Top 10 Things to Say to People with Social Anxiety Disorder

As a follow up to the article Top 10 Things Never to Say to People with Social Anxiety Disorder, this article teaches others what things they can say that will increase our confidence and make us feel like being more interactive with others. While we can learn to do it on our own, having the help of others, though rare, is always something that is appreciated. But, it must be done in the right way in order to be effective. Without any farther delay, here is the list.

    1. “I’m sure you’ll get it.” If we are seemingly lacking in some area of our life – not having a job, a significant other, or any constructive hobbies, it is generally because we are too afraid too try. People with social anxiety disorder have often experienced intense criticism, whether it be from parents, peers at school, or other authority figures. If you express your confidence in us, even if it does not look like we are able to do something, that boost in confidence will help a ton and will make us feel like trying to get whatever it is that is lacking in our lives.
    2. “That’s okay – bad things happen.” When we do really try hard at something and it fails to work the way we had hoped, we tend to engage in self-blame, which can often be very intense. For example, if we ask a girl out and she shoots us down, we become obsessed with the way in which we did it, feeling that something we did in the interaction must have caused it to not go our way. When you tell us that bad things happen to everyone, it makes us feel more like everyone. We feel as though it is okay to try and have things not go our way. You are pulling us out of this mindset of self-blame and moving us onto the same plane with everyone else. This is a very powerful thing to say when we are not doing well.
    3. “I see you’ve been feeling down lately. What’s going on?”

This is a very non-invasive method for asking us how we are feeling. So often, people try to pry things out of us, which makes us want to talk even less. If you just ask and refrain from even the slightest judgment or criticism, we would be very happy to talk with you and will continue to do so as long as we feel safe and comfortable.

  1. “It must be tough to _____ (go to work, go to school, talk to people etc…) when you have social anxiety disorder.” This statement makes us feel understood and validated, like it is okay for us to have the struggle that we have. Our condition is not one that is highly publicized and therefore people have a hard time understanding what we are all about. While you may not understand, if you take the time to listen and refrain from judgment we are more than willing to talk to you.
  2. “Hi there! I’m _____. Would you like to join us for (coffee, basketball, video games etc…)?” Introducing yourself and making a connection with us is a great way to bring us into the interaction. We would enjoy all the same things other people enjoy, but because of our concern with criticism for others, we sometimes seem like we are not having a good time. Invite us to do something with you, and more often than not we would be happy to join you.
  3. “What would you like me to do to help you?” This question is geared more towards parents, friends, or a significant other that knows someone affected by social anxiety disorder. You do not have all the solutions for social anxiety disorder, and quite frankly, sometimes we do not either. If we are having a tough time, just ask us what it is that you can do to help, and we will be able to identify something that you can do to help.
  4. “Good work buddy! Keep it up!” If we make a mistake at work, school, or in sports, please refrain from criticizing us. In our minds, we are already criticizing ourselves quite intensely, even for very minor mistakes. As a result, we will mentally leave the interaction or whatever it is we are doing for maybe even a few minutes. The best thing that you can do is to let us know mistakes are okay and encourage us to keep working away at the task. It pulls us out of our heads and back into what we are doing.
  5. “I was just curious about something. Could you explain to me why you ____ (stay in all the time, are not working, seem depressed etc…). Asking this in a non-threatening way will allow us to tell you what is going on inside of our heads. Sometimes, we engage in behavior that is very mysterious to others. If we do, just ask us in a kind way what is going on. Above all, please refrain from giving us advice at this very moment. If things are not going well, we are aware of it and do want to fix them, but we would rather just talk about what is bothering us now and address the fixing later.
  6. “I’m glad to see that you _____ (seem happier, are talking more, seem more relaxed etc…).” We are so used to hearing criticism from others and ourselves that if you notice even the slightest thing that seems to be going better in our lives and tell us, it might completely turn around our day. We might be bouncing off the walls with happiness if you notice something so small as us having a conversation with you or someone else.
  7. “I’m going to give you your space, but do remember that I am here to talk to you when you are ready.” This one is again especially geared towards parents, friends, and significant others of those with social anxiety disorder. Everyone, including us, needs space sometimes, and the best thing that you can do is to just allow us to be alone and think things over. If you let us know that it is okay to talk when we are ready, we will approach you when the time feels right.

There you have it! These are ten great ways to create better working relationships with people with social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety disorder have great talents that can add a lot to the world, but very often we are simply too shy or timid to display those talents to others, fearing failure. If you include us, however, you will find that we are quite likeable and kind people who can really add a ton, and when we feel safe and comfortable with you, we are more than happy to hang out with you and enjoy life.

If you do not remember any one of these ten tips, there are two important bottom lines to remember. The first one is that giving advice, coaching, or instructing falls on deaf ears. This embarrasses us, makes us feel inadequate, and turns us off in a heartbeat. We want your help, but just remain open and let us ask for it when we are ready. The second bottom line is to be positive, encouraging, and constantly expressing your confidence in us. We are very self-critical by nature and have people in our lives who are criticizing us and making things that much more difficult. We need to hear that we can do something right, that we are accepted, and that you believe in us.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and if you follow any of the guidelines in here, you will find that the people with social anxiety disorder in your life will be making progress by leaps and bounds every day!