My last two entries are typical of the problems I encountered while trying to get along with people (groups) back then. Now, Id be lying if I said that I have improved a great deal since; however, the gains I have made feel permanent.
What changed? Well, for one, my approach. After having zero success with a direct, I am defective, therefore I must change strategy, my approach was to work with what I had, rather than try to change who I was. Of course, that meant working around my social anxiety problems.
So, after spending years beating myself up over the way I handled myself in a group, I decided to make a few changes. Here is a list of 10 mistakes (in my opinion) I made that caused people to avoid me, and ultimately led to my social isolation.
1. Lack of motivation. I had a very nonchalant attitude when it came to meeting new people and making an effort to start and continue conversations. While fear, due to my severe social anxiety, was always a factor, laziness and indifference played a huge role. To be fair, however, its hard to get motivated to do something that is perceived to be unpleasant. Bottom line: feeble efforts yield feeble results – end of story.
2. The let them come to me attitude. I always assumed that other people should make the first move when it came to social interaction. I was convinced that by initiating conversations, I was somehow giving something away and exposing myself. I felt so much better when people started conversations with me because then I felt that they really considered me conversation worthy – and that made me feel better. What I failed to realize is that many others had the same hang-up – they were reluctant to initiate the conversation.
3. Assuming everyone thought negatively of me. This is a biggie because it threw cold water on any efforts I made. I was beaten before I even started. Unfortunately, this is not easily overcome, as any SA sufferer will attest. I have found that the only true way to deal with those internal negative thoughts is by reprogramming the belief system with positive, real-world feedback. The only way to get that feedback is by throwing ones self out there. Quite a conundrum. I still fight this feeling every time Im in a social situation. Its getting a bit better, but Ive got a long way to go. I must always remind myself that it is ludicrous for people to judge someone they dont know – I mean, who does that?
4. Nothing to say. You have to bring something to the table when it comes to conversation. Even people that like to hear the sound of their own voice will eventually tire of the one-sided conversation. A rule of thumb here is to know your audience and have something to say. This doesnt mean that you need to talk incessantly (boring), but a few choice words will go a long way. Dont feel like talking? Cant think of anything to say? Think of a common interest you share, comment on some interesting news topic, ask a question, or compliment someone. Dont worry about where the conversation will end up; live for the moment and you could surprise yourself. After youre a little more comfortable, take the conversational lead (if only for a moment). Scary? You bet; but this can transform your life.
5. Failure to see what others see. Imagine if you could look at yourself through the eyes of others. Its so easy to forget that you are projecting an image (whether you want to or not), and people are making assumptions based on what they see. For years, I had a horrible look about me. A combination of anger, depression, and anxiety that said Stay away in no uncertain terms. And people did just that. I was unapproachable. The sad thing is that I had an idea that my look was far from ideal, but I simply ignored it. I made no effort to improve it. If I was in a foul mood, then people were going to know it; screw em. The thing is, you cant fight societys rules, no matter who you are. If you dont want to play, then be prepared to suffer the consequences. I have been working on improving my look for a long time. In fact, I would have to say that its the biggest contributor to my recent social success.
6. Inability (or unwillingness) to understand others. It takes all kinds to make the world go round. I had a tendency to paint everyone with the same brush. I assumed that no one had problems except me, and that they were all living the highlife at my expense. What the hell was that? It sounds so stupid looking back at how warped my interpretations were. Obviously, we all have problems – even the extroverts. There are a great many people that are just as fragile and unsure as I am. Here is a profound statement: Im sure my quietness and antisocial behavior was taken the wrong way by most. Instead of projecting a docile, submissive, friendly image, I suspect most assumed that they were not important enough to socialize with. That behavior, along with my mean facial expression, was interpreted in a very negative manner.
7. Failure to realize that its a two-way street. You get back what you put out. People will not continue to show kindness and friendliness if they are not given the same in return. Because I could not express myself properly, they returned the same anti-social behavior. Somehow, I always assumed that I was special, and that the fundamental laws of society did not apply to me. I expected to be treated with kindness even though I was not reciprocating in kind.
8. Inability to pass on good vibes. Instead of passing around good vibes, I was passing around negativity. People have enough going on in their lives without having to deal with someone that brings them down. People want to be happy and they will seek out those that make them feel good.
9. Having an all or nothing attitude. I needed to have everyone like me, or it was just no good. No middle ground here – like me, or else. Hey, there is not a person alive that is liked by all. Certain personalities dont go together and that is a fact of life. Confident people are secure enough to not give this a second thought, but for me, I couldnt handle being disliked because it seemed to reinforce the low opinion I had of myself. If someone didnt like me, then I was a loser that no one would ever want anything to do with. This still dogs me to this day. Its something that I need to constantly work on.
10. Failure to step back and give myself a break. I was harder on myself than anyone could ever be. I could not have had a lower opinion of anyone else in this world. That is a stressful way of life my friend. These days, I am kinder and more forgiving to myself – all the while being mindful of the fact that I am but a simple human being, complete with faults – just like every other person on the planet.