I have heard from many teens I work with – I don’t get how people are so confident when talking to others. Variations of this wondering brings me back to when I was younger and my teen self totally relates- sometimes even now I still do.
It can be hard to talk to others, especially new people. If you feel shy sometimes, you’ve probably had your mind go blank in the middle of a conversation, feeling your face grow hot, and feeling at a loss to keep going.
Great News: Confidence is a skill.
Sure, some people struggle less with confidence for various reasons (brain wiring, genetics, environment) but confidence is something you can train every day, like a muscle, for it to become stronger.
Practice by sticking to these 10 rules:
1. 𝐊𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐅𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐋𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐜– when you feel nervous or worried about what others are thinking, your flight or fight takes over. The best antidote is to bring your thinking brain back online. Try being extra logical about your fear beforehand- what’s the worst that can happen and then what, what has changed?
2. 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐜𝐬– A little each day and diversify. Find one or two things you find interesting. These can help you start small talk which is often the hardest part of conversation with others.
3. 𝐀𝐬𝐤 𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬– When you are talking with someone to help keep the conversation going, use some open ended questions- What do you think? What’s your favourite? How do you? And, listen- don’t be getting ready for the next thing you’re going to say in your head.
4. 𝐁𝐞 𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐭𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐞𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭– The “oh crap everyone is looking at me” effect- research says you overestimate on average 2x the amount of people who are actually noticing you in any given moment.
5.𝗪𝐢𝐠𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐭𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐬– keeping yourself present and connected to your body will help with checked out nerves.
6. 𝐔𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐤𝐞𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐝– Imagine a conversation like a bike wheel. The topic is the centre of the wheel and all the possible conversations are the spokes. If the main topic is something you know little about, that is OK . Think of things that are related to the topic and questions you can ask.
For example, someone starts talking about Crossfit, your conversation spokes might be- working out, exercise routines, staying healthy, personal challenges and some questions might be – what do you like about Crossfit? When did you start ? How does it work?
7. 𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐋𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐄𝐱𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐞– You can go from “I suck at talking to others” to “I am confident to have a conversation with anyone”. Imagine your thoughts as if they were on rungs of a ladder. The first one (I suck) is on the bottom rung and the ultimate one (I am confident) at the top. Now map out 3-4 other thoughts that would be between these two. Practice them one rung at a time, starting at the second rung until each feels more believable before moving to the next.
8. 𝐋𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬– try some related to confidence and grounding.
9. 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞- everyone has things that are out of their comfort zone and some things that feel downright terrifying. You are not alone in your experience and most people have some level of questioning their confidence when it comes to talking to others in some contexts.
10.𝐏𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐏𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐬𝐞– your body language affects how you feel percent. What we know about an expansive posture is that it helps you breathe in a way that relaxes your nervous system and helps reduce stress. So 30 seconds every day, stand tall with your hands on your hips- kind of like Wonder Woman
Practice these 10 rules and talking to others will become the least of your stressors.
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Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.
Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.
Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.