When you feel anxious fairly often, it tends to isolate you socially. Even surrounded by people, even with a lot of acquaintances, you can feel isolated. And the feeling of isolation tends to increase your feelings of anxiety or stress.
One reason is because feeling
connected to others is soothing, and if you are not connecting, you are
missing out on a very good way to feel calmer and more relaxed. Feeling
close is very relaxing. It is a powerful anxiety-reducer. In surveys
that ask people what kind of things improve their mood the best, the
most common answers all involve interacting with people.
One very good step toward eliminating a feeling of isolation and increasing your feelings of connection is to increase your people-skills.
The two most practical books I've ever come across on the fine art of dealing with people are Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People and Les Giblin's How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People. They said a lot and they said it well. But I have a few more things to add.
Both of those books emphasize using the techniques to get what you want, and they could be used in a way that does not
bring you closer to people. But they can also be used to increase your
comfort and connection with people. And when that is your intention, the
methods in those two books work very well indeed.
do you go about increasing your skills? Simple: Get one of those books
and read it. Pick two or three skills and work on them in all your
What do I mean "work on them?" I'll give
you an example from Dale Carnegie's class. He was a master of
practicality — he got people using the principles, not just reading
about them. In his class, which is about public speaking, one of the
books you get is How to Win Friends and Influence People.
The class meets once a week, and every member of the class gets up and
speaks for two minutes twice every week. One of those speeches is on a
principle from the book. Carnegie's book ends each chapter with a short
principle you can easily remember and apply.
teacher assigns a principle, and the class members are told to apply
that principle at least once in the coming week and then tell the
audience about it the next week.
Since you need to have
something to say the following week, you try applying the principle
where you can, maybe two or three times to make sure you get a good
story to tell. Trying it out, you see how well it works, and you tend to
keep using some of the principles from then on. It's a clever system.
is a people-skill? What am I talking about? I mean basic things like
using a person's name when you're talking to her, or noticing something
you like about her and telling her you like it, or learning to draw her
out in a conversation by asking good questions and showing interest.
Those are three people-skills.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People
you'll find a bunch of them. Read through a book like that and choose
one or two or three you think would really help you if you practiced it,
and practice them until they start to feel natural. Then find a couple
I think most people conceive of
people-skills as a way to persuade people, manipulating their emotions
to get them to do what you want. But that doesn't usually reduce anxiety
to use people-skills that way. It often increases anxiety.
us conceive that the purpose of practicing people-skills is to bring
you and others closer together. To cultivate affection, others for you
and you for others.
And whenever you get close to
people, the process involves moving from relatively superficial
conversations to more meaningful conversations as you get to know each
other. The people-skills in Carnegie's and Giblin's books are perfect
for helping you cross that gap. They are the skills that help you turn a
stranger into a friend or lover, if you use those skills with honesty
And as you get closer to people, your
mood will rise and your anxiety and feelings of isolation will begin to
disappear, and you are on your way to a better life.
Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.