Good conversation skills can ease the difficulties of meeting new people. We share some ideas to help you get better at having conversations.
Most of us feel nervous when we meet people we don’t know. If you have a visible difference or disfigurement, you may feel more anxious, defensive or embarrassed when meeting new people.
On this page, we explore why meeting someone for the first time can be challenging when you have a visible difference, and how you can make it easier.
When we meet someone for the first time, most of us feel pressure to make a good impression. This is particularly the case if we are meeting that person in a professional context such as a business meeting or interview, or if we will have to work together in future.
If you have a visible difference or disfigurement, meeting someone for the first time can be particularly challenging. You may experience feelings of anxiety, awkwardness or embarrassment about your condition, mark or scar. You may wonder what thoughts the other person is having about you.
If you have experienced unwanted attention or negative reactions in the past, you may assume that people will behave negatively towards you before you have even met them. You may feel awkward or shy and try to cover this up by talking too much or being inappropriately humorous.
Trying to understand what is happening for both of you when you meet someone for the first time can help. This is because you can get a sense of what is going through their head and how that might be similar to what you are feeling.
At Changing Faces, we use the acronym “SCARED” to describe what might take place when two people first meet. It shows the range of feelings both people might have – and how this could make them act – creating a very difficult and uneasy situation for both people to handle.
Let’s start with the other person:
|If they feel||They might behave in this way|
|Sorry / Shocked||Staring / Speechless|
|Curious / Confused||Clumsy|
|Anxious||Asking / Awkward|
|Repelled||Recoiling / Rude|
Maybe you feel something like this:
|If you feel||You might|
|Conspicuous (standing out)||Cover yourself up|
|Angry / Anxious||be Angry / Anxious|
|Rejected – like people don’t want to know you||Retreat – pull away or hide from people|
|Embarrassed||be Evasive – ignore people|
|Different||act Defensively – try to protect yourself|
As being SCARED can create such a difficult situation, it’s natural to try to avoid each other or turn away from the conversation. As someone with a visible difference or disfigurement, you may find you contend with this over and over again. This can cause other problems. For example, you might:
- Expect people to behave in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, which can make you even more worried.
- Avoid meeting new people. This can make you even more nervous when you speak to people you don’t know.
- Feel angry with the people giving you a hard time and shout or feel upset.
- Take it out on the people around you, like your family.
There are a number of things you can do to make meeting people easier if you are living with a visible difference or disfigurement.
Recognising that the other person may feel SCARED too will help you understand their behaviour better instead of assuming that they are judging or thinking bad thoughts about you.
Here are some approaches you can take to make the interaction easier:
- If low self-esteem is a problem for you, try out our confidence-building techniques.
- Build relaxation techniques into your routine. This will help you approach day-to-day life more calmly and may make social interactions easier. You can find some here.
- If you are worried about how others might react to your visible difference, use our tools to help you prepare for the different ways people might behave.