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English Leather Master Coaching: Matthew’s top tips for navigating social anxiety

Matthew from English Leather Master Coaching gives his top tips for coping with anxiety in social settings.

A couple of weeks ago it was Pride in Manchester. I joined 150,000 people who descended on the gay village.

When you’re standing in the middle of a crowd of people, it’s easy to notice how many people seem to be experts at socialising. At Pride, there was deafening music and constant jostling from thousands of revellers. Yet some people still seemed to cope with chatting with friends, meeting new people and flirting all at the same time.

It’s the same at business events. At conferences, you can stand back and watch people who seem to be able to network. They can work a room, spotting those people they want to talk to and breaking into conversations. They can politely move away from uninteresting people. They seem superhuman in their ability to make the right connections without wasting time.

I’ll let you into a secret: I find both situations hard, too.

Photo Credit: @Englishleathermaster Instagram

Pride is exhausting for me. I’ve a poor memory for faces, I get sensory overload, and people want more of me than it feels I can give. Of course, I enjoy the events, and I love meeting people, but I had to take a day afterwards to recharge.

In my previous job, I often had to work in rooms at conferences and events. Meeting new people, making new connections. I was expected to find new customers and strengthen existing relationships. Often, this would happen after flying for several hours, so I’d be jet lagged and desperately trying to click into a new accent or dialect of English.

Most people see me as an extrovert. In fact, I’m an extroverted introvert. I love being the centre of attention, and I love meeting new people. But I need to sit in a darkened room afterwards to recharge. 

My top five tips for overcoming social anxiety. 

  1. Stop labelling yourself. 

Many people label themselves. They say things like “I’m socially awkward,” “I’m shy,” or “I can’t cope with crowds”. 

Labelling yourself only serves to reinforce what you can’t do. It won’t help you to change.

  1. Stop noticing those who seem to be able to cope better.

It’s so easy to notice those people who can do the whole socialisation thing. The social butterflies. Those who are able to network. By comparing ourselves to others, we only see what we’re bad at. We judge ourselves, think we fail, and give up.

Don’t judge yourself against others. Instead, learn from them. Go to an event, not to network, but to watch those who seem to be good at it. Become an investigator. Notice how people work the room. Try to see what tricks they use that you could try the next time.

  1. Stop mind reading.

After one event, my partner said to me, “I was standing alone for five minutes. Everyone thought I was an idiot.” For a start, that “five minutes” was probably a couple of minutes maximum. Time slows down when we feel embarrassed or left alone. But more importantly, no one was thinking anything about him. We have a habit of projecting our own thoughts onto others. 

Instead, remember Olin Miller’s line: “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.” Most people aren’t noticing that you’re on your own: they’re either talking to other people or worrying what you are thinking about them.

  1. Play a part.

When I was working, I realised that it wasn’t ‘Matthew’ working the room. It was the Regional Director for South East Asia of the company I was working for. I put my personal ego aside and became the Regional Director. My needs were different, but I was being paid to be social.

In Pride, it’s a different situation. I want to meet people as me. But I can still find a part to play. In the case of events like that, it’s often the ‘Social Leather Master’. People want to meet the extroverted, friendly side of me, and so I play the part. 

What’s amazing though, is that works in the opposite way to negatively labelling yourself. Instead of telling yourself you can’t socialise, you tell yourself you have to. And so, you do. 

I’m not playing at being a Regional Director or a Leather Master – I am one. And suddenly, a new set of behaviours becomes lodged in my brain and I become able to socialise. 

Of course, I still have to sit in a darkened room afterwards to recharge. But instead of sitting there worrying about what I missed out on, I sit in the room thinking back over the new people I met and the new connections I made.

  1. Get professional help.

Many of my clients come to me with challenges associated with social anxiety. For example, some people want to become better at meeting new people in a bar. Others need help attending business networking events or going to interviews. I’ve even had clients who are senior leaders who want help to manage, but know that social anxiety can get in the way.

The methodology you need to help you will depend on a number of factors. Coaching is great for pushing you to the next level when you’re already doing ok at networking, but want to be better. Hypnotherapy can be used when the anxiety is deeper. EMDR can be used when social anxiety comes from specific traumatic events in your past. 

Whichever methodology you use, having a professional who is willing to explore all parts of you helps. For example, you may find that you’re great at working a room in business, but walking into a bar is terrifying. For others, it’s the other way round. Being able to look at the similiarities, differences and resources from throughout your life helps you to find a way forward. 

If you’d like to discuss the best methods for you to overcome your social anxiety, get in touch via my website. I offer professional, confidential, non-judgemental coaching, hypnotherapy and EMDR. I’m part of the LGBT+ and kink communities, so happy for you to bring all parts of you to the table. I’m fully accredited with recognised bodies, and have a background in business and education which gives me a broad range of experience.  My website is www.englishleathermaster.com 

Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t sit back and be a wallflower, letting other people get all the attention. Head to my website, send me a message, and start moving forward on your journey to being seen, heard, and getting what you want out of all situations, at work and at home.

You can find out all about Matthew and his English Leather Master coaching HERE.



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