Around Family Or Relatives? 
Here’s Why … And 4 Tips To Fix It

how to stop feeling shy around relatives

In this article I’ll show you why you feel nervous, anxious or shy when around family or other relatives. I’ll also show you 4 tips you can use today to fix it.

I figured this was the perfect topic because the holidays are here.

This is that time of year when people get together more often. This is usually bad news for someone who has shyness or social anxiety.

The holidays mean you will be FORCED to socialize more than normal. You may have to talk to people you don’t connect with that well and maybe even don’t like.

I’m talking about those relatives or family friends who you don’t know what to talk about with. Or your grandma who points out how quiet you are at the dinner table. Or that annoying uncle who asks every year if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend yet.

So I wanted to share with you some deep insights and quick tips to help you deal with these issues, so you can have a more enjoyable and relaxing holiday season. The best part is, these tips will not only help you with family and relatives, but they will allow you to be less nervous around pretty much anyone.

Before I get to that, I wanted to share with you a tradition my family has every year…

A few days ago we went to go cut down a christmas tree. Here’s a photo of my mom, dad and me. My brother is holding the camera.


It took us about half an hour to find the right tree. Most of them were too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, etc.

Once we found the perfect tree, we cut it down. Or maybe I should say my dad cut it down as we watched. 😉

As we carried the christmas tree back to the car, I felt like my toes were almost frozen. That’s what you get for living in Canada. But besides the cold, it’s was fun and it’s a great tradition we have.

Right now that tree is lit up in our living room as I write this article.

It feels refreshing to be visiting my family for a couple weeks during the holidays. We get to spend time together and catch up on all the new things happening in each other’s lives. We can enjoy the holiday meals together. Later we’ll celebrate Christmas and open our presents. We can connect at this time of the year easier than any other time. Everyone’s in one place, and school/work are out of the way for a bit.

But, To Be Honest … It Wasn’t Always Like This

In the past I actually HATED the holidays. It was my least favourite part of the year, besides my birthday.

The holidays meant I would be forced to be in the same room as relatives I never talked to. I would usually try to hide away in my room. But if this was impossible, then I would be nervous and awkward at the dinner table.

I hated it when someone would make a comment about me … maybe about how “quiet” I was. Or maybe someone would ask me if I had a girlfriend yet — and then everyone would watch me become uncomfortable and laugh.

Yup, I absolutely dreaded the holidays before.

Now, it’s all changed. I don’t feel the same anxiety or nervousness I did before. I don’t try to avoid talking to people. I feel comfortable at the dinner table, instead of tense and uptight. I can actually relax and enjoy spending time with my family and other relatives.

What happened to make me change?

I figured out the psychology BEHIND why I felt shyness and social anxiety, and this allowed me to fix it. In this article, I’ll share a big insight into why you’re nervous around your family and relatives. Then I’ll give you a 4 practical tips to fix this issue.

I’ll start with the insight. The basic reason why you’re nervous around family and relatives comes down to…

Who’s In Control?

A lot of confidence comes from how in control we feel we are in our lives.

As kids, we have almost no control. Our parents and relatives need to have the control so we survive and make the right long-term decisions. But as we grow older and slowly become adults, the balance of power usually shifts. You start to get more and more control over the decisions you make and the direction your life takes.

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

Unfortunately, many people love a feeling of power and will cling onto whatever little power they feel they have. This includes many parents. I’m sure you can think of some people in your own life that continue to try to control their kid’s life a lot longer than they should. They may be your own parents or someone else’s.

(This is the reason why “teenage rebellion” is so common, by the way. Getting tattoos, a weird hairstyle or breaking rules are all attempts at establishing control over one’s own life. It’s a way of getting a feeling of independence. In psychology, this process is called individuation, and it’s actually a healthy thing to do.)

