How To Walk Past People Without Freaking Out
You’re taking an innocent walk in the park. It’s a beautiful day. You’re really enjoying yourself.
Suddenly, you see someone coming towards you on the sidewalk. You start to freak out inside. Immediately you get this sudden urge to cross the street or turn back, but they’ve already seen you. It would look weird.
It’s a guy and he’s getting closer. You go into complete anxiety mode. Your heart starts racing, your stomach is turning over, and you feel clumsy and awkward. You start to analyze everylittle thing you do, right down to how you walk and where you should look. You wonder what’s the “normal” thing to do?
Why Do Shy People Feel This Way?
Be honest, what’s the worst thing that could happen to you if you walked past someone the wrong way? Even if you stared at them a little too long or you walked strangely or whatever. You still wouldn’t get hurt or be affected in any long-term way in most places in today’s society.
So where do the anxious feelings come from? Why do you get them when you see a total stranger coming towards you?
It comes down to how humans evolved. In our years of evolution, showing outward defiance (direct eye contact) to someone of higher status than you could get you hurt, killed or kicked out of the tribe. It was in your best interest to worry about how you passed the dominant male leader of the tribe so that he wouldn’t accidentally mistake you for competition. So the anxiety is a “leftover” feeling from those days.
Shyness Or Survival Instinct?
The feeling comes from a place of “survival”, more than it comes from “shyness”. Even non-shy people get the feeling. Imagine a normally confident, regular middle-aged man walking down a deserted street. Suddenly he sees a group of gang members walking towards him. He doesn’t want to give the gang members a reason to attack him, but at the same time, he also doesn’t want to look like he would be an easy target for a mugging. He starts to go through the same anxiety you go do. Heart racing, stomach flops, analyzing everything he’s doing.
The same feeling comes when almost anyone walks by a person they find attractive. You immediately think the attractive person is higher status than you are, because of their looks, and you get nervous. But instead of trying not to piss a high status person off, in this case you’re trying to impress them. Which leads to analyzing and awkwardness because of your shyness.
The big difference in shy people is that they feel almost everyone is higher status than them. That’s why you get the anxious feeling when you pass ordinary, harmless people. That’s the cause of your problem. Need more proof?
What Happens When You Pass An Old Person On The Street?
Do you ever feel more comfortable passing old people than people your own age or younger?
It’s not that they’re friendlier. The truth is, you perceive old people in general to be lower social status than yourself (even if they are a lot more outgoing and social). You do this because they can’t usually fight or dominate. Several thousand years ago, it was very unlikely that an old person was an important leader that you were afraid of offending.
I realize some of this sounds kind of like pseudo-logic, but you have to understand that the human species has been evolving for millions of years. It was only in the last few hundred that modern society was formed. A lot of the stuff people do, they do because it’s been built-in to us over ages. And we usually don’t realize to what extent these built-in responses govern our actions.
So What Should You Do When Walking By A Stranger?
I could tell you how long to hold eye contact, where to look and how you should walk when approaching someone to make the best impression, instead I’ll say: IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER! There is no “normal” way to walk past someone.
I’m going to tell you the truth here, and the truth is that no one notices how you act when they walk by. It’s not that they don’t see you. They see, but they don’t care. No normal person thinks about it afterwards or gives it a second thought. Even if you do something really weird as you walk by, they will forget about it in 30 seconds. Why? Because it doesn’t affect them.
A Couple Tips
First, try not to look down at the ground as you pass people. It doesn’t matter to the person that’s passing by, but it should matter to you. Looking down broadcasts that you’re shy and unconfident through your body language. Look up and get used to doing it. Break the habit. After a while it won’t be so hard.
Second, pretend you’re the other person, and you’re walking towards yourself. This will give you a new perspective, and you’ll see that by feeling nervous you’re just making yourself look worse. You need to relax and then simply think about something else. Take the person walking towards you out of your mind completely. The less you think the less you’ll feel anxious.
Here’s what’s been covered in this article:
- The anxious feelings you get when you walk by someone comes from thousands of years of evolution. It’s more about “survival” than “shyness”.
- Everyone gets this type of anxiety sometimes. Shy people get it all of the time because they believe almost everyone is higher status than them.
- It doesn’t really matter what you do, because the other person either won’t notice or won’t care. They’ll be too busy worrying about themselves and their own issues.
The next time you’re walking down the street, and you see someone coming at you, you’ll still get the feeling. But something will be different. Now that you know where it comes from and that it is perfectly normal, the feeling will “lose its edge”. You’ll realize the other person is judging you even less than you’re judging them, which is zero. And you will feel like you’ve been given a new perspective on shyness.
Don’t believe me? Go outside and try it.
Yours in Social Success,
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