Everybody likes a bonus from time to time! In this bonus post I’m collaborating with my best friend, Alex King. He has recently re-launched his blog and chose Social Interaction as his next topic. It’s a massive talking point! Different people have different experiences of it, so I’m chipping in with my own personal viewpoint. On Alex’s post he posed a couple of questions, which I gave a quick answer sum-up to each.
With this post I’ve gone into extra depth of what the topic of social interaction is to me. I encourage you to check out Alex’s post before continuing: (https://dailykingblogs.wordpress.com/2019/11/16/social-interaction/)
Message from Alex (https://dailykingblogs.wordpress.com)
“Hi everyone, Alex here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaming up with @dyspraxicfantastic today on each other’s blog; I hope you enjoyed a view point from two people who suffer with very similar mental health issues. We also hope our readers will share our blogs to reach other people like ourselves in the hope of helping other people who feel the same way or are looking for advice on how to deal with their anxieties”
As humans we are naturally social creatures. Most of the things that get done or get created has been done by being social and interacting with each other. For some of us, social skills come naturally and others we have to muddle through the best we can. In this post I go over some different scenarios that is linked in with Social Interaction and how it affects me.
The Blight of an Introvert
As an introvert, my energy recharges from being in my own space. While I can be a social butterfly, given the opportunity, it is mentally taxing for me. Physical exercising like walking is less exhausting than being in a social situation for an extended period of time!
Certain factors within a social situation can make these social batteries – as I call them – drain quickly. The main examples of these factors include;
- The place is unfamiliar/new to me,
- The people are unfamiliar to me,
- Too much background noise/Multiple conversations happening at once all around me
- Room too hot
- There’s no structure/I have no idea of the plan of action
- The place is crowded/No easy escape route
- My current mental health/how anxious I am
Then there are certain factors which aid in my Social Interaction. Anxiety literally makes you warm up, so being in a warm/hot room it can make the anxiety worse. I work best in the cold as not only am I not getting anxiety from the warmth but the coolness helps cool my anxiety off (like a fan in a computer!)
The Flight of an Introvert
As with anything, there are positives and negatives to most things. So while sure being an introvert has its downsides, there are also upsides. Some examples for you;
+ Don’t have to rely on others to recharge
+ Unique appreciation and connection to music, film/TV, and games, etc.
+ And much, much, much more!
My meltdowns can happen when I push myself too far. My main meltdown is total shutdown where I can’t concentrate until I’ve re-established or grounded myself. I’m pretty in tune with my own mind, so I know when I can or cannot push myself socially. I do my best to read my inner feelings and do what I can to ovoid a meltdown. The more the social batteries drain, the more likely a meltdown may occur. If I’m about to breach my point of meltdown, I can escape to compose myself and return slightly refreshed. However, if a meltdown does actually occur, then the result critically hits my social batteries and I may not have the physical ability to come back until I properly recharge. Each circumstance and situation is different.
Sometimes, especially when multiple things are playing on my mind, I don’t properly detoxicate the negative build-up. This makes my tolerance for the things that drain my social batteries a lot lower. With the anxiety of having faster draining batteries it plays on my mind. Suddenly, I’m now stuck in a downward vortex. Getting out of it is possible, using my empowerment tactics, but it isn’t easy. You probably already know where this is leading, but this downward vortex is my Pit of Peril – the route of my depression.
One of the reoccurring compliments I get both in work and at home is my telephone manner. People either tell me directly or feedback to others, that I’m really good on the phones ~ which I probably should just agree with. Despite this praise, I absolutely hate telephones. If I’m talking to someone I know, especially if they know my struggles, then I find it easier to talk to them. Strangers are a different matter altogether. I prefer to ring out as it gives me time to prep myself. With some preparation time I can go over in my head what I’m going to say, get together any notes that’ll help me, and therefore mentally ready myself for the task. Although, weirdly, I do get shaken by voice mail and most times I have to hang up think through the message and then ring back to leave it.
Incoming calls are what I hate most of all about phones; but it is a necessity in many office jobs. The sole reason is obvious; most times I haven’t got the time to mentally prepare for it. Without this prep-time, my anxiety can take a sudden spike-up. Of course, if I feel I handled the call excellently then my anxiety defuses somewhat.
The issue with telephones is it combines multiple of my…issues…into one package deal.
- Anxiety and stress – From speaking to strangers (the unknown of it all) and constantly having what if questions circulate around in my head like fiery ping-pong balls (‘what if I mess up’, ‘what if I embarrass the company’ etc, etc, etc…)
- Processing Sound – My auditory processing and memory is one of my biggest weaknesses. It takes a great deal of concentration to even attempt to understand what the person on the line is saying. If there’s background noise and/or a bad line it takes even more concentration and effort. Even more so if the person is a realfastspeakeranddoesn’tunderstandthatIstruggleatthebestoftimeswithouthemturningthisphoneconversationfromdifficultintohardcoregodmode. Adding to the stress is if they get annoyed from me constantly asking for them to repeat themselves. Overall, it makes me feel useless that I struggle with something so basic.
- Social Situation – Drains me and I can’t exactly ‘escape’ easily.
