Valerie Palmer, who I highlight in my New York Times best-selling book, You Say More Than You Think, was socially crippled for years because of social anxiety disorder. Valerie, a gorgeous blonde elementary school teacher in Maryland, came to me, in the summer of 2009, for a 7-day body language makeover. A week later her life changed forever.
Millions of Americans afflicted with social anxiety disorder find it incredibly difficult to perform simple tasks in public, like going shopping, meeting with co-workers, or even riding a bus. Although this extreme disorder is relatively rare, tens of millions of Americans suffer from symptoms approaching social anxiety disorder, such as severe shyness. While treating true social anxiety disorder often involves a combination of behavioral therapy and medication, combating crippling shyness can be as simple as learning new body language techniques.
If you allow it to, shyness can block both your personal and professional paths. It can keep you from asking for a raise, stop you from speaking during meetings, and even prevent you from approaching a cute co-worker at the office happy hour. A good first step in fighting shyness is regaining control and a great way to regain control is by using the primary new body language tool that empowered Valerie to become less threatened in social situations. It's what I call the "New Right Side Rule."
The "Old Right Side Rule" said that people prefer others to always be on their right side. During my years instructing at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, I quickly learned that some people (about half) actually prefer people to be on their left side. There are 2 ways you can use the "New Right Side Rule" to get an edge discovering your side preference and discovering the side preference of those you work with.
To uncover your own side preference, ask yourself some questions. First, when you sleep next to someone, what side do you prefer to be on? Second, imagine you're going to a bar with a friend, which seat will you take? Third, how is your desk situated? My desk is pushed against a wall on the left, so people have to approach from the right (my "good" side). Knowing your side preference lets you take control of situations, makes you more comfortable, and reduces your anxiety.
Tomorrow when you go into the office, start noticing which side your boss and co-workers prefer to be on relative to others. If someone stands on their "bad" side, they may close off their posture, put their hands in their pockets, and even move to a more comfortable area. When you discover someone's side preference, mark an "L" or "R" by their name in a notebook to help you remember. Knowing from which side to approach your boss when asking for a raise or promotion gives you the inside edge. Knowing your co-workers side preferences can make you more confident in the workplace and decrease your stress level in social situations.
Remember, it's hard to get on someone's bad side when you're always on their "good" side! Now go get 'em tiger!
VALERIE UPDATE: Just knowing this valuable tool gave Valerie the edge she needed to give herself permission to socialize, which led to endless new fiends, rekindled friendships and romantic relationships. To meet Valerie and to hear her story, visit my site www.janinedriver.com and click on the link titled, "Check Out This Clip" on the bottom right of the screen.