle with social interaction. You are not alone. It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone. I’m wondering if anyone has taught you effective social skills?

Some people are more extroverted than others and this trait may make it easier for them to be social. You may be shy and unsure of yourself and this inhibits your ability to interact with others.

One thing to keep in mind is that you may have inaccurately characterized your social skills. You mentioned that you are depressed. It’s possible that depression is clouding your judgment. It may be leading you to perceive many or all situations or self characteristics from a negative standpoint. It’s clear that you feel the struggle with social interaction but your skills may be better than you realize or give yourself credit for.

Below I list several ideas that you may want to try on your own to develop social skills but it is important to acquire an objective opinion. You need to know where you stand. You could ask a respected family member, your parents or a therapist for their opinion about your social skills. You may be pleasantly surprised by their answer.

  • Pay attention to the people around you. Instead of focusing on how you feel in a particular social situation focus on other people. This may serve to decrease or eliminate your nervousness because you’re less focused on yourself and how you are feeling in a particular situation. It moves the focus onto others and may force you to listen to what they’re saying.

  • Pay attention to details. Similar to the above suggestion, this involves focusing on the details of the people you are interacting with or the environment. For instance, pay attention to the clothes they’re wearing, the decorations in the room, or a person’s tone of voice, and so forth. Again, this focuses your attention on something else and not on you and your feelings. If you’re less focused on yourself then it may help to decrease your fear and anxiety.
  • Learn by observing others. If there is someone or a group of people who you believe have superior social interaction skills, try to watch and learn. Are they doing something that you don’t? What do they do that you wish you could do? Observing the interactions of others might help you develop the skills that you feel you lack.
  • Change your attitude. You do not think you are very good at social interaction but as I mention above, you may be incorrect about your perception of your skills. Realize that even if your social skills are not as good as you would like, they can be developed.
  • Put yourself in situations that increase the likelihood that you will have to interact with others. The more you practice the better your skills will be.
  • Take a public speaking class. Public speaking is the number one fear among many individuals. The good news is that after taking the course, many people are able to overcome their fears of public speaking. If you have the opportunity to take a public speaking course, you should.

As I remarked above, your social skills may be better than you think. If you feel that your social skills could be improved, then speak to your parents about enrolling you in a program or training course that could help you acquire the skills you desire. If there are no programs then ask your parents to take you to a therapist. A therapist could help you develop these skills. I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Fear of the Social World. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/25/fear-of-the-social-world/