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How to Get Over the Fear of Approaching People

By: Brian Kim - September 26, 2007

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This article was originally going to be tailored to help men get over their fear of approaching beautiful women, as it was a topic requested by one reader, but I decided to expand the scope of the article to cover getting over the fear of approaching people in general, men and women, as the method is basically the same. The ability to easily approach total strangers outside your own social circle - it’s a skill that not many people have. It’s easy for people who are naturally social, but for the rest of the population, the very thought of doing something like that strikes terror in their hearts.

Having the ability to be comfortable in approaching total strangers is an important skill to develop as one gets older because it can be widely applied when it comes to networking, expanding social circles, creating opportunities, seeking knowledge, etc.

One phenomenon I’ve been noticing is that particularly in the younger generation, young men are having trouble with their social skills in general and I suspect that one of the reasons why is that technology has stunted the natural learning curve of this skill set.

Boys can be often found indoors now, playing video games, watching TV, surfing the net, and what happens as a result is that technology has served as a barrier and also in effect, served as a substitute for real face to face social interaction. Consequently, their social skills don’t develop naturally and human interaction in general becomes unknown territory and as a result, is feared as people generally fear the unknown.

And then you have the catch 22 effect. The more a person clings to their own little “world”, the less experience they get of social interaction in general, and the less experience they get, the more fearful they become of it, so it becomes that much harder to break out of the cycle.

Let’s address probably the biggest reason people have when it comes to why they fear approaching other people.

It’s fear of rejection and ridicule.

People have these kinds of thoughts when it comes to approaching other people:

“They might think I’m weird if I go up and talk to them right out of the blue.” “I don’t know what to say.” “What if I come across as an idiot?”

Let’s put something to rest right now. As long as you don’t come across as threatening and follow basic social rules, you’ll be fine.

And what’s more, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Most people would welcome the interruption.

Everybody is living in their own daily routine and when someone comes along and puts a little kink in that routine, it’s a nice and pleasant surprise.

But of course you can’t just go up to someone and start talking about a book you read or about your favorite subject. There are certain social rules you have to follow and what’s more, you have to break their state and get them to notice you.

There’s a ton of ways to do it but it will largely depend on the situation at hand. One way is just to comment on the surroundings. Nice day isn’t it? Or a simple “Excuse me. I was wondering if I could ask you about” followed up by something you noticed about the other person or a general question as well. Or you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes and say something about their situation they can relate to. That’s probably one of the most effective ways to break into a conversation.

As you get their attention, you’ll probably catch them off guard and you’ll literally be able sense their “shields” go up and they will begin to “scan” you by giving you a quick look over. This is just basic human instinct as it’s just to see whether or not you pose any physical threat to them. Of course you don’t want to come across as threatening so what do you do then?

Smile.

A genuine smile will disarm any shield and put the other person at ease. And guess what? When you smile, the other person can’t help but smile back. Try it. It works every time.

Now what?

You’re in, but now the fear of awkward pauses in conversation starts to settle in. What to do now?

You know the answer to this by now.

Every person’s favorite subject in the world to talk about is themselves.

People fear rejection about the approach because their head is not in the right place. Their head is centered on whether or not they think the other person thinks they’re weird, abnormal, or is judging them.

Their head should be focused on the other person.

It takes the pressure off, because as you know, people love to talk about themselves. It’s their favorite subject in the world and their attention will shift to their own thoughts and words.

Listen and look for “branches” that the other person will inevitably offer while they’re talking. These are your clues to what to talk about next. They might say they love to play football with their kids at the park. You could then talk about football or their kids.

You can’t carry on a conversation forever so look for an appropriate exit during the conversation and then tell them it was nice to meet them and go on your merry way.

Obviously, there will be different “levels” to master when it comes to approaching people in general. If you want longer conversation, you’ll want to be able to find something in common between the both of you to build off of, etc., but this article is more geared toward helping people get over their fear and anxiety of approaching total strangers and starting and ending simple conversations with them. It’s hard to give specific information regarding these types of things just because each situation will be different, but the more situations you put yourself in, the more you will be able to understand all the subtle nuances of social interaction.

The more you start approaching others, the more you learn the social “game” - mannerisms, subtle cues, body language, when not to press on the conversation, when to back off, etc.

Not all people will be receptive. Some just might be having a bad day but that’s all right as you’ll begin to notice who is open to approaching and who isn’t.

Try to make it habit of approaching people daily until it becomes a routine. Elderly people tend to love company and love to talk and what’s more, you can generally learn a lot from them so kill two birds with one stone by chatting it up with them. Strike up a conversation with the guy at the newspaper stand, the bus driver, the doorman, the guy who works on the floor below you, the people you get stuck with in the elevator. Every person is a new opportunity to discover something new.

