A 5-Step Action Guide on How to Transform Your Social Confidence With “Change Psychology”

A 5-Step Action Guide on How to Transform Your Social Confidence With “Change Psychology”

 

Social Confidence and change are some of the most difficult topics to cover.

 

They are widely debated subjects and real challenges not only for individuals but also for organizations, countries and large social groups.

 

We all want to become better, stronger, healthier, more confident, more creative and more skilled.

 

But even if we get really inspired and start doing things differently, it’s tough to actually stick to our new endeavors. It’s more likely that this time next year you’ll be doing the same thing than pursuing a new change with ease.

 

Why is that? And is there anything you can do to make change easier?

 

The matter of fact is that there is.

 

With current scientific studies in neuroscience and psychology, despite its challenging nature, change can be achieved easier than we think. Leading books such as The Power of Habit, Switch, and Change Anything have cited numerous studies and real-life cases of people who have managed to embrace change and achieve miracles.

 

Today, however, I don’t want to cover change in general. I want to use the idea of change to scrutinize how the psychology behind change is the most important factor that affects your social skills.

 

More specifically, I want to give you a 5-step action plan using what scientists like to call “Change Psychology strategies” that you can adopt to improve your social confidence.

 

This is not an action plan that came to me organically. It is based on scientifically proven, crazy-but-true things that can make a huge impact in improving how you feel, act, and react when you socialize.

 

You may be wondering why I’m using a “change psychology” approach rather than a more direct “social skills” approach. The reason is because I’ve interviewed dozens of people who struggle with social anxiety and awkwardness and one of the most surprising things I’ve realized is that they’re strangely self-aware. They can call themselves out.

 

They know that they sometimes stutter, blush or say things at the wrong moment. The common streak among many of them isn’t that they don’t feel comfortable socializing, but that they don’t feel comfortable with themselves.

 

There is all sorts of weird advice out there like cheesy conversation starters and ways to trick people into liking you, but the common sentiment across most of the people I’ve interviewed about social anxiety and awkwardness is that they’re not truly confident with who they are. That tiny voice in their head that’s telling them they’re not good enough usually wins.

 

That tiny voice, however, is nothing more than a circuit in your brain that can be activated and deactivated on demand, as soon as you assume control over it.

 

Change Psychology deals exactly with this. It is an area of psychology that focuses on proven methods any individual can use in order to assume control over their mental processes and eventually initiate personality change.

 

Below you will find some very interesting, actionable steps you can take in order to begin tackling your inner psychology and improving your self-confidence and social momentum.

 

Social Confidence Step 1: Start with your SELF

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Psychological reactions to change 

 

As already mentioned above, the most usual problem people face when it comes to social interactions is the voice in your head that beats up on you when you say something silly or make a mistake. It’s similar to the voice that asks you what the people in the room are thinking about you, or the one that starts complaining and wants to make you angry and revengeful when you don’t get the attention you deserve (or at least the one you think you deserve).

 

All these different voices are part of your inner-self and manifest themselves in what we call social anxiety.

 

Social Anxiety is a very intimate topic. It is a topic rooted deep in the human psyche and as Quan discussed in his latest article, it comes from our inability to tame our inner child and eventually develop our adult self.

 

Despite the challenges this process raises, change psychology can become a great tool in our attempt to face them and eventually overcome them.

 

But to get you in the right frame of mind, let’s start with something called your “default future” which is a term from the book “Change Anything,” co-authored by six highly influential figures in the field of change. The authors talk about asking yourself these kinds of questions:

 

  • What does your future look like if you don’t improve your self-confidence? Describe and imagine this in vivid detail.
  • In your default future, who are your friends? What are you doing? Where do you live?

Now let’s contrast that with imagining what your future could be like if you were to successfully make the changes you want to make. Envision the future you truly want for yourself.

 

Don’t let any barriers limit you and don’t make weak excuses about how you hate people or how your current life is “good enough.”

 

  • In the future, you are confident with who you are and what you represent. Now, what does your world look like? Describe it in detail.
  • Where are you living? What do you do for work? Who are your friends? Who is your significant other?

Action item

 

After you’ve put some deep thought into those questions, write down your answers in a journal. Writing things down stimulates your brain’s reticular activating system, increasing your focus and attention to detail towards what you’ve written.

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One of the most helpful ways to start with your SELF is by developing positive mental habits, I wrote a post here that is helpful if you want to learn more.

Social Confidence Step 2: Identify the “bright spots” in your life

The Elephant and The Rider_cover2

One of the most popular books on change psychology is “Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The Heaths point out that psychologists believe our minds are governed by two systems: the rational mind, which is analytical and slow to act, and the emotional mind, which is impulsive and more susceptible to habit. It is these potentially conflicting systems that the authors label as the Rider and Elephant.

