On Feeling Uncomfortable Around Others

March 15, 2021

Have you ever felt uneasy speaking in front of a group of people? I certainly have. This fear is common; nearly everyone experiences stage fright to some extent. My own apprehension became clear to me when I had to give a speech at a conference.

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At the event, I was scheduled to speak and realized that I knew only three people in the audience. The thought of speaking to a room full of strangers made my heart race. Although I had read extensively about public speaking techniques, the reality was a different matter. Initially, I felt obligated to engage in conversations, which added to my discomfort. When it was my turn to speak, my mind went blank and my fight-or-flight response kicked in, elevating my blood pressure. As I concluded my speech, I pondered how best to leave a lasting impression, whether through humor or a poignant story.

I realized that instead of being self-centered, I should have engaged the audience by making eye contact and asking questions. Adding value to their lives, rather than merely speaking about myself, would have been a better way to garner attention and appreciation. Observing the audience’s reactions helped me relax and focus more on their needs than on my own insecurities. This shift in focus alleviated my initial tension and allowed me to appreciate the social interaction.

It's essential to spend time cultivating relationships to prevent discomfort in social settings. Numerous studies indicate that positive relationships significantly impact our happiness and help manage stress. This social engagement acts as an antidote to depression and is crucial for long-term well-being.

As I transitioned from a software engineer to a manager, my role evolved from solving technical problems to helping others solve a broader range of issues. I've learned that focusing solely on my own abilities is not sustainable. Instead, I need to trust others and feel comfortable around them. This shift from a technical focus to a people-oriented approach is not just about leveraging others' technical skills, but also about drawing on their interpersonal abilities. Learning to trust and feel at ease around others is a journey motivated by love and respect, and it is one that I am committed to continuing.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn