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Anxiety in Meetings

How to Cope With Social Anxiety in Meetings at Work

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Updated July 07, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Anxiety in meetings at work can be a problem for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Perhaps you have missed out on promotion opportunities because you didn't speak up in meetings like your colleagues. Or, maybe you have avoided promotions completely because they would mean that you would have to attend more meetings.

If your anxiety is not severe or you are already in treatment for SAD, there are a number of coping strategies that you can use to help alleviate social anxiety in meetings at work.

  1. Practice

    If you are required to present during meetings, or simply wish to improve your skills at speaking to a group, there is no substitute for regular practice. In addition to practicing material on your own, you should consider joining a group like Toastmasters.

    Toastmasters offers more than just the chance to become a better public speaker. The organization will help you to improve your ability to make introductions, think on your feet, and talk informally to a group. During the first few sessions you are free to observe and decide whether or not you want to participate.

  2. Watch Avoidance Behaviors

    Perhaps you have managed to get through business meetings by being so thoroughly prepared that you have a scripted answer to every question. Although preparation is important, being over-prepared is a subtle type of avoidance. It is just as important to trust yourself to be able to respond spontaneously to questions and discuss issues that aren't pre-planned. Realize that in these situations, it is OK to say that you are unsure about something and that you will look into it.

  3. Know Your Strengths

    If you suffer with social anxiety in meetings, you will probably never be the most eloquent speaker in the group. Instead, use your listening skills to your advantage. If you listen carefully to what others say and choose your words carefully, others will admire your wisdom and patience.

  4. Preparation

    Do your best to prepare and research issues before a meeting so that you are up to speed. Make sure that you are wearing clothing that is comfortable and professional, and that make you feel good. Before going into a business meeting, try talking on the phone with a friend or family member that makes you feel relaxed, and then carry that feeling with you into the meeting. Try to arrive at least 10 minutes early so that you can meet people as they arrive.

  5. Use Visuals

    Visuals are great tools both for getting a message across and drawing attention away from yourself. If you are speaking to the group, be sure to use some sort of visual medium as part of your presentation.

If you suffer from severe social anxiety, there is no substitute for treatment such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In combination with the tips above, you should be well on your way to successfully managing social anxiety in meetings at work.

Sources

Carducci BJ. Shyness: A bold new approach. New York: Harper Collins; 2000.

Carducci BJ. Pocket guide to making successful small talk: How to talk to anyone anytime, anywhere about anything. New York: Pocket Guide Publications; 1999.

Clark CH. The shy writer. Bangor, ME: Booklocker.com; 2004.

Henkel SL, Lujanac M. Successful meetings: How to plan, prepare, and execute top-notch business meetings. Ocala, FL: Atlantic Publishing; 2007.

Stein MB, Walker JR. Triumph over shyness: Conquering shyness and social anxiety. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2003.

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