Does the idea of making small talk at cocktail parties — no matter how strong the drinks — make you nervous? If your answer is “yes,” then I have a simple solution that doesn’t require avoiding social situations: At your next party, try actively doing something nice for someone else. Socially, this could mean anything from offering to arrange all the flowers guests bring as gifts or getting drinks for guests to replenishing the platter of pigs in a blanket.
As we start another season of holiday cocktail parties and dinners, it’s worth revisiting this study out of the University of British Columbia. It showed that when people with social anxiety do something nice for someone else, they feel more comfortable in a social situation and can actually mingle more easily. As the study outlines:
“Acts of kindness may help counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment. It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
These aren’t grand gestures. They’re small acts of kindness – like grabbing a fresh cup of coffee for your co-worker, doing your roommate’s dishes, donating to a charity or, in the case of the cocktail party, replenishing glasses with champagne – experienced less social anxiety than those who didn’t. They were more outgoing and less worried about rejection. It all lead to less anxiety and better relationships. (Just think, the hostess will be grateful, too.) And that’s something worth toasting to.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman