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Socially incompetent?

(20 Posts)
Magicpaintbrush Thu 19-Nov-15 16:52:52

I'm not so much asking for advice as wondering if others feel the same way as I do. Basically, when I was in my teens/early twenties I was extremely shy and socially awkward, worried constantly and felt that every word I spoke to others sounded stupid, and the result was that I became very quiet and analysed every conversation I had to death. Fast forward to my late 30's and I still feel socially incompetent, mostly whilst chatting to other mums in the playground. These days I have such a fear of awkward excruciating silences that I waffle on, going past the point of interesting and relevant conversation into the realms of "what the hell are these words coming out of my mouth for??". I frequently feel as though I've said the wrong thing, offended somebody or just waffled on about crap nobody cares about and find myself getting really anxious and worrying incessantly about how I've come across. Is it just me? Do others feel this awkward in social situations? It makes me want to just avoid people tbh. :-(

Confused2015xxx Thu 19-Nov-15 16:55:50

I'm the same.
When a friend invites me out with her I either go and feel stupid as I think they will think I'm stupid or boring or make excuses.
I'm no good in big groups.
I'm okay with a few people but I just feel In big groups really awkward.
I say and act stupid
I hate it.

snetmums Thu 19-Nov-15 17:04:41

I could have written this! Am exactly the same. And the more you worry about it, the worse it gets. Ugh sad

Doughnutsandflapjacks33 Thu 19-Nov-15 17:18:14

I am the same too, I only speak to 3 mums in the playground, I find everyone else a bit scary, I think I often say the wrong thing and I think people probably laugh at me sad. I'm always saying things and then thinking 'what the hell did I say that for?'.

MagicalHamSandwich Thu 19-Nov-15 17:26:58

Oh fuck yesssss!

FWIW, my boss (whom I really like and who I think likes me too but don't know because ... well, I'm sort of bad at social cues) called me Sheldon Cooper the other day because of it. I'm so socially inept that I don't know whether to be a) chuffed, because that's clearly a joke you'd only make with people you're friendly with or b) insulted because he means it and it's an obvious insult. Your opinions on the question are totally appreciated.

Small talk is the worst - I regular feel like a downright imbecile when attempting it. Probably doesn't help that I'm also very open minded and will say stuff like 'oh FFS, just say 'penis' when you mean 'penis'!' blush

Garlick Thu 19-Nov-15 17:30:55

I know you said you're not looking for advice. You must have read stuff about this, anyway, and what I want to suggest isn't new ... Does it help you at all to think mainly about the other people? Not what they might be thinking of you (wink) but that they might be nervous or anxious as well, perhaps? Or just generally about them, so you can notice their nice scarf or something? Almost everybody finds themselves quite interesting and, weirdly, this makes it quite interesting to talk to them about themselves!

As I'm sure you know, 'open' questions are the ones to get folks started off. Open questions are the ones that can't be answered with a short statement, but invite more feedback. When you think about putting everyone else at their ease, things tend to feel more relaxed.

There's a lot of stuff on the internet about this. Here's one of many pages:

I'm not suggesting this as the answer to everything - my inner critic is a mean old witch; I'm in almost constant battles with her! But I definitely find meeting people far more pleasurable when I'm listening to them rather than listening her grin

HotNatured Thu 19-Nov-15 17:46:52

I used to be like that, when I was in my twenties and up to late thirtees, but something changed in me and I've gone completely the other way. I'm not really sure why. I think age is a right pain but one of the huge benefits of being 41 now is that I don't give a shit about what other people think of me. I just don't. People that matter, my boss and my family and friends, yes of course, but still only to a degree, I'm still 'me' with them, even my boss (professional 'me' of course grin ).

I haven't become some rude twat, but I'm just me, no airs and graces, I don't say what other people want to hear and I am comfortable in myself, and you know what, people react to that v v positively. Waaaay more positively than when I was my old self conscious, worried about what people were thinking about me self. It really does all come down to self esteem. Get that sorted and life is so much easier. And self esteem when broken down is simply liking and accepting yourself. Once you have that nailed, you will naturally be comfortable with yourself, and life in general won't be such hard work.

For me it was like a natural change of character, I didn't push it, but I think the way I was was exhausting and it made me v unhappy, and something had to change as I couldn't go through the rest of my life like that. People pleasing is shit.

HotNatured Thu 19-Nov-15 17:50:09

Oh and don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I still say daft things, but I accept that I do, laugh about it to myself, like a best friend would take the piss in a loving way, recognising that not being perfect is part of being human, we make mistakes and are fallible.

Magicpaintbrush Thu 19-Nov-15 17:53:30

So it's not just me then. I don't know whether to feel comforted by that or feel bad that others feel like this as well. I guess we are all only human. Sometimes I feel like I'm having a good week and then I come out with some sort of conversational clanger that makes me want to kick myself.

