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Overcoming the fear of new people.

Seeing someone who intrigues you, but being too fearful to talk to them. Is a tormenting experience.

I spent a most of my life, battling with this problem. Until I found a way to stop fearing people. Today I’m going to share it with.

This post contains my 5 powerful steps for overcoming the fear of talking to new people. If you follow this guide, step by step. You will unlock the ability to approach anyone, within 2 weeks.


How others perceive you - overcoming fear of new people


1. Identify your triggers – Discover what must be overcome. 


What are triggers?

A trigger is an experience that causes you to respond in a specific way.
Your triggers are a product of your subjective view of the world.
Made up of past experience and preconceived notions about your environment.

In the scenario of approaching someone new. Most people default to the belief that they will get rejected. Even though that is very rarely the case.

Fear destroys the desire to converse with new people. As a result, the experiencer never comes to discover that the fear of rejection is irrational.

Each time you choose not to approach someone. You are strengthening your belief about rejection. Enhancing your fear response to this trigger.

If you were to approach 10 new people. You would witness first hand that rejection is very uncommon. Changing your subjective view of approaching people. Reprogramming your unconscious response to this task.

If this sounds a little bit confusing. Read the next 4 step and you will better understand what I’m trying to convey.


What causes this default negative response?

Here’s a list of triggers that may cause you to feel fear around new people…

Inferiority complex– An unreasonable feeling of inadequacy around other people.
It’s common to assume everyone else around you has got their life more together than you. Based on a very small part of what you see, hear and know about them.

This is a result of many cognitive biases and is a complete construct of your own thoughts. There is no one on this planet that you aren’t worthy of speaking to.

If someone does feel superior to you. They are not worth getting to know anyway. If you were a fly on the wall in anyone’s life.
You would soon come to discover that they are as dysfunctional as the rest of us in their own special way.

Inferiority complexes create feelings of unworthiness that transform into fear. A fear that you will not experience acceptance by the other person, because they are better than you.

The solution…

I’ve battled with an inferiority complex for my entire life. It is a result of childhood experiences ( Big or Small ) that program a sense of self-doubt.

It is not something you can eliminate, without doing a significant amount self-development. But you can acknowledge it’s presence and choose to override it.

If this trigger resonates with you. Next time you want to approach someone new and fear rises within you. Bring your present moment awareness to the fear and say to yourself in your head. ( or out loud if no one is close by ).
” This fear is a product of my inferiority complex. It has no real-world relevance “.

This won’t make the fear go away. But by identifying the source of the fear, then exposing its falsehood to your conscious mind. You will be able to override it and engage in the situation regardless.

 


Insecurity – A fear of judgement. This often stems from the rejection we have towards certain aspects of our self.

Insecurities take many forms. They can be something about your physical appearance. Rejection in a past experience. Or even something you don’t like about your own personality. More often than not, it’s difficult to put an exact label on the insecurities you have. You may just feel exposed at thought of approaching someone new.

Insecurities gain power over you from negativity biases. Negativity bias is the glass half empty lens. Through which a large majority of the population see the world.

Our brains have evolved to pay extra attention to the negative. This helped to keep us alive when were rising to the top of the food chain.

A negativity bias approaches a situation with a balanced positive and negative outcome. Choosing to focus on the negative. You can imagine how this accentuates insecurities.

The solution…

Completely eliminating insecurities is not an easy task. But again, done through deep self-development.
By-passing insecurities to overcome your fear is quite simple. It requires is ramping up optimism.

When entering a conversation with someone new. Identify your mind’s fear of judgement is a result of a negativity bias. Then, Switch your focus to all the positive things you like about yourself.

For some, this may seem difficult at first. It is common for people to be unaware of the good in themselves. Take it from me, or ask a close friend or family member.
Every human being has more good traits than bad. Society chooses to put a magnifying glass on the bad. They too are insecure and have a negativity bias.

Honing your optimistic bias may take some practice. Create a list of all the compliments you’ve received or given yourself. Read this list every day until you’ve memorised it. This is a simple way to boost your optimism.


Creating a list of all the things you like about yourself - overcoming fear of new people


Societal expectations In certain scenarios, you may feel fearful of societal expectations. This manifests as racial, gender-specific, age-related, status etc. While social segmentation still exists. It does so more in our minds than in reality.

The solution…

 

 
Remind yourself that the modern world has almost liberated itself from social segmentation. Rendering your fear, irrational.
 
If for some freak reason, the person you approach is actually an archaic, anti-social being. Reframe the scenario as an opportunity to liberate yourself.
Embrace your gender, culture, age. Stand proud in the face of discrimination. Exercise your self-acceptance.
 
A strange thing happens in a scenario like this. If you fear approaching someone due to societal expectations. You will actually benefit more from them rejecting you.
Empower yourself to rise above the low conscious behaviour of the other person. It is more empowering than experiencing acceptance.
 
Replicate this way of thinking with all rejection.
Whenever you stand up for your true self in the face of someone else’s discrimination. Your love for self, flourishes.
 
Authenticity = Freedom

Perceived outcome – What we fear most, is the perceived outcome. Take a moment to appreciate your fear is not of the approach or actual conversation.
You fear the outcome. You fear rejection or a lack of acceptance.

The solution…

As we have discussed, your perceived outcome is actually very unlikely to occur. It is a product of your negativity bias or inferiority complex. Even in the face of rejection, you will become a better person as a result of it.


Fear of running out of things to say – While more of a surface level problem. Not knowing what to say can be as stagnating as some of the other deep seeded psychological barriers.

The solution…

Small talk is actually a skill that can be learnt.
By deepening your understanding of small talk, then putting it into practice. You will soon overcome your fear of running out of words.

The most effective step you can take towards enhancing your small talk. Is to cultivate a deepened sense of curiosity. By becoming interested in the world and the people around you, you will never run out of questions.


Changing the beliefs you have about others and the world around you - overcoming fear of new people


2. Change your beliefs – Eliminate unconscious fear 


Reframe Your Thoughts…

The next step in overcoming your fear of talking to new people. Is to change the beliefs you have about yourself and the world around you.

The most important aspect of change is altering the stories you tell yourself. This means changing your core belief about who you are.
You can use all the willpower you like. But if you don’t change your narrative, you will always return to the default self you have created.

An example of this is wanting to lose weight. But having the belief that you have big bones. As long as you believe “I have big bones”. You will not believe you have the capacity to become ‘slim’.
Your mindset will lack the capacity to take the necessary action, required to change.

Mind over matter.

I’m going to list all the mental shifts required to overcome the fear of approaching people. Pick and choose the ones that are most relevant to you, then write them down.

If you’re serious about this, you will write each belief out 5 times every morning. Until you are no longer scared of talking to new people.

This may sound overkill, but trust me it’s not. Writing and reading affirmations is a powerful way to rewire your unconscious mind. Whatever you put your focus and intention towards will manifest in your reality.

Each time you choose to make a positive change in your life. Your old self must die and a higher self is born.


Becoming a higher version of yourself - overcoming fear of new people


List of new beliefs…

 
Being shy doesn’t have to be who I am It’s easy to hide behind the label of being shy. I have done this in the past. From time to time, I still catch myself leveraging this excuse.
The difference now is that when I realise I’ve slipt back into this narrative. I step out of it and execute what needs doing.
 

New belief…

 
Shy is not a personality trait. It is a mask that we hide behind. Everyone is shy until they choose to step out from behind the safety of this narrative. You are as confident as you enable yourself to be.
 
From this moment on, never identify as shy again. The words we use to encapsulate our expression are powerful mediators of what we are actually able to do or be.
 
Do not confuse shyness for introversion. It’s ok to enjoy time alone, but no one should fear other people.

It’s Not All About Me – I call this spotlight syndrome. We are the centre of our own attention. So we assume that everyone else pays that same level of attention to us.
Everyone is the hero of their own story. No one is paying as much attention to you as yourself.

When you enter a new situation, it feels as though the people around you are watching your every move.
Spoiler: they aren’t. They feel the same way as you. For every 10 mistakes you make, others might not even notice one of them.

New belief…

No one is watching my every move. It’s not all about me. If I approach this person, they will be much more focused on what they are saying and doing.

So relax…


Everyone feels the same you The majority of people are just as fearful as you of new interactions.
Especially in the age of social media, where real-world interaction is diminishing.
 
By approaching someone new and striking up a conversation. They are more likely to respect you for having the confidence to do so, rather than judging you.
 
The people who do not have this fear, have been in your position at some stage in their life. They will empathise with your fear and respect you for stepping up and overcoming it. If they don’t, they are not the calibre of person you want to associate with anyway.
 

New belief…

 
The fear of talking to new people is universally held. People will respect you for stepping outside your comfort zone. Those who don’,t aren’t worth your time. 

When you are calm, everything feels calm around you. When you are anxious. everything feels anxious around you – The way you see the world is a reflection of your own internal state.
 
If you are panicking and stressed, the world will seem fast, furious and overwhelming.
Take some deep breaths, slow down. Your state will magnify your experience.
 

New belief…

 
My experience of the world is a mirror of my internal state. 

