Extreme Anxiety And Meeting People


Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, content in your role at work or looking to make a change, you’ll find that having positive, working relationships with others can open opportunities which you’d otherwise miss. For many of us, establishing relationships with others is easily done, as is maintaining and growing those relationships.

On the other hand, there are a great many for whom the idea of striking up a relationship with someone they don’t know is stressful. They’re fraught with anxiety about what to say, how to get started, wondering what to talk about and how to keep a conversation going, knowing when and how to end it and move to another etc. Just thinking about talking, communicating, listening, smiling, interacting and – ah, it’s just so exhausting!

Whoa…let’s take a few deep breaths, relax and start slow. The thing about communicating with others is that it seems incredibly simple when we look around us and see people engaged in conversations. It is after all, just talking, listening to the other person, responding, listening again; an exchange of both hearing what is being said and responding. It all seems so effortless and easy.

If you wonder why some find it so hard to do, think back to a time in your life when you were trying to get up the courage to speak to someone you had some strong feelings for. Perhaps you wanted to ask them out on a date, find out if they felt the same way about you that you felt about them. Just asking them straight out however – while the most obvious way to get the information you’re looking for, was not how you went about it. You worked up the courage to approach them and made some small talk, dancing all around what you really wanted until the time seemed right to bring up the topic of a date, grabbing a beverage etc. Remember that anxiety? Remember the angst of wondering why talking to THIS person seemed so much more effort even though your motivation was high?

Well, now imagine how intense and on edge a person might feel if they experienced the same level of anxiety at the prospect of starting a conversation with just about everyone they come into contact with. Feeling such pressure and stress with respect to engaging in conversations with people throughout your day would be exhausting. And these are what many of us might consider every day commonplace conversations we’re talking about here. Now, if we throw in the odd conversation where there’s more on the line, such as a job interview, professionally networking, approaching a Receptionist at a company we’d like to work with etc., you can see how that anxiety is ramped up tremendously. What’s hard anyways just got a whole lot tougher.

Like I said, take a moment and breathe deeply. In and out; inhale, exhale. Again.

Okay, so let’s talk – you read, I’ll write. This conversing thing is a skill like any other and some do it better than others. It’s not a fault of yours if it doesn’t come easy. Let’s look at these conversations and how to get started.

First of all, it might be best to practice interacting with others with a short conversation in mind, and one we can walk away from at any point without being too awkward. You don’t want to practice on an important conversation. Let’s even suppose we don’t have a friend to practice with.

Can I suggest you start with a quick conversation – just for practice – and we then build on our growing confidence over time to longer conversations. One possible place to start is a convenience store. You can look through the window and pick a time when the person there is by themselves. Where you’d normally go in, get your item, pay for it and leave fast, this time your objective is to actually say something. It will be brief, it will be over fast and you can leave, get outside, breath and recover.

Okay, so picture the interaction before you enter. Not the way it’s gone before but like this. You walk in, get what you want and approach the counter. Place your item on the counter and say, “Hi”. As an employee they might ask you if you want a lottery ticket or if you found everything you wanted; every store is similar but different. Think about what they said and say, “No thank you, just this.” If you can, look at them while you say it, give them your money, get your change and leave. Add a goodbye if you want.

This is extremely basic for many people but a anxiety-filled interaction for others. If you can put a series of these short exchanges together with people you don’t know, you are laying a foundation for interacting with others when there is more at stake. Returning to the same employee on different days will help you feel more comfortable too, and you will have days when you things go well and maybe a day or two where you feel you haven’t made progress. That’s to be expected when trying to overcome a challenge.

You may want to try other brief encounters such as saying good morning to a Bus Driver, wishing a Bank Teller a nice day or just looking at someone you pass on the street in the eyes without saying a word. Small steps.

Out Of Work And Feeling Down?


At the moment, I’m facilitating an employment workshop with 10 participants. I’ve had 1:1 conversations, ascertaining the reasons they believe they are unemployed. So here I am, now in possession of information from all of them, though I’d hazard I haven’t got all the barriers, just the ones they are open to sharing with me.

Many of their self-declared problems are shared problems; you know, the kind that one would expect to be associated with being out of work for an extended period. Now I’m not going to share who said what, as that would break confidentiality and trust if they identified themselves after reading this piece. However, if I gave them all slips of paper and asked them to write down their issues which they’d share, many of the participants would look at each other and say, “You too?”

Have you been out of work at some point in your life? Maybe you know some of what they have shared then. Should that unemployment period be protracted and become longer than you’d have hoped or expected, your departure from the world of work would result in additional barriers and problems wouldn’t it?

That’s the point really; what you’re feeling is probably exactly the same thing other people in your situation are feeling. You have a shared experience which is long unemployment, and therefore the feelings that go with that long unemployment are naturally the same for most people. It’s not hard to believe that if you started feeling unsure of yourself, some anxiety when it came to going for a job when you haven’t had an interview in a long time and finally, you were feeling somewhat sad or depressed about your plight, others might feel the same way.

Those general kind of feelings wouldn’t be unique to my 10 people. Those are generalities which are shared by a majority of out-of-work folks. It is comforting to know that because other people in your situation feel like you do, maybe you’re not so odd or broken. That phrase, “What’s wrong with me?”, that so many people end up asking themselves is being asked by an awful lot of people.

So? How does that help get you a job? I didn’t say or claim that it would – but keep reading. The benefit of this is that once you realize that other people also feel much the same as what you are feeling, you have to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t anything wrong with YOU. Those feelings you have are sure unwanted of course – but they are a shared normal experience by people in general in response to unemployment and a desire to be working.

There is a struggle going on inside you between what you want and perceive as normal (getting and holding down a job) and your reality (despite my efforts, I’m out of work). If you choose to look at things differently, that’s actually a good sign. Those feelings expressed as, “What’s wrong with me?”, are really internal signals you are sending to yourself, encouraging you to get back to what you perceive as normal; in this case, working.

Once you stop feeling that internal struggle and the brain ceases to say, “What’s wrong with me (that I can’t get a job)”, it may be because you’ve got a, ‘new normal’ which is unemployment and you are actually okay with that status. If you settle in to unemployment and don’t feel anymore stress or anxiety, that isn’t something I’d suggest is a good thing. Your inner self is struggling to change your present reality and knows that paid work will bring you back into balance; this in turn brings you out of sadness, raises your self-esteem and you say, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Work can in fact, resolve many people’s inner imbalances. You’d expect to feel good when you get an employer who calls you up and offers you an interview. Why? Because that call is really validation from someone saying you are wanted and have desirable skills and qualifications sure – but actually it’s because you are hopeful of returning to what you perceive as normal.

Should you actually hear those words, “Welcome to the team, you’re hired”, you’ll feel a weight being lifted. That weight you currently feel is a mixed bag of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, insecurity, financial dependence, constant tension, isolation, etc. So no wonder then that just getting hired brings a smile to your face, your shoulders may physically drop, your forehead stress lines relax, and your self-confidence improves.

All those symptoms and labels we have for what is wrong with us and others is our mind and body’s way of signalling us that something is out of whack. To return to ‘normal’, something needs changing; and in this case it’s unemployment to employed. Okay getting a job doesn’t snap you out of clinical depression overnight anymore than you woke up one morning and went from everything perfect to clinically depressed.

Take faith though; just making an effort to get help with your unemployment is a mental signal which sows the seeds of, “I’m doing something to change my unemployed status and I anticipate success in the near future”. Every bit of improving your resume, cover letter, job searching techniques, interview skills, etc. repairs part of your ‘damaged goods’ mentality and tells you that you are on the road back to ‘normal’. Welcome back.