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15 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Would Never Tell You

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15 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Would Never Tell You

It’s the third largest psychological problem that Americans face and yet nobody talks about us. Yes, I am just one of those 15 million Americans who suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD). It is sometimes referred to as social phobia. Like most disorders, it is a spectrum one where severe cases can lead to crippling effects while milder cases are various degrees of shyness. We know that there may be a genetic connection but that also our environment may have caused all this distress. What is even worse is that this condition has to remain a secret because we fear that it may affect our relationships with family and colleagues. Here are 15 things we do not want you to know.

1. We cannot relax with others

The problem is that we are acutely aware of how you are watching us all the time. Our logic and reasoning tell us this cannot be for real, but for us it is. We feel as if we are being judged all the time and this makes us terribly tense and uneasy. We do not know whether you are laughing with us or at us. Watch this video here to find out what we have to go through on a daily basis.

2. We do not show off about our achievements

Are you repelled by the show offs and the arrogant? If you are, then you probably appreciate how modest we are about our own talents because we find it terribly difficult to talk with people, let alone shout our achievements from the rooftops. The great thing about us is that we never dominate meetings and we just get on with our job, quietly and efficiently.

3. We usually avoid eating out

It is true that we get very nervous in front of people eating at the canteen or restaurant. We feel that they are constantly scrutinizing us so it is much better when we can eat in peace, alone. We also can enjoy our food much more.

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4. We know how to listen

Being socially anxious means that we have got listening down to a fine art. We are much more empathic and that is why we are so suited to working in health and customer care. We love listening and it makes our work easier, in a way.

5. We make great friends

In spite of all the social unease and shyness, when you get to know us, then you are likely to form a deeper and longer lasting friendship with us. Actually, instead of worrying how we are cultivating the friendship, we should relax a lot more because people know we are somewhat different but the quality of friendship is just as good for them, if not better!

6. We hate speaking in public

I hated speaking at meetings because I was extremely aware of being criticized and being judged all the time. Probably my colleagues were just wondering when the next coffee break would be or how they would get promotion. We are extremely fearful and anxious about these situations.

7. We dread confrontation

We just hope they never happen but they often do! You know when you have to deal with a problem with a neighbour who is making your life hell because of an extra loud TV. Even being assertive with family means that we have to move out of our comfort zone and that is really difficult and challenging for us. We just hope and pray that you do not notice how we sweat and our hands tremble when we manage to speak to you.

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8. We work well alone

We are proud of how we can stay in the zone and get things done. There are no interruptions caused by chatty colleagues because they avoid us by now. But what we have achieved in terms of meeting a deadline and a project is fantastic. The downside is that we hate teamwork because we feel that there is far too much emphasis on talking, rather than getting down to it.

9. We are better rewarded

I bet you never knew that we get great satisfaction and joy from achieving our goals. Our reward buttons are very active and this spurs us on to do even better. There is some research that suggests that the extroverts and socially adept are not getting the same rewards buzz as we do.

10. We risk isolation

We would rather not attend the first day of class at university because of the fear of meeting all those new people who will be in our class. How will we sound with a shaky voice like that and a sweaty handshake? I was once mocked by a high ranking executive because I spoke quietly about my background. He interpreted my social anxiety as being ashamed of my nationality. It was an excruciating experience, I can tell you. So, now you understand why we skip that first day and prefer to mingle quietly or remain unnoticed when we do turn up.

11. We are afraid of asking for basic information

We prefer to go without something, rather have to face up to asking someone in the supermarket where something is. We know this is ridiculous but we would rather go without. The same applies when we have to ask for information at an office. Knocking on a door requires a lot of courage for us as does dialling a number and talking to a stranger on the phone.

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12. We avoid parties

It is normal to be a little shy at parties when you have to meet new people. But we always go for the upgrade. We just get swept up in the anxiety. We get lots of physical reactions such as sweating, butterflies and maybe palpitations. You can see why we avoid these occasions when and if at all possible.

13. We are not reaching our full potential

It comes as no surprise that the majority (70%) of us are at the bottom of the socio-economic scale and that half of us may not have even completed high school. Social anxiety is keeping us from reaching our full potential. I know people who turned down high powered jobs because of the fear of speaking at meetings. Others never became actors because the fear of being watched on stage was too terrifying a thought.

14. We are conscious of the give away signs

In a way this makes it even worse because we know that some of the following reactions can be a give away. That makes it even worse and we freeze up completely. For example, we do not want to make eye contact. We sometimes talk very quietly or may even talk extremely quickly. Blushing is a problem for us so we tend to use a lot of make-up if we are women. I know some people who are socially anxious and they tell jokes all the time as if to hide their fear. Others would not dare even tell a joke and I am definitely in the latter category.

15. We practise our lines all the time

Honestly, you would think we were about to go on stage! You see, we constantly repeat and practise what we are going to say and also how we are going to deliver it. Over and over again. We just add to the fear by imagining negative and dreadful scenarios. It will be a catastrophe or disaster! I know that I could start drinking to get over my fear but then everyone will smell the alcohol on my breath.

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Now I know that I have to decide whether to seek psychotherapy and medications to help me get out of this mess. I can tell you that it is no surprise to learn that about 35% of people with SAD wait about 10 years before actually getting treatment.

Featured photo credit: romantic couple in love young people on the docks in the winter via shutterstock.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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