How Can I Be More Thoughtful When I Have Social Anxiety?

Tips for Becoming More Aware of Others Needs When You Have SAD

Think of others to reduce your social anxiety.
Helping hands can make a difference. Getty / Ikon Images / Marcus Butt

How can you be more thoughtful when you have social anxiety? People who are thoughtful think about the happiness and well-being of others. They anticipate what other people need and have the ability to see things from their perspective.

One of the difficulties those with social anxiety disorder (SAD) face is the tendency towards being self-conscious and inwardly focused. When you are overly concerned with how others perceive you and how you come across, it is difficult to be concerned with making others comfortable and thinking of their needs.

If you are receiving treatment for SAD, one avenue for broadening your focus is to learn to become more thoughtful of others.

This can be accomplished by making a simple goal to do five thoughtful things each day. You might plan the first three items and then let the other two come about spontaneously.

Although at first it will feel unnatural, with practice you will learn to automatically think about the needs of others. Eventually, you will make it a priority to be considerate of others in any interaction. Remember that thoughtfulness will also bring good karma your way.

Below are some suggestions of ways that you can show thoughtfulness for others.

  1. Give a Compliment. Consider giving a compliment to a stranger such as a cashier, waitress or other service person. The compliment will be unexpected and appreciated; and you will have a chance to practice making small talk.
  2. Smile. Something as simple as smiling at people can make a difference to their day. Social skills expert Leil Lowndes advises that if you really want to make an impact, learn to slow down your smile. When you meet someone, pause first and then as you look at them slowly let a full smile emerge. It will feel to that person like your smile is genuine and meant just for him.
  1. Send Cards. Thank you cards, birthday cards, get well cards; sending friends and family cards even when there is no special occasion is an easy way to be thoughtful. If you have trouble remembering dates, use technology to keep track.
  2. Let People In. Not in the emotional sense of allowing people to get close, but in the literal sense: Let people go ahead of you! Whether it is holding a door open for someone, letting someone with less items go ahead in line at the supermarket, or allowing a car to merge, letting people in is a small thoughtful gesture that anyone can do.
  1. Be Tidy. You might not automatically associate being tidy with being thoughtful, but keeping your personal space and belongings tidy helps others; particularly those you live or work with. Good personal hygiene also shows thoughtfulness for those around you.
  2. Cook or Bake for Others. If you know someone who is ill or who has a new baby, bringing over a home cooked meal is a thoughtful gesture. A homemade lasagna ready for cooking or a batch of cookies are just a few ideas.
  3. Give Someone Your Full Attention. When you listen, give your full attention! This might seem like a simple gesture, but it is a simple way to be thoughtful when you are with others. It also gives you a chance to practice active listening skills.
  4. Take Notes. When you give someone your full attention, make mental notes about the things that person likes. Then, when it comes time to give a gift, you can give one that shows you are thinking specifically about that person's interests.
  5. Practice Anonymous Thoughtfulness. Being thoughtful doesn't always have to mean that the other person knows it was you who did the good deed. Consider adding change to a parking meter or paying for the person behind you in line at the drive through. You are spreading kindness without expecting anything in return; which is simply good karma.
  1. Start with Gratitude. Start each day by reading a quote about gratitude to set your mind in the right direction. Then, write out three people or things that you are grateful for. Starting with gratitude will naturally make you more thoughtful during the day.
  2. Respond. If someone leaves a voice mail, emails you, or talks to you on the street, respond! It only takes a minute no matter how busy you are. Acknowledging others is a thoughtful action. Be even more proactive, and "like" or comment on social media posts made by friends and family to let them know you are thinking of them.
  3. Carry Snacks. Not sure how to respond to requests from homeless people? Carry portable snacks like granola bars that you can hand out if asked for money.

If you suffer with social anxiety, you might think that it is hard to be thoughtful. Thoughtful people often tend to be outgoing and talkative; they show thoughtfulness in their connections with others. You might feel like you are not good enough or well liked enough to show outward thoughtfulness toward others.

In fact, thoughtfulness needs to start with yourself. When you learn to talk to yourself and treat yourself well, you will be more thoughtful of others as part of the process.

If you suffer with severe social anxiety and have not received treatment, consider looking into different alternatives with your doctor, such as medication or therapy. If you don't feel up to doing it for yourself, think about how the changes that you make could impact those around you.

Finally, what if people notice your changes? How can you explain your sudden thoughtfulness?

Honesty is as good an explanation as any. Perhaps tell others it is a New Year's Resolution to be more thoughtful and think of others more. Or, that you just read a book on the topic. Let go of any guilt about your past behavior and start on a new path today.


Britton S. How to Be a More Thoughtful Busy Person in Less Than 10 Minutes a Day. Accessed February 27, 2016.

Nofziger L. Five Ways to Be Thoughtful and Considerate of Others. Accessed February 27, 2016.

Schmith K. How to Look More Thoughtful Than You Really Are. Accessed February 27, 2016.

Tracy J. Karma and the Art of Being Thoughtful. Accessed February 27, 2016.

Trew JL, Alden LE. Kindness reduces avoidance goals in socially anxious individuals. Motivation and Emotion 2015: 9499.

Continue Reading