Hello everybody, welcome to episode 33 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
Anxiety sure is a happenin’ subject these days, and today we’ll dip into a question that deals specifically with social anxiety, an unavoidable part of some of our daily lives. We’ve got a question sent in that relates to that strange dread some of us feel when being invited to go places. And hopefully, we’ve got an answer that can match it. Let’s take a look…
QUESTION: “So it's come to my attention lately that I have a tendency to react negatively when it comes to certain things like being invited to get togethers (it's not that I don't like people, I'd just rather be at home) or when having to be around specific people who can be stressful to spend time with. How do I change that mindset and learn to approach these situations with grace and, well, less anxiety?”
Ah, yeah. I get like that too, sometimes. Glad to see I’m in good company.
Specify Your Negative Reaction with Social Anxiety
So I do just want to say first that it’s important to specify what that negative reaction looks like.
And I’m pretty sure you did — you mentioned at the end that you’d like to adopt a mindset that allows for less social anxiety. That leads me to believe these negative reactions you speak of are more fear-based; more about anxiety than they are about anger or another, more aggressive mentality.
I only bring this up because I do feel as though my answer and your means of finding a solution would be different if these negative reactions were based in aggression more than fear. But because you brought up anxiety at the end, I’ll assume that’s the struggle you’re facing. If it’s ever anger, though, I don’t know. Just reword this question and send it right back in and I’ll be happy to look at it again.
What is Appealing about Being at Home?
So you say you’d just rather be at home. Let’s start there.
That’s a fact. That’s a feeling you’ve identified. That’s your truth, and there’s no reason to be upset about that — not saying you are or aren’t, just saying it’s where you are and that’s ok.
Let’s look at the “why,” though. What about being at home is more appealing to you?
Maybe it’s the activities you partake in while you’re at home. I just got into puzzles recently, they’re addicting but I can’t really take those out with me once I’ve started them. Maybe you like being able to wear comfy clothes after being suffocated in work clothes all day. Maybe you’re never at home due to any number of obligations, and the idea of going out some more is simply exhausting.
Consider what about being at home is more appealing to you these days, and shelf the answers because we’re gonna get back to them.
Why are these People Stressful?
The next “why” to take a look at is why do you find these specific people that you mentioned to be stressful? So let’s try to get detailed on that as well. Is it the way they talk? Is it the things they like to do? Is it the way they carry themselves? Is it what they ask of you?
Try to figure out what it is about these people that is stressful, and what changes they’d have to undergo for you to find them to be less stressful? The object here is not to ask people to change for you, so don’t start writing that in your notes, everybody. The object instead is to sort out exactly what feelings you’re having towards them, so you can then be aware of precisely the feelings it might be worth expressing to them.
This is where the mindset work begins — with being clear about where your mind is right now and why it might be that way. Once you’re aware of this, you’re in a better position to change this. But pump your brakes, because you might not even be the one who has to change just yet.
We’re going down a rabbit hole here, but if you consider what bothers you about these people; followed by non-biased speculation as to why they might be behaving in such a way; you can then have healthy communication with them. You can voice your concerns, and learn more about them.
You can voice your concerns, and THEY’LL learn more about YOU. They might not be realizing the ways in which they’re stressing you out, and if you shed light upon this, they may be the ones feeling as though they have to change THEIR mindsets.
Whether that happens or not, you’re putting yourself in a position to remove stress from your life, because you’re inevitably improving your relationship statuses with these people by healthily communicating and thus working to understand one another better, or removing them from your life if these attempts to communicate are futile. You understand?
And this now blends into more mindset work you can do for yourself — this pattern of digging below the surface with these people. While your mind is open to learning more about them, ask yourself what else can your mind be open to in terms of what you can gain from these interactions. With frustration comes close-mindedness — that’s the way it goes for all of us.
So if you can reacquaint yourself with that which these people can offer, you can see your interactions with them in a new and revitalized way. Maybe it’s something they can do for you – like a certain type of knowledge they offer. Maybe it’s something you can do for you – like seeing interactions with them as ways to practice confronting anxiety.
Or, most importantly, maybe it’s even something that you can do for them; like offering to help them with something they’re struggling with. I say most importantly because considering what you can offer puts you back in the driver’s seat. Yes, it’s just nice to be useful to others as well, but it’s also worth your time to shift into thoughts about what you can offer to these interactions rather than what they can take away from you.
Work With Your Social Anxiety
This is when we cycle back to those answers you came up with before, okay? Those answers about what it is that you like more about being home.
Let’s take those answers and see if you can integrate them into these interactions that you so dread. I’ll go through my little sample answers from before to sorta guide you along this process.
What’d I have? One thing I had was “maybe you like the activities you partake in.” So if puzzles is your thing like it’s my thing, maybe you bring a puzzle for everyone to work on. If you like staying at home and watching movies, maybe bring a movie over or suggest everyone goes to the movies together. If you like staying home and watching sports, maybe you suggest that everyone goes to a sports bar or goes out and plays a sport together. See where I’m going with this?
I’m not saying to just…commandeer the whole get together and refuse to do anything other than what you suggest, but I am saying you can bring a voice to these get togethers and offer ideas that you and the group might enjoy, rather than trying to avoid them or going there just to say you went and hanging your head the whole time. Though to your credit, if you went and hung your head the whole time, that’s a sure fire way to stop getting invited back, which I suppose, is yet another way your question could be answered.
What I’ve laid out here, though, aside from that, are ways of working WITH your social anxiety, not against it. Self-monitoring is important to keep track of the successes you have in social situations, instead of only punishing and being critical of yourself for the things that don't go well during social situations.
That’s worth mentioning because when you work with your social anxiety, the grace you said you’re in search of will come.
Grace comes from this acceptance, patience and willingness to work with social anxiety; it does not come with forcing it out or being so at odds with it that you shut down.
That’ll do it for today, dear friends. I sure hope this question and this answer alike were of use to you and that you’ll walk away with some new ideas about how to spice up your social interactions. Or maybe the term, “spruce” up is more relevant since we’re just talking about friends here, haha.
If you all have questions of your own that you’d like answered here on the show, please oh please send them on in. You can email them over to us at advice AT oldpocast DOT com
Thanks for tuning in everyone, hope to see you next time!