February 1, 2015 at 6:58 pm #15205
One of the regular concerns expressed by members of our social anxiety groups is the terror of being consider ‘too quiet’ when in the company of other people. This is view as somehow inappropriate and offensive to others. The variety of negatively held beliefs surrounding ‘being quiet’ in company are remarkable; others will view the quiet person as lazy, or not pulling their conversational weight, or strange, or suspicious, or want to be left alone. The demand that individual’s then place upon themselves to be ‘chatty’ can be enormous with any signs of failure resulting in debilitating anxiety. This anxiety can tend result in ‘mind blank’ or ‘racing thoughts’ making any meaningful contributions to conversations even more difficult.
I am very curious what readers of our forum think about this; is it okay to be relatively quiet in company or not? Also, we can be quiet but attentive or quiet and distracted – are these types of silences the same?
While I normally champion the rights of someone to be quiet (but attentive) in company, being ‘quiet’ in your responses to this forum request – well, the irony will not be lost on me!
February 8, 2015 at 2:49 pm #15206
Throughout my life I have, more than once, heard people compare a conversation with a quiet person to
“drawing blood from a stone”. I always took this personally, feeling that quietness was considered to be a burden on the other person, who would have to work harder at the conversation because I couldn’t.
So when I am with another person, my over-eagerness to be “helpful” in the conversation makes my mind race, which makes me inattentive and interruptive. This makes me feel like I’m being rude, resulting in my wanting to escape from the conversation as quickly as possible, and deeming it a failure. So the next time I have to try harder to be “helpful”. Phew! I get tired thinking about that vicious circle 🙂
I think it is okay to be quiet in conversation, and I do think there is a big difference between being quiet but attentive, or being quiet and distracted. I would like to learn to listen mindfully while in conversation, so people will know I am attentively listening to them, which is always appreciated. I know I can always tell if someone is not really listening to me when I talk, even if they are looking at me.
February 19, 2015 at 10:30 am #15233
I find this only adds to my anxiety when I feel under pressure to speak I then start saying things just to say something and my mind goes completely blank which results in me saying stupid or basic things which leads conversations to a brick wall, maybe other SA sufferers can relate.
Other people seem to have such interesting, funny and intelligent things to add to a conversation and it comes so naturally to them which only puts even more pressure on me to say something equally as interesting or intelligent which just makes me feel even more inadequate and stressed because I feel I cant think of anything good enough to say and it becomes a vicious circle where I end up keeping my mouth shut and looking like the big weirdo who’s making everyone else uncomfortable.
I think too that being so quiet after awhile people are less likely to try and engage with the quiet person…which only leads to more anxiety because I feel iv messed up the social interaction so much that they wont even speak to me or try to speak to me so by the time it takes for me to warm up to the people im associating with I feel they’v already made up their mind about me which only contributes to more anxiety. Being in these situations I find I have to distract myself with something to prevent from taking a panic attack or often times im so preoccupied with my inability to speak or thinking of something good enough to say that I begin to stop listening to the conversation which again leads to more anxiety.
I do agree that people will jump to conclusions about excessively quiet people as being weirdos/suspicious or lazy and rude. I suppose for extroverted people or others who don’t suffer with social anxiety they don’t understand why a person is being so quiet as chatting and socialising comes so naturally to them.
Im sure everybody deals with insecurities and worries about what others think about them on some level but to someone with social anxiety its so excessive that its hard for non sufferers to comprehend.
We cant go around with a sign on our head explaining why we are not speaking, we cant simply blurt out that where afraid of people and thats why we’re not interacting so people will naturally assume we’re either purposely not communicating or we’re or where just straight up weird…and with the social judgment comes more anxiety.
Its a never ending cycle. 🙁
August 20, 2015 at 8:58 am #15425
For me, this is indeed one of my biggest problems. I’ve been diagnosed with social anxiety in the past as well, but I honestly believe that this is my main problem, and that the social anxiety (which isn’t even that bad) is the result of this, not the other way around.
I don’t think it’s ok to be quiet. Regardless what others would think of you if you’re quiet, you’re just missing out on so much of life if you aren’t able to socialise, so really, whether others are ok with it or not really doesn’t make much of a difference to me.
August 20, 2015 at 8:59 am #15426
This is a big problem for me too. I’ve been diagnosed with social anxiety in the past, but I often think that this (not knowing what to say) is really the core of my problem, and that the anxiety is just the result of that, not the other way around.
I also don’t think it really matters whether others think bad about me because of it or not, it’s a problem either way. This problem basically makes socialising impossible, and because of that I’m missing out on life so much. Convincing myself that others don’t mind, and that this is just who I am is not an option.
Odhran, do you know if there’s anything known about this problem, and what can be done about it? I’ve actually been trying to find scientific literature about this problem, but I haven’t been able to find anything.
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