Sometimes I feel like it’s all too easy for my thoughts to go into overdrive when talking to someone. That anxious feeling and the second-guessing definitely suck.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered some helpful strategies on how to stop overthinking when talking to someone, and later in the article, I’ll be explaining why this happens to you.
Let’s jump straight into how to stop overthinking during conversations:
1) Acknowledge what’s happening
The first step to eliminating obsessive thoughts is to call them out. Because overthinking results in uncomfortable feelings, there’s a tendency to avoid addressing what’s happening because it might increase the discomfort.
But acknowledging the situation can actually help you let go of unproductive thoughts. For instance, the following types of thoughts rarely serve anything:
“I wonder if I offended them by saying this?”
“Did I respond to that the right way?”
“What are they thinking about me right now?”
“What else should I say?”
“They will probably laugh at me after this conversation.”
Once you notice these thoughts, you’re also in a better position to discover environmental or social cues that may trigger overthinking.
But for starters, quitting overthinking requires awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance. It’s as simple as saying to yourself, “I’m overthinking. That’s fine. I’m okay.” Or, “Stop!” if you feel things are getting too out of hand.
2) Find a way to distract yourself during conversations
If you notice yourself overthinking during social interactions, distracting yourself also helps.
Since you’re in the middle of a conversation, distract yourself by bringing yourself into the presence instead of daydreaming.
Get out of your head and into the flow of things by focusing fully on what you’re saying and what the other person is saying without adding extra thoughts to it.
Also, stay immersed in your environment by noticing what’s happening in your environment.
Take details, such as wall color, what other people are wearing, and their hand gestures.
This brings you into the now, which breaks repetitive thoughts over time if this becomes a habit.
3) Separate truth from fiction
Fighting obsessive and irrational thoughts with logic is one of the most effective strategies for how to stop overthinking when talking to someone. Here are several truths to realize:
- You’re only human. It’s hard to stop overthinking, so sometimes, it’s okay to accept your vulnerability. Permit yourself to make social mistakes. Don’t stress when you fumble your words or say something awkward. You’ll soon realize that the outcome isn’t as terrible as you thought.
- Don’t take things personally. When the person you’re talking to behaves oddly or says something strange that might cause you to overthink, be quick not to factor yourself into the equation. Unless they tell you so, it’s best to assume they are dealing with their stuff or they’re distracted instead of assuming they don’t like you or you’re responsible for their actions.
- There’s just no way of knowing. Overthinking results from an attempt to decipher things we’re not sure of. The truth is we can’t always decide body language or suss out what the other person is secretly thinking. So, instead of making negative judgments, give everything the benefit of the doubt, and move past it.
The more you remind yourself of these truths, the easier it’ll be to calm your mind when the next feelings of doubt creep in during a conversation.
4) Practice mindfulness
Practicing regular mindfulness techniques helps to slow down your thoughts from a buzz to something more manageable.
- Start by slowing down – focus on what you can see, and push all the fuzzy thoughts to the back of your mind.
- Take away any distractions – your mobile phone pinging during a conversation with someone isn’t going to help you keep a clear mind.
- Focus on one thing at a time – if you’re having a chat with someone, talk to them instead of trying to do things whilst chatting.
I find that breathwork has an incredibly calming effect, so I practice it in the mornings to help me get set up for the day.
I can count slowly in my head and focus on regulating my breath as I try to reframe my thoughts. I also usually do this every time I pause to give the other person a chance to talk.
I love the fact that no one is none the wiser about what’s going on in my head, and I can recalibrate my thought patterns privately.
5) Confront the problem
Sometimes you need to take the bull by the horns and confront something that has just triggered your overthinking. Did the other person say something weird? Ask them as politely as possible if they care to explain further.
Point out their behavior and ask if it means anything. Even if there’s something negative happening, knowing for sure helps you focus on addressing the issue instead of obsessing about it.
The person can even help you with ideas on how to avoid similar situations. Once you both resolve the issue, continue with it comfortably, and don’t get hung up on analyzing or discussing the conversation.
