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How to Talk to Someone Who Has Social Anxiety Disorder

Tips for Having a Conversation With Someone Who Has SAD


Updated January 03, 2012

Entering a conversation with someone who is shy or who has social anxiety disorder (SAD) requires a bit more effort on your part. People with SAD experience anxiety in both one-on-one and group situations and often need time to get comfortable before conversing. There are a number of steps that you can take to encourage someone with SAD to talk more and participate in the conversation.

  1. Tell stories and share things about yourself before asking too much of the person with SAD. Most people who are shy or socially anxious enjoy listening to others more than talking about themselves.

  2. When you do start to ask questions of the person who has SAD, be sure to ask open-ended conversation starters such as "What did you think of the new Batman movie?" Stay away from a series of questions requiring yes/no answers as the other person will feel as though they are being interrogated.

  3. When you ask questions, be sure to give the other person ample time to respond before jumping in with more comments. People who are shy or socially anxious take more time to formulate their answers to questions. They also choose their words very carefully, so listen to what is said and be sure to pay attention to any subtle nuances of the conversation.

  4. Compliment the other person on something that they have said or their unique perspective on an issue. Providing positive feedback and letting the other person know that you are engaged and interested in the conversation will go a long way toward encouraging further sharing.

  5. If you know the person with SAD has a strong interest in a particular area, ask questions about that topic. You might find that once the person begins to talk about something they know and love, the conversation flows more freely.

  6. Keep your distance and speak softly when talking to someone with SAD. Match your body language and the way that you talk to the other person to make her feel more comfortable.

  7. Do not ask overly personal questions of the person with SAD unless you know him well. Save those types of questions for more intimate conversations that take place after the getting-to-know-you stage.

  8. Don't interrupt the person with SAD when she is talking. It takes courage and effort for her to open up and interruptions will interfere with her train of thought and could trigger feelings of anxiety.

  9. When leaving the conversation, indicate that you enjoyed speaking with the other person. If appropriate, extend an invitation to get together for an activity. Most shy people are more relaxed while engaged in a mutual task than when participating in small talk.

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