Skills for Shyness and Social Anxiety: Part 4

posted Oct 13, 2012, 6:32 PM by Andrea Umbach, Psy.D.   [ updated Jan 9, 2014, 10:28 AM by Andrea Umbach Kettling ]
Over the next few weeks, I will discuss several skill areas that socially anxious individuals can practice to begin feeling more confident in their ability to face anxiety-provoking situations (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). And honestly, these are skills we all need to remember and practice at times. Today’s topic is…

Balanced Communication

Communication is a two-way street. This means that everyone involved in the conversation is responsible for keeping it balanced. One person should not have to do all the talking while the other person does all the listening. So how do we make more conversations balanced?

1. Asking Questions: We have the option to ask closed or open-ended questions during conversations. Closed questions can be answered with yes or no, one word, or a short phrase. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, are more likely to prompt longer answers, allowing for a more balanced conversation.

Examples of Closed Questions:
    • How was your weekend?
    • Who is your favorite singer?
    • Where are you from?
    • Examples of Open-ended Questions:
    • What did you do this weekend?
    • What do you like about country music?
    • What was it like growing up in North Carolina?
You may need to use closed questions at times, but following up with open-ended questions is more likely to keep the conversation going. Also, be careful not to rapid fire question after question. It is important that both people have the chance to ask questions.

2. Elaboration: Equally important is your ability to answer questions and elaborate. This means that you should aim to answer questions with more than one word or a short phrase. Some people fear that they will have to share intimate details of their lives. But you have control over what you tell and you can say a lot about yourself without having to get too personal. One strategy might be to think about things you can say about yourself. For example, what are your hobbies, interests, past experiences, etc. that you would be willing to share? Another way to elaborate is to express your opinion about something.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a balance between how often you are asking questions and how often you are elaborating as well as how often you are talking compared to others in the group. If you feel like you are interviewing someone (asking a lot of questions) you may need to elaborate more. If you feel like you are being interviewed (answering a lot of questions) you may need to ask some more questions of the other person.