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3 Ways To Build Stronger Friendships And Overcome Social Anxiety



You may have a few friends or maybe you are looking for friends. Either way, you don’t feel like you have people that you are close with. You may notice you feel lonely in your life or in your friendships, and that you want more out of your friendships. Maybe social anxiety gets in the way and you just don't know what to do to strengthen your friendships.


You want someone you can text who will text you back, someone you can call or hang out with regularly, and someone you can confide in when life gets difficult. But how do you find friends and build stronger friendships with those you have?


1: Make A List Of Friends And Activities To Build Stronger Friendships And Work On Social Anxiety


Sometimes we need to see what is in front of us before we venture out for new. It may be helpful to make a list of friends you do have, or people you would want to be friends. These could be coworkers, people at the gym, or even neighbors. If you don’t have many people on this list, it can be helpful to consider checking out activities in your area where you could meet friends or apps such as Bumble BFF. For help making friends or a friend group, click here.


Once you have that list or ideas where to meet people, make a list of activities that you can invite these friends to do. These can be in-person activities or online activities for long-distance friends, such as book clubs, movie nights, game nights, hiking, or one of the many events that towns put on such as festivals. Having a list of activities can make it easier to know what to suggest to the people on your list and how to engage with them beyond just texting. Quality time can be crucial to building good friendships and often we have to be the first to reach out and try, as people may forget or they may struggle to reach out.


Part of managing social anxiety can be to just start doing what scares you. This may be starting small with reaching out to one friend or it could be venturing into new activities.


2: Check Your Communication To Strengthen Your Friendships


Having good close friends depends on communication, being able to be vulnerable in your relationships, and being able to listen when others are vulnerable. This can be a great place to work on your active listening skills. Having extra skills and practicing those skills can help when anxiety takes over. Then when you leave the conversation, you know what you did well on with your social skills.


During The Conversation Practice:

1: Eye contact and maintaining eye contact. If this is hard for you, try to look at their nose, that can be easier for some people to start. 

2: Reflecting back on what others are saying. Practice reflecting on 2-3 words of their sentence or naming what they might be feeling. When people feel heard, they feel closer to you.

3: Not interrupting. This is harder said than done, but so important. Sometimes it can be great just to take a breath before talking to see if the person is done.

4: Body language. Check in on if you are smiling, encouraging the other person to keep talking, have open posture, and are have your body facing the person.

5: Ignoring distractions. Yes, we all have smart phones these days, but it is important to put down the phone and focus on others you are with. This could be by putting your phone in do not disturb or just flipping it over on the table.


The more you work on being a great communicator, the better your friendships will get and the more people will relate to you. This will also attract more friendships to you that you might not have normally had.


3: Asking For Support And Giving Support


To have a friend is to be a friend. But, to have a friend is also to allow friends to help you. A great question to ask yourself is “what would my friend say if they knew I was going through this and didn’t ask for help?” We all need help sometimes and asking for it can feel daunting in today’s hyper-independent world, but people want to help when they are able. People may even be excited to show you how much they care and be able to give back.


If you are worried about asking too much for help, ask yourself of ways you can give back to the other person or others in your life, such as cooking a meal for someone going through a tough time, sending a birthday card or another thoughtful gesture, or helping babysit their kids so they can have a break. Sometimes the help you or someone else may need is just to say you are having a tough time and need someone to talk to about it. 


People who ask for help have been shown to have high self-esteem because they believe they matter.


We all need to be a part of a broader community that both asks for help and receives help when needed. 


Friendships can be deepened and strengthened with these and many more steps. Your village is out there waiting for you, all you have to do is take a few active steps to make it happen. If you struggle with social anxiety, click here or here. For more ways to be social, click here or here.


If you find yourself wanting to build more of a social network, connect with others, and to grow as a person, therapy may be right for you. 


Mary Willoughby Prentiss is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

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