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Business Lunch Anxiety

How to Cope With Business Lunch Anxiety


Updated July 07, 2012

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

Business lunch anxiety can be a problem for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Although the business lunch can be an intimidating prospect if you suffer with SAD, it is an important component of many jobs, and worth learning how to navigate. Business lunches help to build relationships in a way that doesn't usually happen in the office and can be an important tool in the corporate world.

Although formal treatment for SAD in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication is the best way to combat the disorder, coping strategies can be useful to deal with daily situations such as the business lunch. Below are some coping strategies to help alleviate business lunch anxiety.

  • Plan Ahead

    If you are the one arranging the business lunch, choose a restaurant that is neither too loud nor too quiet. If the setting is too loud, others may have trouble hearing you. If it is too quiet, you may be uncomfortable speaking freely during the business lunch.

    If possible, visit the restaurant in advance or look at a menu online to familiarize yourself with the location and what they offer. Being prepared will help to lessen stress prior to and during the lunch, which in turn should help to alleviate social anxiety.

  • Know Dining Etiquette

    Although it will not be the end of the world if you use the wrong fork to eat your meal, brushing up on some basic dining etiquette is advisable before attending a business lunch. Doing so will make you more comfortable, help to alleviate anxiety, and allow you to focus on business rather than the rules of dining in the company of others.

  • Avoid Alcohol

    For those with SAD, it may be tempting to use alcohol as a crutch to get you through the social expectations of work. However, doing so not only hinders your ability to do business, but in the long term may lead to a more serious problem with alcohol. In addition, depending on the situation, ordering alcoholic drinks during a business lunch may be seen by some as unprofessional.

  • Choose Your Food

    A business lunch is not the time to order spaghetti or try a new dish that you are unsure you will like. Use some basic common sense when ordering and stick to dishes that will be easy to eat.

    In addition, realize that the focus of a business lunch should not be the food. If possible, eat something beforehand so that you are not starving and can focus on the task at hand. Doing so will also ensure that symptoms such as shaking hands or a dry mouth are not exacerbated because you are hungry or dehydrated.

  • Arrive Early

    As with all business social functions, you should arrive early if possible. This gives you the chance to greet others as they arrive and to become comfortable in your surroundings. If you are the host of the business lunch, try to leave the best seat at the table available for your guest, and choose a seating arrangement that makes conversation easy.

  • Practice Exposure Therapy

    Some people with SAD suffer from a general fear of eating in front of others. If you suffer with this fear, you may be afraid that your hands will shake, that you will spill your food or drink, or that you will draw attention to yourself in some other negative way. If you suffer from a fear of eating in front of others, practicing exposure therapy prior to a business lunch can help to alleviate symptoms of social anxiety while eating.

    In the end, one of the best ways to manage anxiety during a business lunch is to focus on the task at hand and the needs of those around you. Doing so will not only reduce your social anxiety but also make a business lunch more productive and enjoyable for everyone involved.


    Bates S. Talking business over lunch. Accessed Feb 18, 2010.

    Klineman J. A job interview lunch serves us a full plate of anxiety - And opportunity.

    Lau J. [link url=http://www.canadianimmigrant.ca/careers/businessetiquette/article/2520]Business over lunch: How to act at a business lunch[/link]. Accessed Feb 18, 2010.

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