How to Feel More Confident in Social Situations

It's not uncommon for people to be uncomfortable in social settings, especially when there's a lack of familiarity with the group.

And if you become increasingly self-conscious and assume that people aren't interested in talking to you, the problem is likely to get worse.

Especially if being anxious and avoidant results in fewer people engaging with you.

So, how do you break this pattern?

A straightforward way to help boost your confidence is to use the ‘acceptance prophecy.'

What is that, you ask?

It means that when you meet someone new, if you hold the belief that you are going to like them, they are more likely to like you.

In the Journal of Psychological Science, Stinson et al. (2011) had test participants who labelled themselves socially insecure complete a self-affirmation exercise.

When the researchers followed up with the participants both 4 and 8 weeks later, the self-affirmation group reported feeling less nervous and more secure than the control group.

Takeaway Message

Merely expecting to like people before you meet them makes it more likely they will like you (this is also known as the ‘acceptance prophecy’).

And this can be an incredibly important strategy to use if you struggle with the 'rejection prophecy.'

As you can probably guess, the rejection prophecy involves expecting people to dislike you, which leads to behaving nervously, which increases your chances of being socially rejected. 

So, if you are uncomfortable in social situations, I highly encourage you to try the acceptance prophecy. It could help make social outings more enjoyable.   

3 Quick Tips to Improve Social Confidence

Approximately 1 in 8 people struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder.

And while this figure is relatively high, it doesn't capture the number of people who feel uncomfortable in social situations but don't meet the criteria for a disorder.

So, let's look at 3 more strategies that can help you feel more comfortable in social settings.

1. Sit Up Straight

The body and the mind are clearly connected, and it has been exciting over the past two decades to watch research move upstairs to the brain.

Not surprisingly, we’ve come to learn that the way you carry your body can affect how you feel.

Brinol et al. (2009) studied the impact of posture on self-confidence.

Results showed that study participants who were sitting up straight were more likely to believe the positive things the researchers asked the participants to write about themselves.

So, if you want to feel more confident quickly, make a point of sitting up straight.

2. Imagine a Positive Future

It helps to picture what you want, and this is simply more than just a pleasant thought.

Picturing a positive future identity can be incredibly helpful when you encounter stressful everyday experiences that shake your confidence.

Destin et al. (2018) found that when students were asked to imagine a positive future identity, they displayed more confident body language and performed better on a tough academic test.

Creating a positive identity for yourself will not only increase confidence, but it will increase your likelihood of success in the future.

3. Confidence Counts

In the first study, we looked at the power of the acceptance prophecy (i.e., when you expect to like people, they are more likely to like you).

But what if you expect the whole social situation to go well?

Masi et al. (2011) conducted a meta-analysis (an analysis of a collection of studies) that showed that changing how people think about social situations (i.e., think more positively about these situations) helps to increase the chance that social situations will go well.

Interesting! This appears to be one of those situations where thinking positively is clearly more than just a collection of pleasant thoughts.

Are there certain social situations that make you uncomfortable?

How do you deal with it?

Join the conversation on Facebook!

Article by

Trevor Sullivan, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

September 21, 2020