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Dec 22 2012

How To Make Your Social Spaces More Welcoming To Shy, Socially Anxious, or Introverted People

Social interaction is hard for many people for many different reasons. Plenty has already been written on how these people can change themselves or learn how to better cope with social situations, so I have little interest in rehashing that. What I really want to discuss is how others can set up their social spaces and events in ways that make it easier for these people to participate.

A disclaimer: this post is written from my individual perspective (albeit with a few suggestions from friends). I’m just one person, one person who is an introvert and has struggled with social anxiety and shyness in the past. If you read this post and find it useful, discuss it with other people you know who might disagree with or confirm various parts of it.

It’s also important to note that shyness, introversion, and social anxiety are different things. Shyness is a personality trait that some people grow out of after childhood and others don’t. Introversion is a personality “type” that rarely changes much during a person’s lifetime and can involve a bunch of related traits. Social anxiety is a mental disorder that can be treated in various ways, but not everyone has access to treatment or is able to find one that works. The reason I’m lumping them all together in this post is only because people who have them can all benefit from similar social accommodations–not because they’re the same thing.

So, first and foremost:

1. Include them.

Sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not. Social events of all kinds, whether informal ones like parties or “serious” ones like conferences, are often attended by groups of friends. But they’re also often attended by people who come hoping to make friends and meet like-minded folks. If you’d like to bring new people into the fold of your group, you have to create an environment in which new people feel welcomed and wanted, even if they’re shy, quiet, or anxious around strangers.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked up and introduced myself to people–or, worse, been invited somewhere with a group of established friends–who then proceeded to ignore me and keep discussing their own inside jokes and gossip. When I was younger and more socially anxious, reaching out to people was almost impossible because I was terrified of this exact possibility and the awkwardness that ensues when you’re greeted and introduced and then ignored.

Now, as an adult who’s much more likely to be the one with the established friend group than the newbie, I sometimes catching myself doing the same thing and I try to make an effort to include the new person in the conversation instead.

Excluding people from conversation is rude at best and anxiety-provoking at worst, and it’s easy to avoid. If you’d like new people to come to your events and feel welcome there, you have to actually include them.

And on another level, it’s important to actually invite people to your event even if they seem shy or not very social. Give them a lot of information about the event–what will happen there, how many people there will be, who else they know is coming, and so on. As long as your invitation isn’t coercive (see below), they can decide for themselves whether they’re comfortable attending or not.

2. On the other hand, don’t try to force them into social interaction.

Social coercion bothers me, both in my personal life and on a philosophical level. If someone’s perfectly happy sitting off to the side on their own, there’s no reason for you to try to force them to mingle just for the sake of feeling like a successful host. Even if you think it’s “for their own good.”

If you see a person at your event who seems shy or anxious, you could come up to them alone and ask if they’d like to be introduced to others or to participate in whatever’s going on. (For large events like conferences, it can be helpful to have a person whose job it is to do this.) If they say no, that’s it. Say, “Okay, please let me know if you change your mind!” and leave them alone.

Note that some people with social anxiety wouldn’t agree with me on this, because they wouldn’t want to be approached at all. This is one great reason why you should seek other opinions, not just mine!

3. Physically organize your space in a way that allows shy or anxious people to have time alone.

We’re used to having to sneak outside and stand in the cold. We’re used to hiding away in the bathroom as people knock on the door and ask if we’re “okay in there.” (No, but not in the way you mean.)

Why not make that unnecessary?

An event should have quiet areas or rooms where people can go just to be alone and recharge. If that’s not an option, consider having things they can look at or fiddle with when they don’t feel like talking–coffee table books, those little mechanical puzzles, and so on. Introverts, shy people, and people with social anxiety often find that they need to get away from people for a bit after socializing for a while. Unless the venue allows that, this often means that they have to just call it a night and go home.

