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Small Talk

Posted 25th April 2018 at 19:20 by indigo777

I still have no real concept of small talk, I hear other people do it and know it goes on but it’s like hearing them speak Swedish and wondering what they are really going on about. Sometimes even when people occasionally spoke to me first I answered them and they looked like I had said something insulting and then moved on. This happened many times but one that springs to mind was when I went to see the queen visit a few years ago. I was taking pictures when an attractive woman said something quite general about how she was just passing and did not know the queen was coming and although I thought I answered appropriately there was that awkwardness and then she walked off with that look of "he's strange!"and I felt embarrassed. That’s a common theme (feeling like a complete twat when I spoke to strangers) and one that I know well although attractive women usually never spoke first to me.

Doing things that fail increases anxiety, negativity, avoidance and paranoia. I don’t know how to get that into the heads of the chosen ones. That is the ones who always want to make you feel guilty for never doing enough and apparently WORKING HARD like they had to. I did work HARD in the same job for 20 years but I kept acting anxious and getting treated like a weirdo. Perhaps they have never encountered being treated badly for having anxiety and in reality it is different for everyone. I don’t think its avoidance alone that maintains social anxiety; it’s doing stuff and failing massively again and again. This shatters your confidence. People in general treat you like shit or mock you for being very shy so you stop doing stuff. In order to succeed you have to have already got to a certain level of social competence in the first place otherwise you just stand or sit around looking awkward and then you become unpopular.

Of course it’s even worse if I am expected to make small talk and initiate the conversation myself. How on earth for instance do you go to a shop or supermarket and speak about the weather to staff without sounding like a sad weirdo who only speaks about the weather and then becomes an object of ridicule. You are supposed to this repeatedly to get over anxiety remember so do you get a list out of new conversation subjects every day and accost people on celebrity gossip when they are trapped in an elevator with you? If you sound nervous or awkward you come across as weird anyway and being self conscious you are totally aware of those little looks or smirks and being laughed at.

For instance as an older man is it really appropriate to make small talk to younger women and smile at them on the street as self help books advise or do you come across like you are trying to chat them up and a perv? The way they just advise you to make small talk about the news or any subject as if it’s irrelevant makes it seem to me that they are ignoring the reality. Your voice, your facial expressions, your body language are all highly relevant in how you come across. This idea that nearly everyone is nice and friendly and do not even notice your behaviour is absolute bullshit. Almost every time I blushed at work somebody mentioned it in a mocking way. It’s always noticed. If you are a blushing sweaty man nervously trying to talk about the weather of course they notice it and of course it’s embarrassing and you will get weird looks every time you go back to a shop. So you become even more avoidant and have to use an entirely different supermarket.

If its not OK to to demand someone who is severely depressed to be more cheerful why is it OK for someone with intense social anxiety to be told to be more positive and friendly and when they cant that its all their own fault?
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  1. Old Comment
    I totally agree with your post. although it might happen, I don't want to end up with my whole career involving working hard but being unnoticed or seen as weird. It's true, from my experience that not everyone is nice and most people don't understand severe anxiety. However I have also came across some people that aren't that judgmental, so there is hope.

    I agree that negative reinforcement from social experiences doesn't usually build your confidence. However, we can learn from them also learn to accept that it isn't our fault so we don't feel guilty for the negative social experience. The only way to combat negative social experiences, it seems, is through not blaming ourselves for it, learning how to communicate better and I think honesty. Idk though, I haven't tried all of these yet.

    Also at work today, there was a temp receptionist when I started at 5 am. The other receptionist was watching a superhero movie and the new guy chatted about the movie. He was likable and easy to get on with. Since I am not into popular movies or music I couldn't contribute to the conversation. It reminded me that I would never really be socially popular in a traditional sense. It seems like to be socially popular you have to be into popular culture, I imagine having some social exposure and being into popular culture, going to typical social events such as festivals and parties may actually make one know how to act in social situations.

    It's also true that an anxious person can't really be just be more positive and friendly, work and effort needs to go into being more positive and friendly. I feel lots of people have said I should chill, calm down, smile, but being told to do these things doesn't help, especially when the person reacts negatively because of it. Imagine, somebody experiencing a majority of negative social situations, being an easy target, not being listened to, being misinterpreted. Would that person feel happy in social situations, common sense says no. So I feel that type of advice is ridiculous. However I also feel it's best to try to channel the negative energy to something productive. I think we can learn to smile more but that would only honestly come from achieving a calmer state of mind and feeling more secure.
    Posted 25th April 2018 at 19:41 by Amara 94 Amara 94 is offline

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