 

Perched atop the Elephant and holding the reins, the analytical Rider appears to be in control, but the emotional Elephant is powerful and enormous in size relative to the Rider. It’s not hard to imagine who gets the better of whom when there’s some disagreement about the way to go.

 

One of their proposed tactics in order to control this “abusive” relationship and eventually initiate change is to identify what they like to call “bright spots,” which are successful efforts worth emulating. Basically, bright spots are the few times you may have felt socially confident, even just for a brief period of time.

 

The authors also suggest two very empowering questions usually used in a special type of therapy called “Solution Based Therapy.” These intriguing questions are used to identify bright spots and transform people:

 

  1. If all your worries were to wash away while you were asleep one night, what’s the first small sign you’d see when you wake up to make you think the problem is gone?
  2. When was the last time you saw a little bit of this miracle, even for a short time?

We have all felt extremely confident at some point in our lives. Perhaps it was when you won first place at something. Maybe it was the time when you successfully negotiated a pay rise. Or the time you made an important sale.

 

Bring your memory back to that moment. Watch some photos of that day or check the messages you sent to your people letting them know of your success. Relive that moment mentally and that action will motivate you that it is possible to happen again and most probably will even give you direction of how to get there again.

 

Action item

 

Jot down at least two moments in your life when you truly felt socially confident. Perhaps it was when you managed to successfully get intimate with another person or when someone complimented you.

 

  • What did it feel like?
  • How did you get there?
  • What did you do differently?

For each of those moments, answer the following:

 

  • Who were you with?
  • Why did you feel comfortable?
  • What was the setting?
  • How many people were surrounding you?
  • What tactics can you replicate to feel that again, even just a tinge of it?

Noting down your bright spots will force you to think of the times you got the results you desired. You can analyze those situations and try to replicate them. Use them to prove to yourself that you can feel this way again.

 

Social Confidence Step 3: Achieve “Small Wins”

 

Karl E. Weick, a former Professor of Psychology and best-selling author, defines “small wins” as a “series of concrete, complete outcomes of moderate importance…” basically:

 

Small wins are micro-goals that are easily achievable.

 

Achieving small wins allows you to realize that you can achieve something, even if it is small and it empowers you to keep on improving. Remember, incremental improvements end up leading to groundbreaking accomplishments. It all starts with what you can do today.

 

So where do you start?

 

Action Items

 

First, you need to break down your high-level goal into smaller, more digestible chunks.

 

Make sure you follow the following criteria:

 

  • They must be super specific
  • They must have a deadline
  • They must have a small reward tied to each one
  • You must reward yourself for the action, not the result

Below you will find some real-life examples for improving social confidence. Depending on your life situations, these may or may not be applicable. That, however, doesn’t really matter. Create your own micro goals based on where you are.

 

For someone who may feel totally self-conscious and clam up whenever they are in a social setting, here’s something you can use:

 

Tiny goal #1: Walk with my chin up and make eye contact with 5 people on my walk home by Wednesday. If I can successfully do that, regardless of what the other person’s reaction is, then I’ll treat myself to a great dinner.

 

Tiny goal #2: Smile and greet 2 co-workers or classmates in the kitchen at work or university by the end of the day. If I can successfully do that, regardless of how my co-workers react, I’ll treat myself to a movie this weekend.

 

Notice how the goals are specific. Have a deadline and a small reward tied to the action, not the outcome.

 

It’s important to reward yourself on the action rather than the outcome because YOU can control doing the action.

 

How someone reacts is completely out of your control and you never want to solely rely on someone else’s action to direct your behavior.

 

When you achieve these small wins, take note of them and add more to your list.

 

Have fun with it!

 

Your goals can also be extreme comfort zone crushers, like getting rejected on purpose or wearing something totally funky in public, if you’re the type of person to do that. The secret here is to define your goals concretely.

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James Clear recently wrote a very interesting article on the topic called “How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using ‘Bright-Line’ Rules.”

 

Social Confidence Step 4: Identify Crucial Moments

 

Crucial moments are the times or circumstances which are most consequential for you. For some people, the crucial moment is a cue. If they make a tiny mistake, they’ll immediately start the negative self-talk in their head telling them how dumb they are. For other people, it’s when an attractive person greets them. They don’t know how to react or what to say. They stutter and get nervous.

 

We all have our own crucial moments that cue us into doing the things we don’t want to do, but can’t help doing.

the Power of Habit

In “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg, writes about the habit loop, which as we mentioned in a previous article, is made up of three things: cue, routine, and reward.

