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How do I human?

Chipetele

Aspiring person
#1
I've never had a job before (I'm 30...) and I haven't had friends or any kind of social life since my early/mid teens... 13-15 were traumatic and really messed me up. I won't get into it so long story short, I've been isolated for half my life now (well, I went to school for many years but didn't talk to anyone there and just stayed home and did nothing on my free time), I've got terrible social anxiety and I don't know how to talk to people.
Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Sometimes I know what I should say, but my social anxiety keeps me from saying it because of extreme self consciousness. That means I'll start to reply to someone and then cut myself off mid sentence, often saying "never mind" or similar. Or I won't say/ask about things I know I should.
For example, I was part of a group therapy program recently and another member told me he used to work at the hospital. I knew I should ask what his job was at the hospital, what it was like, and that I should act interested. But I had this overwhelming feeling that that would mean we'd have to get into a whole conversation and he'd have to explain and talk about it to someone he doesn't want to talk to and he'll be annoyed...Objectively, I know that's wrong (in this case at least), because he's the one who started the conversation and volunteered this information. But my feelings don't listen to logic. So I just replied "Oh." And then I felt terrible about that. I knew I was being rude and I knew I'd just left him hanging and I just wanted the whole situation to just go away. That's the kind of thing that happens a lot.
Other times I just don't know what to say at all. I don't know how to carry a conversation. I know it's a good idea to ask follow up questions when someone tells them something about themselves, but I can't just do that, that'll just seem like an interrogation. At some point I have to make a comment about it. And I've no idea what to say. So way too often I just end up saying "oh." and it's incredibly awkward and I feel like never seeing the person again.

So...I started work for the first time ever, first day at work and it goes well enough, I don't talk much but then neither does anyone else, we're just focused on doing our jobs and THAT I can do. But towards the end of the day, the two co-workers I'm in this room with are talking to each other and I'm hyperfocused on doing my job. And then one of them goes home for the day, and he says bye. And I don't say anything. And I only realized after he left that I should've said bye...I was just in this mode where I unconsciously thought of myself as not really there, as if their conversation (and him saying bye) didn't apply to me.. as if he would always be talking to her and she to him...It's hard to explain, but I just didn't see myself as part of the group. I was just a fly on the wall, an invisible observer, someone no one would think to talk to (even though they'd both talked to me several times, mostly work related).
So he left and I didn't say bye back, and now I feel like I fucked up big time and I've anxiety about that. And now I'm alone in the room with this girl that I'm of course super attracted to...And I had to say something to her about the files I'd gone through, and I suddenly found myself really nervous to talk to her. I'd been calm the entire day and could talk to her and the other guy without feeling anxious as long as it was work related, but now all of a sudden I was super anxious and felt like my voice was going to break and that I had to take a deep breath before I said something to her. And then I got ready to leave and she asked me some questions...if I was taking the bus, where I lived etc...and I just answered her questions, trying not to betray how uncomfortable I was. I didn't ask anything back. I just answered her questions like I was being interrogated.
Shortly before all of this my boss had come in and asked everyone if it was going well. One of them gave a long reply (maybe a bit too long,) the other gave a happy, shorter reply...and I just replied "yes!" and continued working. I couldn't think of ANYTHING else to say, no idea how to turn it into a conversation, even a short one...and I think I said it a bit too loud, too.

First day at work was going so well until it suddenly didn't.
And now I'm going there again tomorrow and I feel super anxious about having to talk to them again. I felt surprisingly calm and fine at the beginning of the first day but now I feel like I'm going to go in there and look and sound like a nervous mess

I need to go on some sort of course where I can learn basic social skills. And I need to be on some kind of drug for social anxiety but I'm not doing SSRIs again. I don't think there are many alternatives though.
/rant.
I don't know why I'm writing here other than to rant to someone, but if anyone has any advice to give me on how to handle this shit, I'll be happy to hear it :)
 
#2
Hey 👋 @Chipetele! :)
I think that what it sounds like to me - someone who does not have social anxiety - is that this is something that you could just take a little time to evolve: your skills; & that the best way in which to do this & develop that (in my opinion) is “practice!” :)
Given your limited experience in such matters, it’s only normal and natural for it to feel supremely uncomfortable from the start. Or for a moment. But guess what? It gets easier... & the more you do it, like anything else, the easier it gets! :)
If you were to take something like public speaking, for example, and let’s just say that I’d never done it. This could give me some great trepidation and feelings similar to what you’re describing and explaining to us all here. Now, if this were to somehow suddenly become a significant or regular part of my job, then I’m going to have to eventually get good at it. But guess what? It doesn’t happen overnight . In the beginning, baring that I am a natural it could even be downright dreadful.

but the best thing I could do is to keep working at it, and then one day, I won’t be so awkward, nervous - scared (“stage fright?”) - whatever. . . :D

now one thing I would like to point out, is that I see a little bit of over analysis 🧐 going on here in the two primary situations you’d described in terms of your daily interactions. In fact, I’d bet it’s a safe bet, that were we to ask them their impressions of the matters with which you speak, they’d be far less scathing / critical (of your social skills) & much more on the front of normal than you’d realize. If anything, worst they might say is you were shy? But I don’t even know about that because one thing is pretty well certain, they haven’t come close to giving it an ounce of the magnitude of thought 💭 in which you have.
And so what this dissecting of the situation does - is, it makes everything seem a million times worse (than it actually is...) & furthermore: could lead to a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” of sorts when you make it that much harder and thereby effect your performance 🎭:)!
For what it’s worth you communicate exceptionally well on here. You’re very articulate, and express your thoughts in a very concise & descriptive way. You make it sound interesting, or appealing to want to listen to you more because you’ve held our attention so...