So you may be nervous and feel less confident around your family or relatives because you’re afraid of losing control. You want to remain the one in charge of your life, and it’s harder to do that when you’re around people who have been able to control you in the past. (And who may feel like they deserve to continue controlling you now.)

How can people control you?

  • By giving you unwanted life advice about what you should do in the future.
  • By making you do things you don’t want to do — like chores or spending time with relatives you dislike.
  • By making you conform to their way of thinking and their value systems. You’re not allowed to or afraid to express a conflicting opinion.

But the most common and most sneaky method of control is…

Emotional Control

This is about who has control over how you feel inside. The big question is: Are you in control or are you ALLOWING other people to manipulate the way you feel?

Most people believe that they are in control of their feelings more than other people, but it’s really not true. When you feel nervousness or anxiety about what someone says or thinks about you, it shows that they have control over how you feel.

For example: When someone calls you quiet or shy and you feel bad … or makes a comment about something that you are insecure about and you feel uncomfortable … then they have control over how you feel. Their action or comment caused you to feel a certain way. (One thing that used to really bug me was when a relative asked me if I had a girlfriend yet. For other people this could be their weight, lack of financial success or any other insecurity.)

I could give a million more examples.

The point is this: Shyness and social anxiety basically come down to being overly emotionally invested in someone else’s opinion of you. You probably already know this — it’s what some people call “caring too much what people think.”

When you are emotionally invested in someone, then you give them control over how you feel about yourself.

So the real question is: How can you become LESS emotionally invested and stop having other people control the way you feel about yourself?

Now, the topic of becoming not emotionally invested in what people think of you is something that I can’t explain in this short article. I cover the topic deeply in my system.

Instead, here’s a few quick tips for regaining control over how you feel about yourself. Once you start seeing that YOU can be the one in charge of how you feel, then you will become much more relaxed around people. You’ll stop letting others make you feel awkward, insecure or nervous .

How To Stay Emotionally In Control

1. Realize That YOU Are The Source Of Insecurity

In other words, nobody can make you feel insecure or uncomfortable about something you weren’t already feeling self-critical about.

I gave the example above about how I always became uncomfortable and awkward whenever someone asked whether I had a girlfriend yet. The truth is, the reason why I felt uncomfortable was because I was already feeling  inferior for not having a girlfriend. I was already feeling like a loser about it, and I was afraid of having this “defect” or imperfection exposed.

These days, since I have now dated plenty of girls and had a girlfriend, I don’t feel insecure when a relative asks me if I have a girlfriend. I am comfortable with myself in this area of life, instead of feeling like I have a flaw I need to hide.

Think about how this applies to any other insecurity you may have. Are you worried that one of your relatives will comment about how quiet, fat, skinny, short or antisocial you are? If you are, then it shows you that you are uncomfortable with some part of yourself. The best way to fix this is to learn unconditional self acceptance, something I teach in my system.

Think about it. If a skinny person gets called fat, then they will just laugh and take it as a joke. Only someone who is already feeling self-critical about being overweight will feel uncomfortable or offended.

Which brings to the second tip…

2. How To Respond To Annoying Comments From Relatives

The best way to respond to those comments that make you feel nervous, uncomfortable or annoyed is in a calm and straightforward way. There’s no need to be clever or get emotional. Just try to remain in control and don’t react too strongly.

Did someone call you quiet? You can either ignore them, or just say something like “Yeah I’m being pretty quiet right now.” This is how someone who isn’t feeling insecure about it would react. Answer in a calm, straightforward way and then move on.

Another technique is to interpret what the person said as a joke. For example, when I started to overcome my shyness, then sometimes relatives would point out that I was acting more confident or dressing differently. If someone makes a comment like this, then you can just laugh as if it’s a joke and then move on.

One last technique for dealing with annoying comments. This one is called “Agree and Amplify.” You just take whatever the other person said, agree with it, and then make it worse.

For example, if someone says “You’re so quiet.” Then you agree with what they said and then exaggerate it in a funny way. A good reply could be: “Yeah I’m so quiet. I’m just sitting here like a mouse.”