This is especially important if you overthink when speaking to specific people. Maybe an uncle who makes you feel uncomfortable, or a friend who always has a mocking tone when they speak to you.
Confront them once and they’ll soon stop making you feel so awkward whenever you talk to them.
6) Try out improv classes
Exposing yourself to your fears helps to diminish them and lessens anxiety. Attending improv classes is a great exposure practice.
It involves role-playing conversations with other people repeatedly, so there’s no room or time for overthinking!
It may feel over the top, but if you continue with it, you’ll soon realize nothing bad is happening.
Interacting with people in the spur of the moment also teaches you that it’s okay even if something embarrassing happens. It’s not the end of the world.
And, that some of the best things in life happen spontaneously – overthinking can kill those magical moments.
7) Remember, most people aren’t paying as much attention as you think
It can feel like people are hanging on to your every word, and if you make a tiny mistake they’ll instantly pick up on it.
But in reality, this is rarely the case. People are much more interested in themselves than others, no matter how engaged they seem.
And, even if they do pick up on a contradiction you make, or a word pronounced wrong, who cares, right? We’re only human and we all make mistakes!
Learn to laugh about it, and they’ll be much more likely to forget that it happened. If you clam up and make it more obvious, it’ll just make the situation worse for you.
8) Work on your self-esteem
One of the underlying reasons why you can’t stop overthinking when talking to someone could stem from having low self-esteem.
With low self-esteem comes feelings of self-consciousness, which makes you question yourself more and feel hyper-aware when people focus their attention on you.
You don’t want to make a mistake in case they stop taking you seriously – in essence, you’re allowing your worth to be dictated by others.
But when you work on your self-esteem, you won’t care what others think. You’ll be able to feel confident within yourself, to express yourself however you like. If people like you, great, if they don’t, oh well, their loss!
So, some tips on raising your confidence levels and self-esteem:
- Challenge your thoughts. When you have negative or limiting thoughts about yourself, stop and ask yourself whether you’d say the same to a friend. Chances are you wouldn’t, so why say it to yourself?
- Focus on the positives. Remind yourself of your achievements, the parts of your personality that everyone loves, and all the good in your life.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Doing things you normally never would, or didn’t think you could do, is a great way to boost your confidence.
- Get active. Not only will you look great which will help your self-esteem, but you’ll promote happy endorphins which will make you feel better internally.
- Surround yourself with good people. Avoid negative people who make you feel bad about yourself. Your environment and company can have a big impact on your mental health.
Take these tips step by step, implement them into your life slowly, and you’ll be amazed at how much your self-worth shoots up.
9) Get it wrong on purpose
You might not have been expecting this one, but what’s the best way to overcome a fear? It’s to face it!
So, what are you afraid of?
- Saying the wrong thing?
- Embarrassing yourself?
- Boring people when you speak?
Whatever the reason, do it on purpose. The next time you meet a friend, say something random which doesn’t even make sense. Their reaction might be to laugh, question you, or simply not even notice.
The point is though, the more you do this, the more you’ll realize that there’s nothing to fear from other people’s reactions.
10) See a mental health professional
Dealing with overthinking can be overwhelming, and you might find it difficult to get out of the rut.
Fortunately, you can get the help of a professional to get a better handle on things. This is important because overthinking can keep you trapped inside your head, but an outside and neutral perspective can free you.
A qualified therapist can help you make sense of your thoughts and develop action plans that develop new and better habits.
If your overthinking is linked to some kind of mental disorder, such as depression and anxiety, your therapist will help you with a plan of action to overcome these conditions and get your life back on track.
What triggers overthinking when talking to someone in the first place?
When figuring out how to stop overthinking when talking to someone, it’s a good idea to understand the cause, to better help you put the above points into practice.
Generally, it all comes down to the following reasons:
1) Social anxiety
Social anxiety or social phobia is a mental disorder that usually manifests during social interactions. For example, you may feel uncomfortable and anxious, perhaps because you have made eye contact or the person you’re speaking with is a stranger.
This is only the trigger, however.