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where approaching people becomes automatic and natural to you and things will just flow - it’ll happen without you over thinking and over analyzing it.

The funny thing is once you start socializing with people from all different types of “groups”, you realize this one simple, beautiful fact.

That we are all human.

Underneath it all, the clothes, the image, the “status”, we are all human. We all share the same concerns, thoughts, and feelings. We all have something that makes us insecure about ourselves. We all wonder and think about the same things.

We are all human beings, no one greater and no one lesser than the person around you, so keep that in mind the next time you begin to sense fear when approaching other people.

Let me ask you a question. Do you fear approaching your brother or sister? Of course not. Yet, we are all brothers and sisters in the human sense of the word.

There is nothing to fear. Nothing to fear at all.

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11 Responses to “How to Get Over the Fear of Approaching People”

  1. Gary Meade Says:

    You have to pay for this kind of advice, which is found commonly in the seduction community, yet this is presented is such a clear and basic way that is one short article explains exactly what the socially deprived individual needs to become socially savvy. Thank you, this is the one area that I need to put the most focus. Brian, you are sensational.

  2. Ming Says:

    Being a car salesman, i approach people alot. But this article is a nice refresher course for me.

  3. The Art of Charisma « Building a Life Says:

    […] Brian Kim describes very eloquently just how I could go about this on his latest blog post, How to Get Over the Fear of Approaching People. Here’s his insight as to how social anxiety is created: […]

  4. Brian Kim Says:

    Gary,

    Thank you for your comments and for your kind words and for linking to this article from your blog. I really appreciate it!

    I had no idea people had to pay for this kind of advice in the seduction community, let alone know that such a community existed.

    Also, you might find this article helpful too - http://briankim.net/blog/2006/08/how-to-be-charming/

    Thanks again.

    Ming,

    Good to know it’s a nice refresher course for you ;)

  5. Shaun Says:

    Brian,

    This article is timely for me. I was just at my local library using their public computers, when a gorgeous young lady sat at a computer nearby. As she took her seat, I smiled at her and she smiled back. Throughout the time we were there, there were two or three more instances where we made eye-contact and exchanged smiles. I left the library before her without saying anything to her, but she ended up passing me again in the parking lot where we smiled at one another yet again.

    I’ve never been timid when it comes to smiling at people, and I agree with you that nearly every time you smile at a stranger, they smile back. My problem is that I never proceed beyond the smile to actually say something.

    I believe the reason for this is because I’m in a steady relationship. I fear that if I initiate conversation with a girl, she will interpret is as flirtatious. As a result, I’ve been living in a new area for over six months and I’ve failed to make any friends of my own. All of my friends are 600 miles away where I used to live, and all of my new “friends” have just been inherited from my girlfriend. How do you talk to a beautiful stranger without causing them to get the wrong idea?

  6. Brian Kim Says:

    Shaun,

    In my opinion, as long as you intend not to come across as flirtatious, then everything you say and do will correspond to that and not cause them to get the wrong idea.

  7. Prasanna S Says:

    Sometimes even I had this problem especially communicating with girls or even girls in my relation because I always felt that my interests and their interests will never match. Also I noticed that some boys and girls talk a lot for a lonnnnnnng time without any words coming out of their mouth at an audible level, just wondered is there a new language I should learn to carry out such conversations :)

    A very nice article!

  8. Kartik Says:

    This is a very interesting article Brian. I’ve had similar problems with attractive women..they make me clam up and very nervous. I’ve had lot’s of opportunities that I have wasted and always end up kicking myself for it. But I have to say that smiling at strangers always gets a response..but how do you smile at an attractive women when you’re face is frozen with fear?!?!

  9. Brian Kim Says:

    Kartik,

    Just smile at the thought of getting to know more about them. Don’t dwell on fear. Smile because you know it’s going to be great!

  10. ron Says:

    Brian,

    you do not know how grateful I am right now. For years, since middle school, these has defined me:

    “They might think I’m weird if I go up and talk to them right out of the blue.”
    “What if I come across as an idiot?”

    I swear, all through middle school, and even now in high school, I have always felt this way. I thank you so much for this wonderful advice that is sure to help me a huge amount in the future.

    Once again, THANK YOU.

  11. Brian Kim Says:

    Hi Ron,

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your story. I really appreciate it.

    I’m so sorry to hear you felt that way and I am sure you’re not alone in that regard. Many people have experienced the same feelings but there’s always room for change.

    I’m glad the article has helped and I hope it gives you what you’re looking for!

    Brian

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