Or if someone points out that you gained weight (and they’re not being too rude) then you could say “Yeah, it’s because I just love eating chocolate chip cookies too much.”

3. The Opposite Of Nervousness Is Not Confidence, But Relaxation

Most people who have shyness or social anxiety are too worried about acting confident. Don’t worry about looking confident, instead focus on making sure you are staying relaxed.

When you are relaxed, your awkwardness, nervousness and anxiety go away. And confidence comes only after you are feeling relaxed. These two techniques for coping with anxiety are extremely effective because you can do them anywhere. They are very simple and straightforward to do, but don’t underestimate the power of them.

Next time you are feeling nervous before a big family dinner or party, walk into it remembering to focus on doing these techniques. The key is that you need to actually do these techniques when you feel nervous and anxious. You will probably forget to do them the first few times you need to. It takes some time to make it a habit to remember to use these techniques.

I promise you that once you start using them consistently, you’ll be amazed by the results.

4. Speak Up By Looking For Conversational Threads

Okay, so that takes care of dealing with uncomfortable comments and feeling less nervous, but there’s another big problem.

What about those situations when you just don’t know what to say to a relative you barely talk to?

I recommend you check out this video about technique called “Conversation Threading”. Go watch that video now and then come back here. It’s only 5 and a half minutes long.

You back? Good.

Now you know about conversation threading. So next time you’re at the dinner table sitting next to your Aunt, make sure to keep an ear out for these “threads” and then comment on them.

The big secret is: You don’t need to think of new, original things to say, you just have to learn to use the responses people give you. This is how you can talk to people easily and naturally, without running out of things to say or sitting there with a blank mind.

So make sure to watch the video I recorded about this technique here: How To Always Know What To Say Next.

Going Further

I hope these tips help you with being less nervous, awkward and uncomfortable this holiday season. They definitely helped me get to where I am today.

I also hope you had a couple of insights into the psychology behind shyness and social anxiety. Ideas like emotional investment, and realizing that you need to take back control of how you feel are very important.

The problem is, I didn’t really get a chance to tell you the main strategy of HOW to overcome these big issues. Even a long article like this one can only scratch the surface and give a few tips.

That’s why I created my program called “The Shyness and Social Anxiety System.” I recently updated the whole system and DOUBLED the amount of techniques and strategies in it. I also turned it into an 8.5 hour audio program that you can just sit back and listen to instead of an ebook. This program is designed to totally reprogram your personality using the latest tricks in psychology.

So if you want to learn my complete and total system for rapidly overcoming shyness or social anxiety, then click here.

Anyways, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Talk to you soon.

– Sean

About the author

Sean Cooper

I study all areas of psychology, sharing what works (and what doesn't) for overcoming shyness and social anxiety. After curing my own severe social anxiety I created "The Shyness and Social Anxiety System" to help others. This program has received stunning reviews from psychologists and people like you.

Now it's my life's mission is to help 25,000 people get the confidence, friends and romantic partner you want!

Read more about me here.


  • I like what you said about what the opposite of nervousness. It’s not confidence. When you view staying relaxed as a way to improve confidence, it helps manage things better. Thanks.

  • I also am grateful to learn the opposite of nervousness is not confidence but relaxation. That gives me hope and a new way of thinking because I know that relaxation is a skill that can be acquired. Thanks so much.

  • Thanks for these great , really informative tips , i had never heard or read about the term emotional investment , this is certainly something i engage in that causes me to be anxious/uncomfortable among certain people .

  • The one example I don’t personally agree with is responding to the annoying relatives in the way you offer. I understand what the point of your technique is there, however people who ask those kinds of questions deserve to have it thrown right back at them. So you’re being quiet, fat, or something else.. great.. why not ask the person a real question instead of trying to belittle them. It shows anxiety on their behalf that they could not formulate conservation so have to resort to deriding someone else.

