In Lindy Hop Approach Anxiety Part 1, I discussed the fear of asking someone to dance. I was hoping to look at some solutions, but first some reality checks.
Novice Reality Check
Here’s a reality check for the novice: Are you worried that you won’t be good enough at dancing as you start out? I have a mixed message for you. You’ll almost certainly be bad at it but that’s probably still good enough. I’ve been a novice dancer. I was bad at dancing. I’ve danced with lots of novice swing dancers. They’re bad at swing dancing. Follows with 10 years of jazz/tap/ballet on their first night of Lindy Hop? Bad at it. Students with six months of classes under their belts on their first night of social dancing? Bad at it. Here’s the good news: The community doesn’t care that you’re bad as a novice. They care that you enjoy yourself, work at improving, come back, and keep coming back.
John Reality Check
Well, this is for me and anyone like me who as Approach Anxiety when it comes to pros. Yes, the professional Lindy Hop dancers out there probably don’t want to spend their whole night dancing with novices. And yes, a lot of pro’s use a night of social dancing to work with their partners. So what? They’re not avoiding all social dances and they’re not only dancing with their partners.
Overcoming Approach Anxiety
I’ve done all these things. And sometimes still do.
Scout out lower status dancers in class situations
As a novice, I quickly learned to make sure I took the beginner class offered immediately before social dancing started. During those classes, I specifically made reservations to dance with a follow during the dance (“What was you name again? Are you staying for the dance? Let’s make sure to practice this material during the dance, OK?”). I’ll cop to doing this just last year, while traveling. My plane landed in Montreal (on a business trip), I checked into my hotel, stashed my bags, and hopped in a taxi to Studio 88-Swing for their night of social dancing. I took the beginner class to meet people and establish a presence as someone who would dance (funny aside, Claudia Joyal-Lapante taught the class completely in French until I made a joke in English about two thirds of the way through and she realized I’d been getting by on watching her physical demonstrations).
Raise your self-perceived status
My second tactic was to do everything I could in my own mind to be higher status, even if the other person didn’t know it. That mainly meant doing everything I could to improve as a dancer. In the short term, it also meant carefully scouting someone to make sure she was at my level or lower. In the medium term, it meant taking lots of classes to get better as fast as I could. During my aforementioned business trip to Montreal, I danced at Cat’s Corner which I was told was the biggest night of dancing in the city. It took me about two songs to get oriented in the bar and figure out who the good dancers in the crowd were. After those few minutes, I approached someone who was a good dancer, but not quite as skilled as myself. In that situation, I was confident in my ability to have a great dance with her, resulting in a big smile and, I assume, a good recommendation to her friends. After doing that a couple more times, I don’t think I stopped dancing the rest of the night despite the fact that deep the the Francophone part of town, sometimes the only language my partners and I shared was Lindy Hop.
Focus on sensations, not the narrative
OK, this is a bit more abstract, and I can’t even source it directly. One of the places I came across the general idea was Andy Hunt’s Pragmatic Thinking & Learning (where I first heard about the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition as well). Hunt presents a metaphor for the working of the brain which distinguishes between Linear processing and Rich processing. The relevant idea for me was operating modes of the brain, either in the narrative, story-telling mode or the sensation-processing mode. The brain can’t process in both modes at once. So get your brain out of the narrative mode. You should be focusing on your immediate sensations, living in the moment, not in your narrative about your life and what brought you to that point (and any ideas about that narrative which are causing that anxiety).
As I mentioned in Part 1, one the community that coined the term “Approach Anxiety” is the seduction community. What do they have to say about solving the problem? Wayne Elise addresses it in his Psychology Today column, Art of Charisma, How To Deal With Approach Anxiety. Digest version?
The problem is not the anxiety. The problem is the lack of action. If you experience [Approach Anxiety], don’t look for a way to magically reduce your fear. Instead, I want you to do something revolutionary that most “experts” would never recommend. I want you to suck it up and go talk to that hot guy or girl anyway. See the hottie, feel the fear, go approach anyway, act nervous and stupid, be rejected (maybe), chalk a victory up to action, become better at tackling a fear.
Hmmm… The advice is “just do it.” Or, in his language, “develop the habit of confronting fear.”
Something else I came across was the idea of “tapping.” There were a couple variations on this, but it came down to self validation while tapping firmly on a specific part of the body. That’s a mixture of self-hypnosis (tying the validation to the physical sensation) and Rich brain processing (if you’re concentrating on the physical sensation, you can’t concentrate on any anxiety-causing self-narrative).
Another idea I came across was the “newbie mission.” This was an exercise that instructed the user to dress nicely but casually, head to a mall, and make eye contact and greeting with strangers for a while. The idea seems to be to build up comfort by easing into the process of approaching strangers.
Here’s an Approach Anxiety Destroyer video. A day of imagining looking at situations and thinking about how one would approach, but not approaching. A second day of looking at the situations, making a superficial greeting, and moving along. And a third day of going through the first two days’ exercises, then some time actually following through. The really interesting idea here is that of generating momentum, the desire within oneself to just actually follow through, instead of feeling anxiety. Quite valuable for the person who is having problems doing any kind of approaching.
So there’s some techniques that have worked for me, and some recommendations from the other sources. Is there any technique that you’ve come across that you or your social circle has found helpful with approach anxiety?