Stop focusing on them, start focusing on me – Stop worrying about what the other person will think. Focus on what you will gain from the situation.

New belief…

By approaching this new person and striking up a conversation, I will grow as a person.
Regardless of what they think or how they react.


Stop assuming what people think  – All your preconceived beliefs about the person you are about to approach are fake. If you by into the beliefs your mind creates about other people you will always be afraid.

New belief…

My prejudices create irrational fear. They have no relevance and degrade my potential as a human being.


Self-acceptance is subjective – Most peoples action and feelings align with what society deems appropriate and acceptable.
Create your own standards. Don’t buy into societies expectations of who you need to be to accept yourself. Aim to be polarising and take pride in your appearance no matter how you look.

Embody the essence of your authentic being. It far surpasses any sense of acceptance or fulfilment society can provide you.

New belief…

I dictate my self-acceptance, not society. I embrace everything that is me, especially in the face of others. I know this will set me free.


Everyone you see is an extension of your own lens of the world – Even the way you perceive people is subjective.
Your interpretation of someone’s reaction to you is a construct of your lens of the world.

When plagued by the negativity bias. Even the most beautiful personalities you meet will appear to be judging you.

New belief…

My perception of experiences I have with other people. Appear the way my lens through which I view the world presents them.

Being rejected by someone is only possible if already reject my self on some level.


You are speaking with another piece of you – Humans are not individuals. We are part of a collective that is humanity.
We are all interconnected on a level deeper than any of us can comprehend.

This beautiful realisation can liberate you from much of the fear that manifests through individuality.

New belief…

The person I am about to approach is actually a part of me on a grand scale. Why should I fear a fear a part of myself ( Humanity)?


Embrace failure The only way to ever reach success is to fail, learn, adapt and repeat. If you can reframe failure as the powerful lesson that it is. Rather than a negative self-degrading experience. You will have no further problems.
Get excited to fail.
 

New belief…

 
I embrace failure as it is the fastest road to success and the quickest way to grow.

Leverage suffering to inspire growth – Use your fear of rejection as fuel. Get angry about the paralysing effects of fear. Change your tone, Fuck fear, fuck rejection. This is who you want to be.

New belief…

Pain and suffering are one of the most powerful motivators. I use the energy these emotions create to take action on my goals.


Even if you get rejected, you’ll feel amazing regardless – You’ll soon come to discover that the outcome is irrelevant. The fact that you executed the approach will transform your anxiety into euphoria

New belief…

Facing fear feels amazing, regardless of the outcome.



3. Create a plan – Take small steps towards eliminating fear.


In this section, I’m going to lay out a plan of actionable steps. You are guaranteed to overcome your fear of talking to new people if you follow every step.

These are the steps I followed personally to crush my fear of approaching and talking to new people.

Start Out Slowly…

1.

Reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem While not compulsory. This process is a lot easier if you develop practices that reduce your anxiety. This includes diet, sleep patterns, exercise habits etc.
 
Develop these habits while working towards overcoming your fear of the approach. Growth in one area will boost the growth in others. Creating a powerful momentum snowball effect.

2.

Spend time alone – As I discussed earlier, your fear may spawn from insecurity.

A powerful way to grow a stronger relationship with yourself is to spend some time alone.

By spending the majority of your time with others. It often covers up the deeper feelings within yourself. Spending time alone will expose these and enable you to work towards overcoming them.


3.

Don’t talk, smile – For this first step, all I want you to do is go for a walk in a public area. Make eye contact and give your warmest smile to every single person you walk past or near.

I would recommend aiming to do this to 100 people, o give you a tangible metric. But, you will be able to tell when you are comfortable with this. Then you can move to the next step.

You will begin to notice that you fear making eye contact with certain types of people more than others.

I find smiling at professional looking males or, attractive females to be the most daunting.

This is a very simple and unthreatening way to end your fear of the hardest part of any approach. Once you have made eye contact with someone and smiled. If they smile back, you have entered their space of attention.

Do not fear people who do not return your smile. Some people may not even attempt to make eye contact with you.
From my experience. Only about 33% of people will actually make an effort to acknowledge your existence in a public place.

I have reason to believe this figure would vary depending on your location.
For best results, go to a park or a river with a walkway. People walking the opposite direction to you, are very easy targets. Plus the eye contact is only momentary.

Be warned. It can be very awkward when approaching someone straight ahead, If they are too far away to acknowledge.
The trick here is to pretend you’re looking at the scenery until the last second. Then casually tilt your head for the smile and eye contact.

Be sure to play this out casually. I have had many experiences where I violently shift my head at the last second. Causing the person recoil in fright.


