How to not be nervous in conversation (Tips)

In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous in conversation”. Additionally, we will talk about common causes when being nervous in a conversation if you happen to have a generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. Finally, we will mention some tips you can use before and during a conversation.

How to not be nervous in conversation

You may be wondering ‘How to not be nervous in a conversation?’ Maybe because you have felt very anxious when being in a social setting when having to meet new people or even having to introduce yourself. But why is this? Many people don’t even realize there is a problem until it starts to affect them significantly. 

Just the thought of going to a social gathering and having to engage makes you cringe and you may avoid assisting with any possible excuse. It is normal to feel nervous when meeting someone because we don’t know what to expect or if they will like us. But when we engage in a conversation with someone and we are feeling that we are being judged or observed all the time then there may be an underlying issue that we need to address. 

How to not be nervous in conversation (Tips)

Generalized Social Anxiety  

Unlike social anxiety disorder where an individual has an overwhelming fear of social situations such as meeting strangers, starting conversations or speaking on the phone. In contrast, generalized social anxiety is characterized by persistent and excessive fear about many different situations such as financial issues, health issues, family, work, among others.

Some of the signs and symptoms of GAD include:

  • Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Social Anxiety Disorder (performance only)

We have discussed how people with social anxiety experience an overwhelming fear when faced with social situations. However, someone with performance-only SAD will have intense fear when facing performance situations such as having to speak in public but they won’t experience anxiety during social gatherings. This form of social anxiety can prevent you from advancing in your career or getting a promotion.

Why do I feel nervous in a conversation?

If you have a social anxiety disorder, the potential causes can be associated with a combination of several factors such as genetics, environment and social factors.  In terms of genetic factors, it is believed that there is a genetic component of social anxiety disorder (hereditary). There seems to be a trait or characteristic that could account for it.

Additionally, environmental factors such as parenting style, family environment, adverse life effects, cultural and societal factors, and gender roles. Scientists have suggested a diathesis-stress paradigm where there is an interaction between a predisposition towards the disorder or diathesis and environmental factors (stress). As indicated by Brook & Schmidt (2008) “The greater the underlying genetic vulnerability toward a particular disorder, the less stress needed to trigger associated problem behaviours.”

Tips on how to not be nervous during a conversation

Before we start a conversation with a stranger or someone we have been introduced too just recently, we may start to think ‘what can I talk to them about?’, ‘what should I do if there is awkward silence?’, ‘what if I say something stupid?’, etc. all of those thoughts are the ones building up anxiety. Let’s review some useful tips on how to start or keep having a conversation when we are nervous.

They are just as nervous as you are

It is normal to focus our efforts on hiding how we feel so the other person won’t find out that we are so nervous. However, remember that they are probably as nervous as you are but some people are better than others at hiding it. They don’t know you so there is no need to think if they may or nor like us if we haven’t allowed them to do so.

 If you approach someone, it is normal to fear being rejected but if we just avoid doing it we will never know for sure. Even more so, think about what is the worst-case scenario and contrast it with reality, think about how likely it is for this to happen. You may be surprised about the low probability while you were just thinking you could predict the future and that is how things are supposed to go when they don’t.

Don’t make too many questions 

You don’t want the other person thinking you are sort of a private investigator or someone who is interviewing them. Make the conversation feel as natural as possible and try to make open-ended questions so you can take the focus off you. Open-ended questions are the best type of questions if you want a conversation to keep going because they will probably start describing situations or giving details.

However, read the context and don’t make too many private questions at first. Since you are just starting the conversation, we can pretend this is someone you have just met. They could feel uncomfortable answering some questions but it could also happen the other way round. Try to be clear and politely express your discomfort. Be willing to let them go but don’t be discouraged by it, it is not personal.

How to not be nervous in conversation (Tips)

Try to identify your anxious thoughts

Take a moment to identify your anxious thoughts before engaging in a conversation. If necessary write them down so you can examine them later. It is easy to think that you may cause the wrong impression by freezing, not knowing what to say or how the words don’t seem to come out. Pause for a second and take a deep breath. 

Finally, don’t beat yourself up because it is easy to label ourselves as boring, stupid like we don’t have anything interesting to say or how we just prefer to stay quiet to avoid humiliating or embarrassing yourself but know that this is not how people truly see you but how you perceive yourself. Give yourself the chance to prove you wrong.

Consider getting help

Anxiety can become very crippling and debilitating. It can affect every aspect of our lives if we pretend at some point it will go away on its own. Many people get really good over the years at hiding their anxiety and don’t think it can become something serious until it affects them in every single aspect of their lives. If you feel you are struggling and you don’t know what to do then we recommend seeking professional advice with a school counsellor or a psychologist. 

There is no need to feel embarrassed, it is normal to recognize we need help if we don’t know how to cope on our own. If you decide to go to therapy, you will learn new skills and strategies to cope with different situations.  

Why is this blog about How to not be nervous in conversation important?

As discussed, being nervous in a conversation is normal but if it starts affecting your life significantly, preventing you from doing things then we recommend going to a mental health professional in case you may be having an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Remember that anxiety won’t go away on its own.

Additionally, as we have mentioned, it is important to recognize the signs and know your triggers. Try to write them down and do the exercise of contrasting the with reality because most of the time, since we can have a lot of irrational thoughts. They can make us freeze or forget what we are about to say, making us feel insecure and make us avoid social settings. Close your eyes for a minute, go somewhere you can be on your own and take deep breaths. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous in conversation

How do I stop being nervous when talking?

If you would like to stop being nervous when talking in public, it is recommended to:
– Practice and rehearse your presentation multiple times.

– Transform your nervous energy into excitement.

– Attend other people’s speeches and write down their best practices.

– Arrive early to your presentation and get familiar with the environment.

– Visualize your success.

– Practice deep breathing.

Why do I get so nervous when I talk to people?

If you get nervous when you talk to people every time you try to or if you struggle when introducing yourself or starting a conversation you may be having social anxiety. Perhaps the issue resides in lacking the social skills to engage in a conversation or when meeting people. However, it is possible to learn those skills.

How do you relax during a conversation?

If you would like to relax during a conversation, especially if it gets intense, here are a few tips:

– Identify when the conversation is going from healthy into complicated or uncomfortable.

– Focus on your physical symptoms, how your body reacts when you are nervous and try to engage in deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.  

– Remember that the other person may be as nervous as you are. So you are not alone.

How do I stop being nervous?

If you want to stop being nervous, it is important to stop fighting the feeling. Feeling nervous is normal so try to remind yourself every time. If you feel overwhelmed or you feel you can’t cope with your nerves, we recommend visiting a mental health professional for further advice.

What are the signs of speech anxiety?

The signs of speech anxiety can vary from one person to the next and it can go from feeling nervous to a nearly incapacitating fear. Some of the most common symptoms are sweating, shaking, heart palpitations, feeling restless, hyperventilating, having a sense of impending danger or doom, troubles concentrating or thinking, among others. 

References 

Brook, C.A and Schmidt, L.A. (2008) Social anxiety disorder: A review of environmental risk factors. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. Feb; 4(1): 123-143. DOI: 10.2147/ndt.s1799.

Cuncic, A. (2019, Jun.) Understanding the Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from verywellmind.com.

Van Edwards, V. (n.d.) How to Overcome Your Social Anxiety: 6 Tips You Can Use Now. Retrieved from scienceofpeople.com.

How to not be nervous in conversation (Tips)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.