 

For example, a cue may be when you want to approach someone but that voice in your head tells you that the other person will be judging you and thinking that you’re not good enough. Within ten seconds you have completely psyched yourself out. You then justify not taking action because you have just “protected” yourself from rejection.

 

Let’s break down this example into the habit loop:

 

  • The cue or the “crucial moment” was the moment you realized you wanted to approach a stranger.
  • The routine is what your mind always does when it gets this cue. It tells you that you should not take action.
  • Finally, the reward is that mental justification that you have “protected” yourself from rejection.

Do you see how these negative mental habits can stop us from taking action? They are so important to interrupt and re-wire into new routines.

 

Action Item

 

Identify and write down your “crucial moments.” Be honest with yourself. You may want to ask a close friend or family member as well. You can also write them down as soon as you feel them so you can effectively move on to the next step.

 

Is it when you check social media and compare yourself to others? Is it when a stranger talks to you or when you talk on the phone with a specific person?

 

Here are some helpful questions:

 

  • What are the scenarios where you end up feeling down on your social confidence?
  • Where are you?
  • What time of day is it?
  • How are you usually feeling when this happens? (physically, emotionally, etc.)

Also, revise our article “6 Powerful Steps to Habitual Mastery” where we deal with the power of habit thoroughly.

 

Social Confidence Step 5: Make a Plan B

PLan-b

Now that you have identified your crucial moments, you are better equipped to handle them. The next step is to plan out exactly what you will do the next time you experience one of these crucial moments.

 

You may want to distract yourself, interrupt a thought your mind will trigger, excuse yourself from a situation, or perhaps you may tackle it head-on because you’ve already planned for it.

 

Here are some real-life examples:

 

  • Crucial moment Example #1: When I make a silly mistake, I’ll immediately start beating myself up in my head and feel really bad about myself.
  • Plan B: Right after I make a silly mistake, I will detach myself from the mistake by saying “That thing I did was silly and I’ll do my best to not repeat it.” Rather than telling myself that I’m stupid and personifying the mistake with my self-worth.

 

  • Crucial moment Example #2: I get really nervous when someone I don’t know begins to talk to me. I get flustered, stutter and don’t know what to say.
  • Plan B: As soon as this happens, I take a deep breath, close my eyes for a split second, and say “Hi, I’m James nice to meet you.”

 

  • Crucial moment Example #3: Right after a social interaction, I’ll replay the entire conversation in my head over and over and analyze it.
  • Plan B: As soon as I end a conversation, I know I’ll be tempted to replay the entire conversation in my head. So rather than doing that, I’ll distract myself by playing a quick game of Angry Birds on my iPhone or going for a walk.

 

Action Item

 

Using the scenarios from step 4, map out an exact plan on how you will handle each of those situations next time. Try out your plan. If you fail, that’s fine, you can try again or tweak the plan a bit based on your experiences. Treat this like an experiment. You won’t always be right the first time around and that’s fine. Give yourself permission to fail.

 

Read again our “10 Reasons Rejections lead to deeper connections” article to rewire your brain with regards to your perception towards rejections.

 

Conclusion

 

Remember, social skills are just that…skills. That means they can be learned, practiced and perfected. I’ve been working on this for years and am still continuing to learn new things.

 

By using the science around change to help us improve our social confidence we have a leg up. By diving into your self-talk and confidence, finding the bright spots, achieving small wins, identifying crucial moments and planning for them you can start to see incremental improvements that will bring your social confidence to the next level.

 

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Be strategic, set appropriate expectations, realize that changes don’t happen overnight and give yourself the room to experiment and have fun.

 

A great way to improve your social confidence in your day-to-day life is via the “30 challenges – 30 days – zero excuses” project. Challenge 13 is about initiating small talk with strangers and can work as a great way to apply the knowledge introduced in this article.

 

Also, if you want a methodical approach to improving your speaking skills “Speak like a leader” is a great handbook for that. In 250 pages I cover all the nuances of effective communication and propose strategic ways to tackle them.

 


This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi,  founder of Communicationfornerds.com. If you found this post helpful, visit her site and grab her free eBook: 5 Easy Ways to Avoid Awkward Conversations now!

 

Katrina helps people who struggle with social anxiety and social confidence by sharing strategies using change psychology, confidence building and habit transformation. 


 

References:

 

  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business. New York: Random House. 2012.
  • Heath, Chip and Dan. Switch. New York: Broadway Books. 2010.
  • Patterson, K., Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success. New York: Business Plus. 2011.

 

Katrina Razavi

Katrina is the founder of Communicationfornerds.com. She helps people who struggle with social anxiety and social confidence by sharing strategies using change psychology, confidence building and habit transformation.