I have struggled with SA for many years now, but I have noticed an environment where I feel much less anxiety and have made many positive experiences. The environment I am speaking about is spending time with foreigners. There are two environments I am thinking about here.
The first are foreigners who are here studying in school that speak some English fairly well but do not know much about American culture or American ways. I feel less anxiety around these people because they do not have the same expectations from a conversation or interaction as fellow Americans would. If they are still new to America, they are looking for people to reach out to them and be friends and maybe help them adjust to life here. If I go to their house or apartment, I have found these foreigners to be much more hospitable and welcoming than many Americans, and this is in a country not even their own. They want to serve you tea, or a meal from their home country, etc. And they love it when you try to learn some of their language.
The second environment I am thinking about is volunteering to teach English and/or citizenship classes to refugees. This is a chance to be up in front of a class, but you do not have the same pressure as you would in front of Americans. First of all, many of these refugees still cannot speak English very well, so you don't have to say very much to them, but just be friendly. If you learn a few words in their language, like saying hello and goodbye, they will absolutely love it. Also, these foreigners typically have a lot of respect for you because you have come to teach them and help them. You will not have a class full of bored, spoiled and judgmental American kids that want to be entertained, and you will not deal with the normal social expectations that we Americans put on each other in a classroom setting.
I hope this doesn't sound like I am bashing Americans (I am one!). I just know our culture can put a lot of expectations on each other to be very socially adept and able to speak in front of others at the drop of a hat, and our kids don't always show respect for teachers. I have found spending time with foreigners a positive environment that has helped me to heal and be more confident in other areas of life. The anxiety is mild, so it is a place where I can interact with other humans and practice the social anxiety therapy techniques in a safer environment. It is a rewarding experience to help them while they live here or adjust here. I hope this may become a strategy for some to overcome social anxiety.
Does anybody else have similar experiences with foreigners? Please share!