Why am I afraid to hold a conversation?

It’s normal to feel shy or nervous around other people at times. But if these feelings become extreme and interfere with your ability to participate in everyday social situations, it could be a sign of an anxiety condition called social anxiety or social phobia.

Even confident, seemingly fearless people sometimes misspoke in conversation. It’s a good idea to practice conversation skills ahead of time to prevent these mishaps.

1. You’re afraid of being judged

Many people don’t want to speak up at work or school because they fear being judged by their peers. This fear can prevent them from expressing themselves and getting what they need. It can also keep them from being able to have close and intimate relationships.

The truth is that most of the time, other people are too consumed by their own lives to care about judging you. They have their own issues they are dealing with, fears and insecurities that they are focused on. They aren’t out to get you or make fun of you.

It is important to realize that you have to stop judging yourself, too. If you notice that you are judging someone, challenge that thought and find something positive about them. This will help you to focus less on what they might be thinking and more on the fact that you are trying to connect with them. This will lead to your anxiety fading over time and your confidence growing, making it easier for you to speak.

2. You’re afraid of saying something wrong

Sometimes you might feel like you’ve put your foot in your mouth by saying something that sounds stupid. It can be embarrassing, but don’t let it discourage you. It’s more common than you might think and it’s okay to have these moments.

This can be a symptom of social anxiety or a shy temperament. Some people can be so shy that they avoid talking altogether with certain people or in specific situations, a condition known as selective mutism or social phobia.

You can overcome this fear by thinking through and planning the conversation ahead of time. This will reduce the stress you feel and help you develop a plan to carve out a successful outcome for both parties. Also, remember to congratulate yourself for each risk you take in the conversation rather than beating yourself up afterwards. Ruminating only reinforces your fears and holds you back. Just be sure to follow through on your plan and move forward!

3. You’re afraid of being rejected

A fear of rejection can be the biggest reason you have difficulty expressing yourself. This can be true for romantic rejection as well as social rejection, which could mean losing a job or being ignored by friends.

When you don’t voice your opinions, it’s easier for other people to shape your identity. That’s why people who are afraid of rejection often become needy and struggle to find self-acceptance.

The good news is that you can learn to overcome the fear of rejection by practicing exposure therapy. Putting yourself in situations where you may experience rejection (like a talk show) and then working through the anxiety that comes with it can help reduce your fears over time.

You can also try focusing on the pleasure of the end result (like meeting new people) rather than trying to perfect each conversation. Ruminating and beating yourself up after each interaction only reinforces your social anxiety. Instead, focus on overcoming the discomfort and anxiety by taking risks one step at a time.

4. You’re afraid of being boring

Everyone knows people who seem to light up the room when they talk and make you want to hang out with them. And then there are those who suck the life out of the room and leave you feeling bored and uninspired. If you feel like a boring person, it’s important to recognize that your boredom may stem from a deeper issue.

Research has found that we’re hard-wired to seek novelty. So, if you’re a bore, you probably lack new experiences to share with others.

To avoid being a bore, try seeking out new experiences and finding a group of friends who share your interests. This will give you something new to talk about and help you feel more energized. And if you do end up running out of things to say, don’t be afraid to pause the conversation for a bit. There are many reasons a conversation can die out, and most of the time it’s not your fault.