Social Anxiety Strategy—Lab Coat and Clip Board

Anxious about an interaction or event coming up? Just put on a lab coat and grab your clipboard! 

A fun intervention that I use with clients is to imagine that when they are going to do something that may provoke social anxiety or avoidance is to use the posture of “doing an experiment” instead of feeling the weight of the moment so much. I ask clients to approach a situation with the idea of “gathering data” or “doing an experiment”, to imagine they are a scientist putting on their lab coat and grabbing their clipboard and pen so they can approach a situation in a more dispassionate way, a bit removed from their performance and the outcome. It becomes not, “Was I successful at that social interaction?” but “Hmm, that was interesting. I observed and learned a thing. I did an experiment and observed the outcome of it. I now have more data points to better understand this thing and how I want to handle it going forward”. 

Taking an experimental, data-gathering posture seems to take some of the fear and avoidance out of moving forward with social events, job interviews, and dates. My clients who have used this approach report that it is helpful because it provides a sense of distance for them, and makes things feel less personal and acute. This allows for them to be less avoidant since the odds don’t feel so extreme – it’s not about success or failure, it’s just “doing an experiment”. 

So next time you are overthinking a thing you need to do and worrying whether you are going to do well or be successful (or seem like a weirdo or whatever your fear is), just put on that imaginary lab coat and grab that imaginary clipboard, and just gather some data!