Getting Over Social Phobia

by Dr. Dennis W. Neder

Dr. Neder:

I don't normally comment on sites, but I need to say that your tips on dating, and relationships is the best I've seen so far. It sounds like a good combination of Psychology and common sense.

For years I thought my difficulty with women was just intense nervousness, so I would just avoid the situation, (you can imagine the results: ZERO!). I was diagnosed with social phobia about 2 years ago. Within the last year I've been going out to acclimate myself socially (i.e. concerts, clubs, etc.). I really like music!

I've been using your tips to at least start to try to date, but I don't seem to be having much luck. I've been told I look way too serious when out socially. Any advice would be great. I'm also in recovery, so a few drinks to "loosen up" are out of the question.



Thanks for the kind words - you know all you can do is try, and you're never quite sure if you're reaching anyone until someone says so!

You'd be surprised how common your problem really is! Let's face it, nobody wants to get shot down, and to some degree, we all have some amount of "social phobia". The good news is that you CAN get through all of this! If your problem is organic, there are some new drugs on the market that can really help.

However, it sounds like you've got just an extreme case. So, let's look at how to deal with this:

First, recognize that dealing with any issue isn't an over-night process. This will take some time. You probably didn't get here in a single day, and you're not going to get out of it in a single day either. So, plan some time to work on this issue, set some goals, establish milestones and work to meet them. Here are the steps you want to take:

1) Get educated!

This is probably the most important step. And, fortunately, it's the first. What will education do for you? It gives you confidence. Have you ever given a public presentation or speech? If you know the subject well, you present well. If you don't, all hell can break loose!

You've taken the first steps here by studying the Internet. Have you also looked at my site? ( It is full of free information that will also help you along here. In addition, I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of "Being a Man in a Woman's World". I actually go into this very subject in the book as well as give you some exercises to get your plan worked out - the next step.

2) Get a plan together.

Do you know the difference between goals and dreams? A time limit. That's all! You "dream" of being confident in social situations and meeting great women. By establishing a working plan with time limits to achieve the elements of the plan, you've actually set goals. Setting goals creates magic in your mind - the point of the next step:

3) Begin to program your mind for success.

By programming your mind, you are actually giving it the tools to get past this phobia. Unless you have an organic problem (highly unlikely!), you've actually been using this step all along - to fail! Believe me, you're not alone - many men do this. They run "movies" in their minds of failing. Like imagining walking up to a beautiful woman and having her humiliate them. Or, thinking about what they want and actually feeling anxiety.

These examples are probably exactly what you are doing. In fact, MANY MEN DO THIS! Your mind is keen on these types of images combined with emotions. That's exactly the mechanism it uses to program itself internally! If you're doing this anyway, why not give it the RIGHT messages?

"The industry" calls this "guided visualization" and here's an article that discusses how to do this.

You need to continue to practice this over at least 3-4 weeks. It is a critical step. The interesting thing is that your subconscious mind (not knowing the difference between what is real, and what is imagined with clarity) begins to program itself for the outcomes you imagine!

4) Take small steps - achieve small successes first.

As you work through the mind-programming exercises, you also need to give yourself small successes that continue to grow. Here's how: start with a goal and break it down into very small steps. For example, you eventually want to get to the point where you can easily ask a woman out and have a great date. But, that's too big a chunk to start with.

So, first begin by simply looking at yourself in the mirror. Imagine what you look like to others. Don't qualify how you look, just "see" yourself. Look right into your eyes. This is going to be uncomfortable at first, but don't worry - it will get easier as you do it a few times. Next, learn to stand straight, shoulders back, head up and look at yourself that way.

Practice this and try to think about it when you're out walking around. Next, you want to add a soft smile. You may need to practice this for a while, as it often is natural when you first start out. This "mirror exercise" should take about a week if you do it twice every day.

Now, you're ready to move on. During this step, you want to look at people. Just look at them - even just for a split second. Don't worry about making eye contact yet. Just look at them. Spend about a week doing this until it feels comfortable.

Next, extend this up and actually make eye contact with them. No doubt you've been doing this already, but you avert your eyes as soon as the look at you. This time, make it last just a split second longer.

Next, combine everything so far - standing tall, head square, looking at people, and making eye contact. This might seem scary right now, but consider that it looks very confident - exactly where you want to go!

The next step is to add a natural smile when someone catches your eye. You might want to do this only with women as it may send the wrong signal in some parts of the world!

Next, you're actually going to say "hello" or "good afternoon" to people. Note that some of them will avert their eyes from you (like you used to!), some will actually grunt, and a few will say hello back to you. Don't worry about their reactions - it isn't important. What IS important is you practicing this.

5) Turn these into bigger successes.

If you've been doing the previous exercises, you should be well on your way to the larger successes. Just like before, take small steps. You want to start by going to places that you were uncomfortable in the past. Such as clubs, concerts, etc. Your goal here isn't to pick up a woman - yet. It's just to talk to a few people.

Use the tools you've been practicing and begin to make eye contact, smile at women, and say "hello". You might want to add something like "Great club, huh?" or "I've head this band before - great music!" Don't push too hard, but see if anyone responds to you, (some will by the way!) That's your new goal - and exactly what you need to do to start meeting women, getting numbers, etc., etc.

6) Make success a habit.

Forget the failures. Focus on the successes. When you meet some pretty woman, say "hello" and she say's "hello" back - reward yourself by feeling good about it. That is your goal! It's ok to feel good about yourself and by letting yourself - you're actually ingraining the habit of success. This is a critical step and should be added at every milestone.

7) Review and adjust your plan.

As you get successes, note what happened, what you did, where you were, etc. You might even want to keep a log or journal of this information. It is your own transformation log. You can also throw in new ideas that you come up with on your own, or that you get from articles and books that you read (remember step #1).

When you find something that works, add it to your plan. Don't change your goals however. If you've done the work up front, your goals should be rock-solid. Your plans however may change regularly as you gather new information - and new successes.


You're going to have success and failures. That just the way it works. But remember - it doesn't matter! All these people you make contact with are mealy experiments, and "class work". You're training yourself. They are just "props" in all of this - do don't worry about their reactions other than to note them. You want to adjust your plan and your approaches to something more effective for YOU. Find what works, and don't give up.

Get to it ol' buddy. Believe me YOU CAN DO THIS! Keep working on it, and let me know how your progress is coming.

Got a love, relationship or man/woman question? I answer all letters. You can write to me at for answers. For more information about my book, "Being a Man in a Woman's World", visit: