6.10 Anxiety and Communication
Our comfort level with communication is generally a reflection of our personal views and past experiences. There are significant cultural, racial, and environmental influences, however these are beyond the scope of this work. Some of us were told to “be seen; not heard”. Others had to yell over siblings or mates for any acknowledgement whatsoever. If we voiced our thoughts and were ridiculed, or stammered when put on the spot to speak in front of others, the perception that talking wasn’t safe was accurate then.. In fact depending on our early environment, we may have given up our voice to simply try and disappear into the background. As we grew wary of speaking for fear of being shamed, we may have stopped trying and simply retreated to our own quiet world of thought and imagination. We may have been labeled shy or timid and ultimately, we became shy and timid.
For good reasons, once cast into the role of being timid, conflict avoidant, or a “loner” we may have drawn the unwelcome attention of bullies, either at home, or at school. Even parents who once said, “be seen not heard”, turned to chastise or punish us for being withdrawn and not having enough friends. Confused by mixed messages and intimidation, conversations were simply miserable and to be endured, or avoided. After a while, people around us may have given up and sent us to the “experts” or others to be cured or fixed. Speech therapy, after school clubs, forced team sports and more.
So…we endured middle school, truly despised high school, and then, with limited social skills we’re thrust into college or the workplace. Living in a dorm environment or forced to interact with customers, we naturally felt further apart from our peers who were seemingly competent and confident. We may have felt “less than” or that we “should” be more like others. It may have become so bad that whenever possible, we headed home to our “safe space”. A place free of judgment, interactions, or confrontation. Once there however, we may have felt lonely, hopeless, and alone. Don’t be discouraged, with a little effort, we can end this defeating, emotional cycle. Social confidence, liking riding a bike or learning to play an instrument, is gained as a result of willingness, practice, experience, and exposure. To gain social confidence we’ll address communication. These are skills that with practice, will allow us to speak comfortably with anyone, anywhere, anytime.