Are you pushing people away?

 Man in deep thought sits away from group of people

Do you ever feel nervous when you meet new people? Maybe you “get stuck in your head” so much that you can’t think of anything to say, or act in ways that don’t really feel like you. And as a result, maybe you act aloof or distant to protect yourself from feeling foolish.

Let’s face it: Meeting new people can be awkward. We all want to be able to say the right thing, sound clever, and seem informed. Deep inside we may know we won’t “click” with everyone, but that doesn’t stop us from getting caught up in wondering why.

The more you understand your own emotions and reactions, the more comfortable you’ll be with yourself—and the more comfortable you’ll be with others, even in new situations. Here are four ways you can begin to build that kind of trust in yourself, which will in turn help you trust and connect with other people.

1) Prepare for Friendship
First, right where you are, notice your breath. Then notice what you’re feeling. If you’re anxious, irritated, or restless, acknowledge those feelings without judging yourself or trying to change them. As you accept yourself and your feelings, you naturally relax so that you’re not absorbed by those feelings. Breathe deeply into your belly. Now imagine meeting some new people that you really like. Picture laughing with them, and feeling at ease. Believe that connection wants to happen. You might even repeat to yourself, “Connection wants to happen if I let it.” Feel your feet on the floor. Send a bit of kindness to yourself.

2) Nervous? That’s OK
How much do you trust other people? Ask yourself that question and pay attention to how your body responds. Do you notice any tightness, knots, or jitters? These tiny inner sensations are there for a reason. If you feel uneasy about trusting people, be kind to yourself about that. Picture yourself out in the world with confidence, knowing that some unease is a natural part of you, too, and that’s it’s OK.

3) Be Curious
Humans are naturally curious. Watch any child play and you’ll see that’s true. You can use your natural curiosity to feel more comfortable with new people. Relax your body and roll back your shoulders. Take a risk: Ask a question. Allow yourself to be curious about the other person, and you may be surprised that your nervousness is replaced by interest in learning about who you’re talking to.

4) Choose Connection
Notice the people in your life who make themselves available to you. That doesn’t mean settling for spending time with people you don’t find interesting. But don’t waste your energy on people who aren’t welcoming or don’t reach out to you. (It’s most likely that their distance has nothing to do with you.) Focusing too much on unavailable people will only make you feel rejected, and you risk becoming blind to all the love and opportunity for connection that does exist in your life, all around you.



This copyrighted information courtesy of and licensed marriage and family therapist Zoe Gerlach.

Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. August 2019.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.