Garlick - I do generally do listening pretty well, always try to ask about others, but its when the conversation comes back to me or a subject draws to a natural close that I usually start babbling like a total moron. I don't honestly think I'll ever get over this issue, I'm just tired of worrying that I've put my foot in it, it's tiring. I would never say or do anything to deliberately offend, but sometimes the anxiety over-rides the ability to think clearly about what I'm saying.

I think asking questions about the other person is a great tactic, although I also don't want to be intrusive.... there I go again!

Gabilan Thu 19-Nov-15 17:55:06

FWIW, my boss (whom I really like and who I think likes me too but don't know because ... well, I'm sort of bad at social cues) called me Sheldon Cooper the other day because of it

Quite often when I watch Big Bang I find myself agreeing with Sheldon because he's right. I just find things illogical and wonder why on earth people would do something that daft. That said, I've got less rigid with age and a bit more forgiving. Also, as Garlick says, sometimes it's good to ask questions about them and to listen. And sometimes, silence is fine.

Plus really, who cares if they like you or not? I have a childhood history of being bullied so I stopped giving a shit if people like me or not a long time ago. I just kind of bimble along being my own person. If people like it, fine, if not, meh, too old to care.

MagicalHamSandwich Thu 19-Nov-15 18:22:14

It's funny how people respond to similar experiences in completely different ways: I, too, have a childhood history of being bullied. It makes me feel desperate for others to approve of and like me because I never want to feel that way ever again ...

chrome100 Thu 19-Nov-15 18:54:16

I could have written this, word for word. I feel so frustrated as I think surely at my age (34) I should have mastered it all by now!

I find I'm OK in very small groups but I dread 1:1. I feel so much pressure to keep the conversation going that I avoid situations where it will just be me and one other person, even with people I have known for years.

Gabilan Thu 19-Nov-15 19:04:11

Magical I was bullied for having red hair. I realised how stupid and shallow that was, so had no respect for the bullies. The bullying took its toll in many ways, but I don't, on the whole, worry about social approval.

Magicpaintbrush Thu 19-Nov-15 20:25:35

Bullies do have a lot to answer for. I got picked on at secondary school for being geeky, by girls in my own friendship group, sly digs and nasty comments etc, always at the bottom of the pecking order while the self appointed top dogs in the group told everyone else what to do. It makes you paranoid that people are being nasty about you behind your back, no matter how nice you are to others, and the worry stays with you so you always wonder what people really think of you.

MagicalHamSandwich Thu 19-Nov-15 20:51:31

That really hits the nail on the head, Paintbrush! The paranoia stays with you.

You're secretly scared that people are just nice to you so that they can laugh about you behind your back. And that's ridiculous and I know it - on an intellectual level.

We recently talked about parents at work and I mentioned mine were a little bonkers. Co-worker said it couldn't have been too bad because I turned out fantastic. I was so touched that I wanted to break into tears and kiss him for saying that. Ludicrous, I know, but that's how surprised I am at the notion that people might just ... like me!

Meemolly Fri 20-Nov-15 09:20:35

HotNatured your post is very reassuring and I am working on trying to build up my self esteem as I have no social confidence really. I worry all the time that no one likes me, and strangely (or maybe not!!) I don't feel like I have any 'real' friends. I like to think that I can start to like myself a lot more, as this is definitely the issue for me, as I see nothing redeeming that anyone else would like either.

HotNatured Fri 20-Nov-15 12:59:30

Meemolly your post is really sad, but its good that you recognise that while it's shit to feel the way you do, you can fix it.

I'm having therapy at the moment as while I'm happy with where I am personally right now, I wanted to get a deeper understanding of why I have behaved / behave in certain ways and, quelle surprise, it all boils down to my childhood. We had no money, yet lived in a v rich area, so my sister and I were prime bullying candidates and I grew up feeling inferior and ashamed, which of course transferred into my adulthood, I spent a great deal of my life feeling pretty worthless and not v likeable.

I 100% do not feel that way now, I really love and like myself, I'm great grin and you will realise that you are too. You just have to learn to accept yourself.... and be your own best friend flowers

Galvanised Fri 20-Nov-15 13:42:52

Have you considered AS/ASC?

TreesInSpace Fri 20-Nov-15 19:09:17

Yes, I could have written your post word for word, except I'm 47 and still like it.

I've walked out of new jobs in the past because I couldn't handle the idea of sitting with co-workers at lunchtime having to make conversation.

It didn't help being in a DV relationship for 8 years where he convinced me I was insane and walking around not realising it.

I still keep eye contact too long in conversation, because I'm distracted by wondering if they think I'm insane, or weird, rather than concentrating on keeping up the conversation.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Fri 20-Nov-15 19:21:42

Ah, just ask people open questions about themselves. Everyone's favourite subject is themselves. Let them waffle on. They'll give you loads of material to talk to them about in future. Less talking for you and conversation fodder for later - bonus!

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