4. Try to avoid overcrowding as much as possible.

I know that sometimes having a crowded event or party is unavoidable, especially for those of us who are still young and living in tiny cheap apartments. If you can, though, make sure there’s plenty of space for the number of people you’re inviting. Ensure that people can easily get through aisles or to their seats, and that there’s enough seating. An overcrowded event is annoying for everyone, but for people with social anxiety it can be unbearable.

5. Provide activities for people to do instead of just talking.

This kind of goes along with not forcing people into social interaction (see #2 above). See if it’s possible to provide board games or other things that people can do with each other that saves them from the burden of having to come up with conversation topics, which can be really hard to do when you’re shy or anxious, especially if you don’t have any close friends at the event.

Another thing you can do is create opportunities for people to help out that don’t involve a ton of socializing. Ask for volunteers to record talks on video, serve food, etc. Some people who otherwise have trouble being social find it easier when they have something else to do too.

6. Pay attention to the way you have conversations.

Aside from actually including people in the conversation (see #1), there are various things you can do while talking to shy, anxious, or introverted people that will make it easier for them to participate.

First of all, decreasing the emphasis on small talk or avoiding it entirely can really help people who have trouble with conversations. It may seem counterintuitive, since small talk is often what we do when we don’t know what else to say. However, it’s also the type of conversation that many introverts and shy people have the most difficulty with, because you have to follow preestablished social “rules” and find a way to somehow make it interesting that you’re majoring in biology or spent the holidays in Chicago or have a daughter studying at Ohio State.

Instead, ask them something more interesting. Don’t be afraid to venture into “taboo” subjects like politics and religion. Many shy and quiet people will suddenly open up when asked about something they’re passionate about.

When you’re having conversations with people, allow for comfortable silences. Silence is a healthy, normal part of interacting with others. Sometimes people–especially shy or socially anxious people–need time to process what’s been said or to form a cogent response. I once went on a first date and the conversation had gotten pretty deep and interesting, so I paused for a few moments to collect my thoughts. My date immediately went, “Well, that’s an awkward silence!” No, the silence wasn’t awkward. That comment was awkward.

Trying to fill up every single silence makes us feel like we’re inadequate at conversation and makes the anxiety worse.

One last very important thing: please avoid loudly calling attention to people’s verbal slip-ups, mispronunciations, and so on. If you must correct someone, do it quietly and politely. “Oh, I think you might’ve meant genotype, not phenotype,” not “Um, what are you talking about? It’s definitely genotype, duh.” Or “Just FYI, it’s pronounced ‘salmon’!”, not “HAHA did you just call it SAL-mon? What’s wrong with you?” (You may think I’m exaggerating, but as a foreigner who got most of her English vocabulary from reading, my frequent mispronunciations have garnered some incredibly rude responses from friends.)

Changing the way you plan events and interact with people in order to include those who find socializing difficult may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Some of the most interesting people you’ll meet are very withdrawn at first, but welcome them and they may amaze you.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    (e)m

    YES
    Thank you for this.
    Especially “Physically organize your space in a way that allows shy or anxious people to have time alone”
    I really really identify with the part where

    We’re used to having to sneak outside and stand in the cold. We’re used to hiding away in the bathroom as people knock on the door and ask if we’re “okay in there.” (No, but not in the way you mean.)

    I’ve left so many things early because of this. And now, I don’t even make the effort to go. Having to go outside, or somewhere like the bathroom, especially when you are already feeling isolated makes you feel even more isolated and unwanted.

    Instead, ask them something more interesting. Don’t be afraid to venture into “taboo” subjects like politics and religion. Many shy and quiet people will suddenly open up when asked about something they’re passionate about.

    Definitely. I can’t really do small talk, but I will talk politics, feminism, religion, and other interesting subjects all day.

    This is a good list.

  2. 2
    Nepenthe

    7. If I’m not dancing, do not physically pull me onto the dance floor* so that I have a panic attack at a loved one’s wedding. When you asked me if I wanted to dance and I said “no”, that was an indication that I did not want to dance. So get your freaking mitts off me!

    *This happened four times at the event I have in mind.

  3. 3
    Stephanie Zvan

    When it comes to things like board games, just make sure the option doesn’t become an obligation. I don’t want to be tied to a group of people or a table or whatever if and when I need a little quiet. Also, games with a performance aspect, like charades or Pictionary, is not going to suit a shy guest.

  4. 4
    ischemgeek

    Yes on quiet spaces and a huge yes on avoiding smalltalk. For me, it’s partly that I don’t get the rules of smalltalk and partly that I find smalltalk itself pointless, and I have a very low tolerance for stuff I find pointless. So for me, it’s pretty much a one-two of don’t get the rules, don’t get the point. How often do people actually give a shit about the answer to, “How are you?” Pretty much never, since answering it honestly when I’m feeling anything less than fine usually gets me the evil eye of ‘how dare you say something so rude?’ Does it really matter in the context of this party what job Morgan has (this question is not pointless smalltalk at an industry conference – getting to know someone’s work makes sense to me as a professional exchange of ideas)? And anyone who looks outside can tell what the weather’s like. Smalltalk to me just seems to be an effort to fill the air with inane chatter – but it has to be the right kind of inane chatter, otherwise you’re being rude. And nobody ever told me what kind is the right kind.

    As an addendum to 5, I’d say make sure quiet activities are an option. I’ll go over to play RockBand with people (since I’m introverted and socially awkward but not particularly anxious or shy), but I’m a lot more comfortable if there’s a way to switch out and I can maybe play a few hands of cards with someone when the noise starts to get to me.

    1. 4.1
      Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

      You know, I don’t make small talk very well, either. That said, it serves a purpose. It’s a form of grooming among most humans. It allows them to begin to get tentatively acquainted.

      Being “above” it, unlike most of the “sheeple” — no, I’m not quoting you, but that’s the attitude here — doesn’t make you better or smarter or deeper than people who like to engage in it.

      1. 4.1.1
        Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

        I think you’re assuming too much about my “attitude.” I don’t care whether or not someone likes small talk; it doesn’t make them better or worse than me. However, my introversion makes it really difficult to do and many others feel the same way.

        1. 4.1.1.1
          Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

          I was speaking about Ischemgeek’s comment, not your OP, which is pretty reasonable.

          1. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Ohhhhh. My bad. Thanks for the clarification.

      2. 4.1.2
        ischemgeek

        Perhaps I expressed myself poorly: I did not mean that I think others who engage in small talk are stupid. I’m saying that I don’t get the appeal of smalltalk and being required to engage in something I find fundamentally unappealing constantly is both tiring and frustrating.

        Imagine you hate, say, football. But you’re surrounded by people who love football. And they all want to talk to you about the most recent game every time they see you. And if you don’t want to talk about the game, you’re rude. But if you don’t know about the game, you’re weird and/or lazy and/or stupid and/or rude (because who doesn’t watch the game, amirite?). So you’re required to learn and spend energy into learning about and following football even though you find it very unappealing and a drain on your energy. And they never ask you what you want to talk about, nor do they spend their energy in learning about your interests. And when you protest that you don’t like football and don’t see the point of it, they lecture you on the importance of group play like sports in human socialization and tell you not to think yourself superior because you don’t like football.

        That’s smalltalk to me. People enjoy smalltalk and some have even argued to me that good smalltalk is like an art. Fine – appreciate the art of smalltalk all you want. All I’m asking is that you don’t inflict it on me all day, every day, in all of my social encounters.

        Good social interaction is supposed to be mutually enjoyable. I don’t enjoy smalltalk. Others in my life put their like of it it over my active dislike of it 100% of the time, and if I protest this at all, I’m the unreasonable one. And I was expressing my frustration with that situation through the use of figurative speech and hyperbole.