In general, social anxiety stems from the fear of not meeting social expectations, which goes against the biological need to be liked. For instance, you might be afraid of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated.
At times you may dread being the center of attention and accidentally offending someone. So, it’s easy to overanalyze everything in a bid to avoid social mistakes. But, while social anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders, the good news is it’s highly treatable.
Being an introvert means you’re susceptible to overthinking when socializing.
Studies have shown that introverts struggle with this problem because their brains usually have higher levels of electrical activity than extroverts. This means introverts process information faster, making them prone to overthinking, not just in social situations but also during their internal monologues and reflections.
Introverts also tend to have strong listening skills.
They will carefully consider what the other person is saying, even dissecting their sentences to extract the full meaning.
Combine this with a strong aversion to confrontation and conflict, avoidance of negative feedback, and a preference for communicating in writing, and it’s easy to see why an introvert gets overwhelmed with uncomfortable thoughts when talking to someone.
Although most people confuse introversion with social anxiety, it’s a personality trait, not a mental disorder.
Shyness is something that’s often lumped together with introversion and social anxiety. This may be because they cause overthinking during social interactions. Yet, these things are not interchangeable.
Like introversion, shyness is a personality trait, but extroverts can also exhibit shyness. And although shyness stems from anxiety and nervousness about receiving negative evaluations from people – which is a symptom of social anxiety – not everyone who has social anxiety is shy.
In any case, shyness can sometimes cause analysis paralysis and anxious thoughts during a conversation, though it only happens in specific situations, and it’s not as debilitating.
Depression is another psychological disorder that can lead to overthinking during dialogues. However, the reverse is also true because overthinking can interfere with your mental health by amplifying feelings of sadness and anxiety.
This creates a vicious cycle that leads to even more situations where you overthink. Chronic anxiety can manifest as irrational thoughts and fears during conversations. The more difficulty you have controlling worry and fear, the more dread you feel and the more panicked your thoughts become.
If you suspect that this may be your case, you can do a quick online test for depression and anxiety. Keep in mind it’s best to follow up with a professional diagnosis from your doctor.
Trauma can also lead to overthinking in social situations. For instance, victims of bullying are vulnerable to overthinking. If they were humiliated or treated like social outcasts, they might be hyper-aware of what the other person is saying and doing, which leads to obsessive thoughts.
The same applies to people who grew up with critical parents that stressed over and punished social mistakes.
If you’re feeling stressed when talking to someone, you’re more likely to overthink things. That’s because your emotions are heightened, and your ability to gauge the conversation correctly is somewhat off.
That’s why you find that stress plays a role in arguments blowing out of proportion. The other thing is while stress can cause overthinking, the opposite is also true, so it’s a double-edged sword.
The fact that humans are not mind-readers is also a top factor that can cause overthinking.
Our brains develop their own narratives to fill in the gaps where we don’t know what’s going on in the person’s mind. This is made worse because we can’t always read the person’s expressions and mannerisms correctly.
For instance, the other person might be frowning slightly as they concentrate on remembering something.
You can mistake this as a sign of displeasure and start wondering if you did something wrong and what it is and when it happened instead of focusing on the conversation.
Using my own example. I know someone who has a habit of laughing when they’re nervous.
Before I knew this, I used to overthink things and felt like they were laughing at me even though they’re not that type of person.
8) You are a woman
Women are natural overthinkers because studies show their brain activity is more pronounced than men’s. Plus, women tend to be more in touch with their emotions and will always dig deeper to discover what causes them.
This analytical superpower helps them notice the smallest details when talking to someone – how their body language, tone, and expression have changed. However, it’s not always a good thing as it can cause not only overthinking but anxiety and depression as well.
Is overthinking when talking to someone a bad thing?
Overthinking when talking to someone is normal to an extent.
But if you’re here because you want to know how to stop, that means it has a significantly negative impact on your life. This is a bad thing only as far as it interferes with your quality of life.
Otherwise, it should not define the type of person you are, and you can shrug it off if it’s not a persistent occurrence. Focus on the tips above and you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and confident within yourself.
After all, you wouldn’t want to overthink about overthinking.
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