YOU (South Africa) - - LIFESTYLE - ASK DR LOUISE Write to Dr Louise, PO Box 39410, Morele­ta­park 0044, or email info@dr­louise.co.za.

I think peo­ple mis­take me for be­ing rude or a snob most of the time be­cause I don’t talk much. When I’m in a so­cial sit­u­a­tion I of­ten swal­low my tongue as I feel I have noth­ing to say. I just feel so awk­ward.

How do I get over my fear of be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion? I don’t know why I feel this way as I don’t have a prob­lem with low self-es­teem. What’s wrong with me? Sammy, email

Be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion means ev­ery­one in the room or en­vi­ron­ment is look­ing at you or talk­ing about you. Sim­ply talk­ing to peo­ple doesn’t make you the cen­tre of at­ten­tion. In com­pany the per­son who speaks is sim­ply given at­ten­tion to af­ford the lis­ten­ers the op­por­tu­nity to fo­cus on what’s be­ing said.

You also need to keep in mind that com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t only about words – we also take note of body lan­guage, fa­cial ex­pres­sion, tone of voice and so on. So if peo­ple don’t look at you while you’re speak­ing they’re los­ing th­ese sub­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion signs.

Try to stop fo­cus­ing on your­self and what peo­ple may think about you. Rather fo­cus on what it is you want to com­mu­ni­cate and what the other peo­ple are say­ing. Even the most in­formed and clever per­son can learn some­thing from oth­ers, so don’t think your ideas or thoughts aren’t worth shar­ing.

It might help you to be­come more com­fort­able if you prac­tise in your room in front of a mir­ror. Try to look at your­self as other peo­ple will see you. Take note of your body lan­guage, ex­pres­sion and tone of voice. No­tice how you com­mu­ni­cate with your voice and body. For ex­am­ple, when talk­ing about some­thing you’re look­ing for­ward to, your voice con­veys ex­cite­ment.

If you don’t know what to talk to peo­ple about, sim­ply ask them about them­selves and things they en­joy do­ing. There’ll al­ways be peo­ple who are more than happy to talk about them­selves.

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