Steps Toward 
Getting a Handle on People Discomfort

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Human beings are born to be gregarious.  We are creatures of company by our nature, but, some of us are uncomfortable in presence of others.  They try to find some excuse to avoid meeting other people.  When with others, they tormented themselves with thoughts about how they are doing and how others may be judging them.  
The thinking human mind often creates problems for us.  Monkeys; for example, neither do negative self-evaluation, nor do they worry about others' covert disapproval of them. Everyone knows his or her place in the group which is determined by their size and testetrone level.   Chief has the best time as he has the first claim to everything.  Subordinates get their share according to their place in the hierarchy of their group.  As long as a subordinate doesn't "monkey around" with the chief's consort, his "lion's share" of meals, and his space, he or she can relax and enjoy life.

 We human beings are complex.  We may experience significant discomfort for no reason.  You may not have violated anyone's rights or property, or broken society's rules and yet, you may experience great deal of social anxiety.  Three major causes identified for this problem are as follows:    

1.  We worry about a social event before it actually takes place   We worry about our future performance and others' possible critical reaction to us.  This is called "negative anticipation."  

2.  When we are actually in the situation, we keep on criticizing, in our head, our performance and others' reaction to us.  This is called, "negative evaluation."  

3.  When this pattern is repeated over and over again, we come to believe that we are some kind of social nincompoops (ninnies) and "blow it" every chance we get.  This is called "negative belief."  This forms a vicious cycle.  Negative beliefs about ourselves increase negative expectation and negative evaluation for the next time.             

 Here is a 12-step program that can help to reduce people-discomfort.  Each step is summarized in a self-statement that you may silently repeat to yourself to bring about the desired change.  Self-statements direct us towards a desired change and help us in overcoming thoughts that interfere with such a change.  12-steps are as follows:

1.  Set a goal for yourself as if you've already achieved it, "I am comfortable in presence of others."  

2   Recognize the tension that you feel in your body when you are in a social situation.  Keep your body and mind relaxed as much as possible. "I am physically and mentally relaxed."      

3.  Resolve to approach rather than avoid people situations.  Avoidance raises our discomfort and leaves us no opportunity to lower our anxiety.  We can't learn to swim without staying in water for sufficient length of time.  "I stay long enough in a situation to lower my discomfort."    

4.  Identify your negative thoughts and question them as they come to your mind, "I question the validity of all negative thoughts about my performance, appearance, and behavior when I am with others."    

5.  Form a habit of rating your discomfort on a scale of 0 to 10 whenever you feel uncomfortable in a situation, "I evaluate my discomfort whenever I tense up."  

6.  Breathe from your diaphragm to reduce physical and mental tension.  If your chest is heaving up and down, you are chest breathing.  Let the belly move in and out with your breathing, that is, diaphragm breathing.   "I breathe from my diaphragm."  

7.  When you become anxious in a people situation, count 1 to 4 as you breathe in and as you breathe out, referred to as "controlled breathing."  "I count 1 to 4 with each breath to lower my discomfort."

8.  To master a situation that causes you discomfort, break it down into small steps and progress from easy steps to more difficult ones.  This way, what appears to be a more difficult step now seems less difficult when you get there and are about to tackle it, "I master one step at a time from lower challenge to higher."   

9.  Talk back to your "inner critic," the negative commentator who keeps chattering when you are in a people-situation. "I am one-up on my inner critic."

10.  Master the fear of rejection, "I'll be okay if I am rejected.  I'll live."  

11.  Master the fear of embarrassing yourself for the worst possible slip-ups, "Whatever happens, I'll forgive myself and some people will still accept me."  

12.  Generate positive thoughts in abundance so you can outnumber your negative thoughts.  "I think positive thoughts about myself and others."

These 12 steps in form of self statements will prove to you that "when battles are fought within, victories can be seen without."                     

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor