Friday, March 25, 2011

Lesson #32: When In Doubt Ask How To Help

Truth be told, I can be a bit shy.  I have no problem socializing at big long as I have a microphone in my hand for We Love Soaps TV, or a clipboard in my other hand for HIV Vaccine Trials.  Left to my own devices, I find it very hard to know what to do at parties, social events, friend gatherings, etc.

Then I learned a helpful trick: Ask how I can be helpful.  It gives me a purpose, it feels good, it makes someone's life easier, and it makes it more natural to socialize.  This might mean serving food, pouring drinks, lifting something, washing dishes, picking up garbage, cleaning up, running out to get ice, listening to a problem, or doing something that helps the person running the the festivities to enjoy themselves.

This lesson has been important at non-social times as well.  When a friend has been ill, when a loved one has died, when I'm at one of those junctures where I don't know what to say, I try thinking about how I can be helpful.  And when in doubt, I ask.  Getting out of my own head is one of the most effective ways I have found to manage social anxiety in these forty years.  It is a very simple idea, with very profound consequences.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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