    Do some mental Aikdo and turn it back on them. Rise to the challenge they presented. They will think twice before addressing you next time, and you also gain confidence by having self-respect for yourself instead of just pandering to their nonsense question/assertions.

  • I like a lot of what you wrote. The part about “2. How To Respond To Annoying Comments From Relatives” I completely disagree with and I think it’s TERRIBLE advice and I hope no one listens to it or they will create a lot of pain on themselves. I’ve done pretty much what you recommend when I was younger, and from my own experience it’s the worst way to deal with things. I almost lost all my confidence by PRETENDING to be secure.

    “The best way to respond to those comments that make you feel nervous, uncomfortable or annoyed is in a calm and straightforward way. There’s no need to be clever or get emotional. Just try to remain in control and don’t react too strongly.”

    NO. The best way is to get emotional because you ARE emotional. Don’t try to remain in control. Once you express your anger, you get over it and naturally become calm again. Control physical violence of course, but verbally let out all the anger. Even if it makes an awkward situation during the dinner, things feel much better after you let out anger. If you resist or control it then you will suffer in pain while “appearing” calm.

    “Did someone call you quiet? You can either ignore them, or just say something like “Yeah I’m being pretty quiet right now.” This is how someone who isn’t feeling insecure about it would react. Answer in a calm, straightforward way and then move on.”

    Yeah you say that once you’ve calmed down, NOT while you’re angry. When you’re angry say something like “I resent you for saying I’m quiet!” then once you cool down, you can say whatever. But if you try to be calm while you’re angry you’ll end up feeling sad or controlled.

    “Another technique is to interpret what the person said as a joke. For example, when I started to overcome my shyness, then sometimes relatives would point out that I was acting more confident or dressing differently. If someone makes a comment like this, then you can just laugh as if it’s a joke and then move on.”

    Another fruitless strategy. Do this and feel more empty and controlled inside. Again I recommend getting angry and showing it. Has anyone noticed why some comedians commit suicide? Like Robin Williams recently for example? Because on the outside they make jokes but on the inside they’re hurting. LET OUT THE HURT AND LET OUT THE ANGER IDIOTS. Crack the jokes when you feel good again NOT as a way to cover up your anger.

    “One last technique for dealing with annoying comments. This one is called “Agree and Amplify.” You just take whatever the other person said, agree with it, and then make it worse.”

    And another lame pathetic strategy.

    I have no bad intentions on bashing this part of your article, I seriously think this kind of advice can lead to sadness, feelings of being controlled/bullied and in extreme cases depression/suicide. I’ve been there. And what I’ve learnt is once I stopped worrying about hiding my anger and showing it, people initially didn’t like it but they respected me and I felt much happier afterwards. These strategies make you look calm if you’re a good actor but make you feel shit inside. Please don’t do them unless you want to be in pain.

    • Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for that. The other approach is for self confident people with high self esteem. But for someone who’s been hurt & been bashed up constantly by selfish family members & been bullied, at some points we have to lash out, of course without being physical- otherwise we’ll suffocate. So I really appreciate your thoughts a lot a lot. May God BlessU

    • Hey Brian, thanks for the comment. You shared some really good advice.

      We must have had different family experiences. My relatives asked questions bluntly, but not with bad intentions. They just didn’t have sensitivity or tact. My social anxiety caused me to feel uncomfortable with ANY type of attention, especially the judging kind. They weren’t deliberately trying to control me and make me feel bad… but they did have control over my emotions because of my social anxiety.

      Yes, if someone is deliberately trying to hurt you, then you should express your anger. But if someone is just asking questions bluntly, but without malice, then I gave several ways to quickly redirect the attention.

  • Thank you so much for the perspective and practical approach. However, the links are broken to the videos referenced. Can you direct me to the videos (especially the “Conversation Threading”)?
    Again, thank you for that well-thought-out and well-written article 🙂

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