4.

A simple greeting – Like the previous exercise, go to a public place. Somewhere different from last time, to prevent heightened confidence from being comfortable with the environment.

This time, hold your eye contact for a few seconds after your smile. Followed by a simple “hello” or whatever greeting floats your boat.

The key is to say hello in a way that does not invite conversation. Greet them and look away. If you say “hello” and stare at them or posture towards them. They may feel inclined to stop and talk.

I recommend wearing headphones until you feel comfortable with this exercise. If someone does try to engage in a conversation you can continue walking. Pretending not to hear them.

It’s worth noting, these steps assume worst case fear. If at any stage you feel comfortable enough to engage in full-blown conversation, by all means, do so. These steps enable you to learn to walk before you run. In the least threatening way possible.


5.

Eliminate the chance of rejection The next step is the hardest transition. You are now going to engage in small talk. The key here is to find situations where you will not face rejection.
 
Go to cafes, shops, help desks or anywhere that offers some sort of service. Make very light conversation with the people behind the counter.
Again, at this stage, we are still aiming to mitigate rejection. By going to places where people are literally paid to talk to you. You remove the risk of rejection and even minimise the chances of looking like a fool. You can make very light conversation and exit as soon as you run out of things to say.
 
You may benefit from repeating this step a few times. The confidence growth curve is quite mellow here. It may take a while to overcome the fear that arises in this situation.

6.

Join social groups – You are now ready to meet ‘real people’ and have real conversations. This step is definitely the scariest. But, you will have built up a decent amount of momentum by now, so forcing yourself to do this shouldn’t be too hard.
 
In this step, go to a website like “https://www.meetup.com” and find topical social meet-ups to attend. I recommend attending groups that align with your genuine interests. This makes it very easy to build rapport with the people there as you will have a common interest.
 
Take note that if you do make a fool of yourself, you can walk out and you never have to see any of them again. While unlikely, keeping this in mind eliminates a lot of the pressure.
 
These groups immerse you in foreign interactions in foreign environments. If you happen to enjoy the group meeting then that’s a bonus
 
I recommend attending at least 10 different groups. While this may seem excessive, at this quantity you will grow significantly as a person. In more ways than socially as well.
You can divert this experience into networking practice as well. ( But that’s a different blog post ).

7.

The cold approach By now you will be skipping about with a spring in your step. Give yourself a pat on the back, you are killing it.
 
Now is the moment you have building towards – The cold approach. In this exercise, you will go to a random public location and approach as many people as possible. Your goal is to talk to each person for as long as possible.
 
The 5th section of this blog post will discuss how to execute this step smoothly.
 
Hard mode cold approach As an additional step, attempt to only approach people you find scary from the smiling exercise. E.g – Attractive members of the opposite sex.

8.

God mode Approach people and set specific challenges for yourself. E.g – Sing to them, dance for them. Make a fool of yourself.
While this might not be worth the time for most people. This step will make you inhumanly confident if that’s something you desire.

 


Note – I’ve noticed that confidence seems to build up after completing an exercise. This boost lasts till you go to bed that night. Upon awakening the next day, it feels as though you have lost some of it.
 
An appropriate saying would be 2 steps forward 1 step back. Sleeping acts as a sort of reset to our emotional state – For better or worse.
Do not let this deter you, its all part of the journey.


4. Set quantifiable goals to hold yourself accountable and track progress. 


It’s all well and good reading this post. But nothing will change unless you take action…

The following section outlines the most effective accountability strategies. Leverage these to hold yourself accountable.

Set tiny goals for yourself – Using the strategies from section 3. Create metric based goals and write them down.
I recommend taking each step from the previous section and creating a goal that aligns with it.

Once you have completed a goal, you can move onto the next step.

An example of small goals that will enable you to eliminate fear…

Step 1: Reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem

Goal 1: Exercise 3 times per week, sleep for 8 hours each night, Remove all sugary drinks from my diet.

Step 2: Spend time alone

Goal 2: Go on a 2 hour bush walk, once per week

Step 3: Smile at strangers in public

Goal 3: Smile at 100 strangers in a row without avoiding anyone

Step 4: Simple greeting

Goal 4: Greet 100 people in a row in public

Step 5: Service worker small talk

Goal 5: Talk to 30 service workers

Step 6: Join social groups

Goal 6: Join 10 social groups and attend at least 1 full session for each

Step 7: Cold approach

Goal 7: Cold approach 30 people

Step 8: Approaching people you find the most intimidating

Goal 8: Approach 5 people who fit the demographic/psychographic that you find most intimidating


 Have a strong emotional reason why – Before you set out to achieve your goals. It is crucial that you establish a strong reason for wanting success.