so ! All you’ve got to do, and I know it’s not the same because we’re in the print medium here (however it is interactive and thus one or maybe even several steps closer to the real thing : which, when you really break it down and think about it... Is actually a whole lot easier in terms of less effort being required given the nature of face to face / in person communication, where you’ve got all the nonverbals, facial expressions pauses & everything else that come in to play!) : )

so in short (or long!) maybe try an d get as much “practice,” in talking with us on here in whatever area s seem easiest or best to, or for you (from the start). That might be a start? Good 😌 luck 🍀 !
 

EmB

Absolute Peach!
#3
Hey there! I don't have a huge amount to add to @MisterBGone and his amazing response, but what I will say is that you made a HUGE step by starting work. Like, you say you did an awful job, but you did more socialising in a day than you have in ages! That's massive, and kudos to you for that :) keep going, youve got this.

Sending hugs
 
#4
Sorry that you're having so much anxiety.

The link in my signature can connect you to some information about treatment methods. I found that dietary changes helped me with social anxiety, oddly enough.

Generally speaking, I think it's recommended that people not talk about their disabilities at work. On the other hand, I've found that when I have social anxiety, and I can tell people that I've got it, things go a lot more smoothly. I think it tends to put both me and them at greater ease.

So I guess it's a judgement call. If you decide to go with the tell-someone approach, maybe you could pick someone that you think would be most receptive (the girl you're attracted to?). Maybe communicate via email if that's easier. If she's receptive and supportive, she might have some advice about how to handle things with other coworkers and your boss.

I hope that things work out.

Wishing you good things.
 

Human Ex Machinae

Void Where Prohibited
#5
@Chipetele it's important to remember that the workplace is about work. It isn't about charming the pants off of everyone who crosses our path. If you're doing your job and doing it well and satisfying your boss, that's really all that matters.
But ok, yes, there's a social element involved. Here's the thing to know about people that might help you. People love to talk, especially about themselves and it isn't difficult to get them started. Having a 'successful' social interaction with someone doesn't necessarily require a lot of work. One or two key questions, some strategic nodding of the head, and an occasional, 'Oh, really?' and after they're talked out, they'll walk away happy, thinking what a great listener you are:)
 

Quietus

Well-Known Member
#6
Trust me, you don't have to attempt to prompt others to disclose things about themselves. If someone wants to do so, they will. If they don't, they won't.

I can see that you're hypervigilant of every move you make, whereas most folks don't think twice about it. I understand that, too. I used to do that a little bit.

Try to just go with the flow. The less you worry about it, the more you will relax into a natural way of doing things and interacting with others. You don't have to try to meticulously curate your behaviors and reactions. In fact, if it is simply not in your nature to be talkative or expound on conversation, then just be that and don't think twice. Own it. Your co-workers will grow used to it and they will be fine with it.

At one of my old jobs, I literally used to never speak to anyone else unless they spoke to me first. They would always say hello to me when I came in, and I'd wave or something, or look their way and say hello back, and that would be that. They weren't offended, they didn't gossip (at least I think, haha), they didn't treat me negatively. They just accepted it and it became a routine.

Just do you.
 
#7
hi chippy. im so happy you completed your first day at work. thats really big so go you <3 the thing with the not saying bye when your coworker left, i experience that alot with my housemate. i know its easy for me to say but you are going to be working there for a while so next time they say bye you will have the chance to reciprocate. and i dont think they would judge too harshly if u forgot to say bye one time. i think like misterbgone said things take time and practice. dont expect yourself to be perfect from day one cos htats a bit unlikely ( unlessy our superman ). do u hae a counsellor you can work in tandem with while u do this job? cos then u can bring your anxieties etc to the counsellor and they can help u work through them whle u are working
 

Aurelia

🔶🔸✴ 👑 ✴🔸🔶
#10
One or two key questions, some strategic nodding of the head, and an occasional, 'Oh, really?' and after they're talked out, they'll walk away happy, thinking what a great listener you are
Also, make sure to keep looking them in the eye. I always do that and people think I'm paying attention, when in reality, I'm strategically counting how many times they've blinked since they started talking.
 

Chipetele

Aspiring person
#11
Ooh, I'm having real problems with the eye contact thing. I'm not as uncomfortable with it as I used to be, but I still can't find the right balance between looking into their eyes for too long, or not long enough. I feel like looking them in the eye the entire time will come off as creepy.
 

Human Ex Machinae

Void Where Prohibited
#12
...really? :D wow, we really are a simple species
In many ways, yeah.
Also, make sure to keep looking them in the eye. I always do that and people think I'm paying attention, when in reality, I'm strategically counting how many times they've blinked since they started talking.
I look them in the eye at key moments to punctuate the head nodding and the 'Oh, reallys', but I don't look them in the eye continuously. When I do that too long, all of reality dissolves, and all that remains are our eyes floating in an endless, white void. I hate when that happens.
 

Lara_C

Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
#13
Thanks for the replies everyone :)



...really? :D wow, we really are a simple species
It helps if you can develop a genuine interest in people and their stories. Stops you being self conscious because your attention is on them, not how you are appearing to them.
 

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