Hypothesis testing is a concept taken from cognitive behavioural therapy and that involves testing a negative ‘hypothesis’ in order to disprove your fears and help you to overcome an illogical anxiety. This is a technique that you can use to smash through limiting fears, and it can be perfectly targeted towards destroying social anxiety.
How it Works
When you’re afraid of something or something causes anxiety, then normally this is linked to some kind of belief about what will happen. We are not afraid of heights – we are afraid of falling. Likewise, we are anxious in social situations because we think we might stutter, we might get shouted at, or we might make a fool of ourselves. This is the ‘hypothesis’.
Hypothesis testing then involves proving how unlikely this is to yourself. In the case of a social phobia, you can do this by simply facing your worst case scenario to see what actually happens.
Putting it Into Practice
Afraid you’ll make a fool of yourself in public and get laughed at? The reality is that most people are kind and understanding. If you actually do stutter or make a mistake people will generally turn a blind eye and be compassionate. You probably know this already on a conscious level, so all that’s left to do is to prove it to yourself so that you believe it on every level. This is where hypothesis testing comes into play and to do tis you’re going to make a fool of yourself on purpose.
So find a shop where you don’t visit regularly, go up to the till and then purposefully stutter and act shy and confused. Chances are you’ll be absolutely terrified while doing this but if you can get through it, you’ll find that in 99% of cases, the assistant simply overlooks your struggles and is perfectly polite.
And once you’ve done that, you can do it again and again and you’re likely to find the exact same thing happening each time.
Of course you might have to build up to this if you’re too scared, to begin with. Start by occasionally letting yourself stutter in conversation with friends and then in public. Perhaps try speaking to more strangers over time, and generally you can gradually teach yourself that there are much worse things than not sounding perfectly eloquent all the time! People will go easy on you – so make sure you go easy on yourself too.