        1. 4.1.2.1
          WMDKitty -- Survivor

          This, right here, describes how I feel about small talk and idle chatter. If I’m speaking, it’s because I have information that needs to be conveyed, or something that I feel needs to be said. I even yelled at my (oh-so-patient) partner to STFU because he does that thing, where he constantly has to fill the silence with words, and just doesn’t get that I need the quiet to keep (what’s left of) my sanity. I enjoy a comfortable silence!

          I don’t understand those people who, for whatever reason, can’t handle a companionable silence and/or feel the need to constantly chatter about nothing. (I didn’t understand “Seinfeld” either.)

        2. 4.1.2.2
          Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

          I’m saying that I don’t get the appeal of smalltalk and being required to engage in something I find fundamentally unappealing constantly is both tiring and frustrating.

          Oh, I understand completely. I’m terrible at small talk unless I have a drink or two under my belt. I also agree that silent pauses are a natural part of social interaction, feared by too many people (Americans, notably).

          That said, I’ve seen some people who are disinclined to small talk denounce it all as completely pointless and stupid, making themselves out to be Really Really Deep because they disdain it. Which is silly; it has a purpose. I think our society needs a better framework for understanding and discussing the spectrum of need/desire for social interaction that doesn’t pit the two ends of the spectrum against one another.

          1. ischemgeek

            That I find it’s pointless/stupid doesn’t mean other people should find it pointless/stupid, though.

            I recognize that other people take great enjoyment from watching and following hockey even though I don’t get the enjoyment factor in that and find following it would be an exercise in pointlessness for me.

            Likewise, other people find the fact that I can recite the three original Star Wars films verbatim with the movies pointless and stupid, but that doesn’t negate the enjoyment I get from it.

  5. 5
    Nicole Introvert

    Love this post a million times. Small talk kills me. I have a very hard time talking about work especially. When people ask, “What do you do?” I completely freeze. I have a super boring job, which I actually enjoy, but it is not one bit interesting to discuss.

    I also cannot count how many times I end up in bathrooms. I get sensory overload very easily, which is one reason I avoid many restaurants. If there is nothing to focus on, the sounds of 30 conversations, clanking of dishes, and smells start to overwhelm me. Most of the time I can avoid this anxiety if people engage me in directly or there is something else to focus on (like a lecture, band, film etc).

    It’s hard to assert these things up front, especially to strangers. There is one secular group that meets near me, but I have never joined because they seem to exclusively meet in restaurants. If I can’t be guaranteed that I’ll be included (which as the new person may not happen immediately) it could end up in a disasterous anxiety attack that I’m just not willing to risk.

    1. 5.1
      WMDKitty -- Survivor

      I hear you on the sensory overload. I’d suggest carrying something with you — book, handheld game, rubik’s cube, other random “fidgets” — so you always have something to focus on. I’d rather be seen as rude or withdrawn than end up running (screaming) out of the restaurant.

  6. 6
    left0ver1under

    I’d suggest one more: Make them comfortable and let them know they are welcome to talk more, that people want to hear them.

    One of the reasons some shy people keep quiet is lack of confidence, a fear of humiliation and being shot down. Knowing that others around welcome their input, that others want to hear shy people and won’t laugh at, out shout or degrade them, will do a lot to boost their confidence.

    I’m speaking from my own experience of being shy as a kid. I won’t say more to avoid making this a lengthy or “me, me, me” post.

  7. 7
    Michael Brew

    I was pretty socially anxious when I was younger, and I am still fairly introverted but have quite mastered the art of conversation at this point. However, I find that the time that makes me feel the most like I used to in social situations is when I go out with my wife and her friends. Now, my wife’s first language was Mandarin, and naturally 90% of her friends also speak Mandarin. They also all speak English to varying degrees, with my wife undoubtedly the most skilled, but with everyone being competent enough to hold a conversation. However, it never fails to happen that when we go out, they all speak Mandarin to each other, and I’m left sitting there with my eyes glazed over feeling awkward. It doesn’t help that if I start to play on my phone or otherwise withdraw my wife gives me a dirty look and tells me that I’m being rude. I dunno, it’s a bit of a difficult situation in that case, ’cause obviously she and her friends are naturally more comfortable talking to each other in their first language, but on the other hand they could speak English and include me in the conversation if they really wanted to and not doing so leaves me being completely unable to participate in or even comprehend the conversation (aside from the occasional dirty word I may have picked up). Oh, well, at least I get a debriefing from my wife about what they talked afterward.

