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How Listening Helped me with My Social Anxiety

How Listening Helped me with My Social Anxiety

Many young people we work with struggle with social anxiety. There is a wider pressure to conform to the societal norms, one of which can be summed as “putting yourself out there”. A lot of young people we work with say they have low levels of confidence. As we engage with them, and explore, we discover that often this is linked to not measuring up to the disingenuous standard set by the popular people. We support the young person to reframe what they really mean by “lacking confidence” so we can get them moving towards a more confident self.

It seems that in schools and wider society people think less about those who don’t shout and let it all out. The following is a testimonial from Joe Daley, (a friend and colleague to Elevate) of how having learned the coaching skill to deeply listen, he applied it beyond coaching to help him become less anxious. It is an honest and brief account.

Hi I’m Joe, a pretty well rounded individual I think. The following is a little bit of my story that Kantz asked me to tell, as we discussed how deep listening is a transferable skill that can help in all walks of life, and how it can help us personally.

I was anxious of meeting people and social situations until I learned to listen. I used to worry about parties and family gatherings, and even about talking to people in shops and businesses. Being an adult, I would often drink a lot at parties, and at times I was the life and soul of a party. Being super social really took it out of me. It had been going on so long that it became part of me without me realising.

I was given an opportunity to learn listening skills as part of a coaching course delivered to the community. Having learned to listen, my life improved quickly. I began to notice how few people listen to other people - everyone talks - and also how people love it if you listen to them. Before I felt I had to be interesting or funny and I worried that people wouldn’t like me, worrying about what I would say, everything was such hard work. I’ve discovered that most people love it if you listen to them, they enjoy the conversation and often don’t even realise they’ve done all the talking.

I found I had better, deeper, more satisfying conversations, in which I really felt I connected with people - this was all much less work. My anxiety is reduced and my relationships have improved. I even cut down on my drinking, which has led to me feeling better the next day and I never have that next day anxiety about what I’ve said or done.

So here is the thing: it’s actually really easy to learn to listen better. And If you just ask some simple questions and show interest in what people are saying most people are very happy to talk to you.

I have found listening well has helped me in family situations too – my family is big and I love them. Christmases and big family events however were really very difficult. I have learned to listen and to observe more, and oddly I feel much more in control. Even if I don’t exactly enjoy them, I don’t get the same dread before them - and I’m much better at leaving when I’ve had enough (or taking a little time out).

Over time listening has given me a much deeper confidence in myself and I feel much more at peace with myself. It is a bit of super-power actually - but an easy one that anyone can learn, for me it is one of life’s best secrets.

At a time when there is so much noise out there, I think “mindful listening”, a phrase that I’ve coined, which for me means, being completely present, and focused on the other person is an answer for a better functioning reflective and insightful society. We have loads of talkers, be great to have lots of really good listeners.

Joe D