- Co-ordination – To coordinate everything from holding the phone (full concentration into trying not to drop it), writing/typing notes, along with concentrating on what is being said it is mentally challenging and draining to do all this at once.
Short Telephone Story
I remember a time where I was tasked with ringing out to customers, a job I embraced. I had all the time needed to mentally prepare myself for the mission ahead of me, so that was a big plus. It was such a big task that it was going to take more than a day to get through it all, but I ready myself and got on with it.
First day I got through with no real technicalities, as far as I can remember. I sure was glad when I was done for the day though! The second day I managed 2 calls before I physically could not pick up the phone anymore. Every-time I reached for the receiver I couldn’t lift it, I had hit my limit. Even taking a short break didn’t help; I was mentally exhausted from it all.
My manager thanked me for the effort I had put in and allowed me to do some non-people focused tasks (filing and data entry). It was positive that they understood my limit, especially for something as trivial as making phone calls. To most people telephone calls are just another fact of the job but to me it’s something that requires a bit more effort.
Filing and data entry, while a mindless and pretty thankless job, is something I absolutely adore. While doing these kinds of jobs the charge inside me recharges! I can allow my mind to relax in a zen like mode and complete my work.
So when people say I have a great telephone manner it’s probably me concentrating really, really, really hard. Maybe because deep down I struggle immensely, I come across as nice as possible to compensate.
Telephones are one thing; actually meeting people is a whole different ordeal. I probably prefer meeting people in person compared to telephoning people though. When I meet someone for the first time or I am in a new environment, I am more reserved. Such is the nature of the introvert. With most new situations I start off shy and this is for 2 reasons;
Because that’s how I best stop my anxiety going into absolute meltdown. I have time to process the environment and what is going on. It helps to deconstruct everything so my brain doesn’t get overwhelmed. Also, I’m drawing less attention to myself! Once I’ve processed the environment I can then attempt in breaking the ice. If I can get a pun or funny quip off that defuses the tension inside my head, especially if it gets a positive reception.
Because I have a quirky personality people who don’t understand me, won’t understand my humour or quirks. With the dyspraxia mixed in I’m a quirky and awkward person. Then there’s the famous (or infamous) sense of humour. It is quick and dry making it an acquired taste. I’ll save details of that for another post though. Continuing on, they say don’t judge a book by its cover and for what it’s worth the first impression I give off is close to who I am. However, like any good twist in a novel, I can catch people completely off-guard.
To protect myself in such a way is for my own mental health, but has many downsides. It can take a while for me to warm up to people (if at all) and have my full true personality shine. Without getting to know me properly, you won’t know the true me ~ which is why interviews and any initial meeting is near-impossible for me to succeed at. I don’t shine until I’ve established a comfort zone.
The Comfort Zone
Speaking of comfort zones I can leave my comfort zone given the right push, either by myself or others to venture out there. I use my comfort zone not to protect myself (well, occasionally to protect myself) but to energise myself enough to get out of it. For something like work, I slowly build a comfort zone at my workplace. As time goes by I feel more comfortable and slowly come out of my shell. My work-space is fairly unorthodox, it’s more than just a desk; it’s my space; a carefully put together space to suit me on all levels. Hot desking is one of the worse things for me but luckily all my jobs have had me with a fixed work desk.
While I have order to where everything lives on my desk I don’t get upset if anything gets moved around. I have to put things back in its nice order though. Although, I hate it if things get removed from my desk – as off I go to retrieve or replace the lost items.
Faking Confidence in a Social Setting
A little power I have is an ability to convert my social charge into a little zap of confidence. Even just listening to a tune or song can give my confidence a boost. This quick spark of confidence helps me to ‘fake’ through stressful situations before I get too overwhelmed. There’s also times where I have no confidence in myself, but can give others around me a boost in their own confidence.
Other than the people who actually know me well, I can hide my deep insecurities and anxieties from others. Having extra attention drawn to me isn’t good for the anxiety, so it’s something I’ve adapted.
Social Interaction as a Socially Inept person
Socially speaking I’m not that good at it. (Socially typing I’m better.) There’s a reason why I like fictional characters who are equally or more socially awkward than me. It’s because it’s an almost-instant click for me.
For most people they’re laughing at these poor characters trying/failing at socialising and their awkwardness.
For me I’m laughing with the character, because I can feel their struggle.
I used to be a shrinking violet because of the crippling anxiety and social ineptitude. However, I have slowly improved on myself with the help of others. Even though I still have the social anxiety and a draining social battery I do my best to socialise. Escape for me was never an option. I’m still pretty useless at the social side but I can laugh at my own incompetence from time to time. Of course, it is much easier to be social when people realise my quirky personality.
Perhaps I’m not Socially Inept or Socially Awkward, but simply Socially Quirky. Guess that’s for others to decide for me.
In most places like work and schools you get Clique; groups of people who simply connect with each other. The topic of cliques and clique-ness are a matter for another post though.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this in-depth post on social interaction. Please show my friend Alex’s blog some love by visiting and having a read of his posts.
Until the next time take care and see you next post!