If your reason is not stronger than your fear, you will not follow through. Use something that either radically inspires you. Or the extreme suffering that will come as a result of failing to achieve your goals.

Examples

Radically inspiring reason why – “Enhancing my ability to overcome the fear associated with new people will greatly enhance my chances of success, in any endeavour I choose to embark upon.”

Extreme suffering orientated reason why – “If I do not beat my fear of approaching people I will suppress my ability to form healthy relationships. Greatly reducing my quality of life.

Identify your reason then, write it down next to your goals. Refer to this statement whenever you set out to achieve a goal.


Make it fun – While having fun is not vital for achieving your goals. It is a very powerful incentive.

Here are a few ways to make the experience more exciting…

Make it a challenge – Ask a friend to join you in seeking to overcome your fear of approaching new people. Create a leaderboard consisting of the different metrics of your goals and see who comes out on top.

Wager – If all parties are in enthusiastic enough, you can even create a wager. Put a significant amount of money up for grabs. For the first person to approach (x) amount of people.

Have someone hold you accountable – If you cannot find someone to join in with you. Find a friend you can report to. Share your experiences and stories with them. Cold approach stories often make for entertaining listening.



5. The execution – Optimising your ability to engage with others. 


In this final section, I will discuss the ways in which you can optimise your ability to approach and interact with new people.

Optimising your social ability…

Use anxiety as a trigger – When anxiety arises at the thought of an approach. Rather than responding to it by choosing not to engage. Make a habit of using the anxiety as a cue to begin your approach.

Train yourself to observe anxiety as it arises. Learn to identify it as a cue to execute an approach.


Quieten your mental chatter – When nervousness arises, our internal voice goes nuts. Accelerating its dialogue in a moment of panic. Rather than listening to these thoughts. Try to become intensely present.

Move your attention away from your internal state and into the external world. What colour clothes are they wearing? What unique characteristics do they have? What comes across as interesting about them.

These observations not only help to ground you in the present moment. They will also give you ideas for small talk to ease the tension of not knowing what to talk about.


Avoid overthinking – The mental chatter upon approach will always be negative. Avoid entertaining it, or you will inevitably talk yourself out of doing it.

Try observing the voice and saying to yourself. “These thoughts are my minds defence mechanism”. By identifying their presence, you will be able to override them.


Be Prepared If you fear having nothing to talk about. Create pre-made questions that you can default to when tension or awkwardness arises. But, if you remain calm and cultivate a genuine interest in the other person. Questions will naturally arise within you.
 
Embrace your curiosity. 

Learn the Art of Small Talk – Learning to make small talk will drastically improve your confidence when approaching new people. 

This is a very informative video on how to do this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F-S6rgf1-E / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Zu5ZZAG7I 


Change your physiology & Psychology – Use these physical and mental adjustments. They will reduce anxiety and heighten your chances of having a positive interaction.

They are…

1. Posture – Stand up straight with your shoulders back and your eyes fixed forward. This will boost your confidence ( try it now )

2. Breathing – Take deep, slow breaths. Breath from the very pit of your stomach. This will reduce your fear response on a physiological level.

3. Inner dialogue – Cultivate powerful self-talk. Tell yourself how amazing you are. Recall a moment of recent success. Seek to swing you thought patterns away from negativity and towards empowerment.


Repetition – At the end of the day, only experience will enhance your capabilities. You can learn all you want, but only once you start practising, will you see true results.


Momentum – The more you practice, the easy it becomes. Momentum is a powerful force in achieving any goal.
Remind yourself that each approach will get easier. It is a powerful incentive in the beginning.


Observation – Observe the way people respond when you talk and act in Certain ways. Observation and reflection are the most powerful tools for sharpening your social arsenal.

Don’t be afraid to try different things to find ways to best communicate ideas and build rapport.


Read win friends and influence people – I would like to finish this guide off with a book recommendation.
 
‘How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie’
 
It is the ultimate guide to social interaction. It is must read anyone who is serious about enhancing their social abilities.

If you’re looking for more confidence challenges check out this page – http://comfortzonecrusher.co
 
For anyone who completes the steps listed above, I’d love to hear your story.
Flick me a message on social media and we can chew the fat ( not limited to your experience with this protocol )
 
For entertainment and an insight into my daily practices, tools, philosophies and ideas.
 
Cut your learning curve in half by learning from the experiences on my blogs at– http://tom-lyons.com
 
For long-form audio content, perfect for your daily commute. Tune in to my podcast at – http://tom-lyons.com/podcast/
 
Illustrations by Tom Lyons

 

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