Anxiety Talking And Working With People

The job posting says you’ll be working independently and you need to be self-disciplined because you won’t have regular contact with others. Your lack of interest in or anxiety when working with other people may therefore may attract you to positions with these kinds of statements. However, at some point, you’ll be needing to sit down and chat with an interviewer.

And this is the problem in a nutshell for those people who don’t have good interpersonal skills and prefer to avoid social situations: they don’t have good people skills, and don’t feel comfortable in situations where they have to interact with other people, so they avoid specific training sessions where they could work on those skills. Therefore, the skills don’t get better, the anxiety grows, and when the interview is finally obtained, they are under significant stress and don’t perform well and act extremely nervous and uptight. And the cycle continues.

The answer as difficult as it is to hear is to put yourself in more situations where you do interact with others, but on your own terms to start. Instead of picturing an interview where you feel you can’t control the situation and as a result fare poorly, start with situations of your own making that are short in duration and with less to risk if things don’t go well.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you typically go grocery shopping and don’t talk to anyone until you get to the cashier. Even there, you may not say much and then you’re out of the store and on your way home. Think back to the store, and picture the person behind the meat counter for instance. When they eye you standing there, it’s likely they will offer their help. Instead of saying, “No thanks” and moving away, you could ask him or her how to cook a cut of meat, or how long should the shish-kabobs you’re buying be grilled and at what temperature. Even if you already know that information, it gets a conversation going. And you can scoot away at any point. The butcher is going to remain behind the counter anyhow. If this sounds incredibly stressful, remember you can always hold up in the next aisle and compose yourself.

In the above example, if you are worried ahead of time of having to run into the butcher every time you go back in the future, you could always try this kind of experiment in a grocery store you don’t often go to.

Some readers might be seriously wondering if there really are people out there who have difficulty interacting with other people in simple every day situations. Yes there are, and many of them. You can just imagine therefore how utterly terrifying the job interview process must be for these people who have skills and capabilities but find the job interview such an agonizing terror. And just because you might not find talking to people on a daily basis a stressful situation, you can’t expect others to just, “suck it up and get over it”; advice I often hear one person giving another.

A Psychologist or professional Counsellor might look at past events and identify root causes of such a condition and label it a phobia or a disorder of some kind. But with or without that label attached, the more one isolates themselves from people, the more challenging it becomes to initiate or respond favourably to interaction with others. In its extreme I’ve known agoraphobic people who live quite comfortably in their own residences but who cannot walk beyond their door without extreme anxiety and outright fear.

Recently I heard a fellow talking on the radio but unfortunately missed the introduction and didn’t get the full interview. He was making an observation about the current young generation who because so much of their time is spent on electronic devices, are losing interpersonal communication skills. His point was that at an early age, toddlers and pre-schoolers socialize freely. Then in school they get introduced at an early age to tablets, computers, cell phones, etc. He referenced groups of friends sitting at the same table but none of them talking to each other, but all of them texting to other people or the people at the table. Their communication skills are exceptionally good behind a screen, but poor face-to-face because they lack the practice older generations have typically had.

And it’s true most of the time that sooner or later, no matter how wonderful computers are, you have to get out and meet people if one of your goals is work. If you put off talking to everyone until you absolutely have to, then the stakes are incredibly high for that one interaction to go well: the job interview. If however, you take the approach that you will start with a series of brief conversations with people where less is on the line, you may find that you have some success, and can build on that success.

Unemployment is isolating. You could without intending to do it, cut yourself off from friends, and develop anxiety about being around other people, brought on by feelings of low self-esteem associated with your lack of work. Good advice is to stay connected, meet and speak with others, starting with those you trust most to be sympathetic and well-meaning.

And remember that all those people who seem to find socializing so effortless, have other issues; we all do.


2 thoughts on “Anxiety Talking And Working With People

  1. Thank you. This is an excellent article. Believe me, I know there are people out there who have difficulty interacting with other people. I am one of them. I make it a point to communicate with people in small ways, as you suggest. I have had to do this all my life to keep up my social skills and self esteem.


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