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Hm, yeah, that all sounds pretty good to me.

    My date immediately went, “Well, that’s an awkward silence!”

    Was your date maybe one of those people who positively cannot stand silence, being alone, contemplation, and/or not having everyone’s full attention? I’ve know plenty of people like that, too. They can be both the worst and best companions for shy or introverted people.

  9. 9
    smrnda

    Thanks for this great list, and thanks for drawing a distinction between introverted, shy and socially anxious people. I have friends who fit each of those categories and they all need totally different things to make them feel welcome at a gathering. You also did a good job of pointing out that trying to be inclusive to everyone can become coercive and unpleasant; I’ve seen this happen at ‘sit around a circle and introduce yourself’ type events where some unfortunate person gets put on the spot and gets interrogated by total strangers as soon as they step in the door.

    On board games, this might sound like an odd idea, but since games can go on a long time, I sometimes did parties where I left art supplies out at a table as a way of providing a quiet, possibly private ,non-competitive activity for people.

  10. 10
    Landon

    Thank you for this. My fiance and, strangely enough, a Cracked article (of all things!) taught me a lot about what it’s like for introverted people, shy people, and people with social anxieties. It was almost impossible for me to understand how things really worked for her, and early on in our relationship I’m afraid I made quite an ass out of myself. I think extroverted people (like me) don’t really understand how different the world is for introverted people (like her), while introverted people often don’t realize the degree to which extroverts just don’t get it, which leads to a lot of miscommunication and unfortunate incidents. Things like this are immensely helpful in bringing both groups to better understanding of one another.

  11. 11
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Thank you so much for writing this!!!

    Re: #3 — I just take a smoke break. Yeah, I’m still freezing my paws off, but it’s more socially acceptable than “I’m about to flip my shit because I’m overstimulated.”

    As for activities, YES to the fiddly things and little puzzles and what-have-you. Or you can bring your own “fidget”.

  12. 12
    Kaoru Negisa

    Re: #3 — I just take a smoke break. Yeah, I’m still freezing my paws off, but it’s more socially acceptable than “I’m about to flip my shit because I’m overstimulated.”

    This is part of the reason I am having a hard time quitting. Smoking is my excuse to step away, think to myself, and not be around people for a bit. When I want to be alone, I have no excuse at all, and that makes it hard.

    One last very important thing: please avoid loudly calling attention to people’s verbal slip-ups, mispronunciations, and so on. If you must correct someone, do it quietly and politely.

    One thing I found really works is to say a sentence afterward using the work prounced correctly. For example:

    A: “My roommate makes great sal-mon burgers.”
    B: “My roomate makes salmon burgers, too! The smell of salmon cooking always makes me hungry.”

    It’s a polite way to correct a person while also moving the conversation forward and not making a specticle that could cause discomfort.

  13. 13
    Ankili

    One last very important thing: please avoid loudly calling attention to people’s verbal slip-ups, mispronunciations, and so on.

    This. All of this. I have a few words that I ‘mispronounce’ because of my accent, and one word I simply refuse to say because it causes me so much anxiety to even try, and my roommate has turned it into a big thing that she brings up in social events because she thinks it’s so funny. Guess what, it’s not funny to me to get called out to say words to be the butt of the joke, it’s not funny to me it’s cruel and I hate it, and one of the reasons I dislike being social when she’s around.

  14. 14
    left0ver1under

    In regard to M’s statement and Ankili’s reply (#13)….

    If you’re not sure what someone said, speak like it wasn’t a slip up. Let the other person correct you.

    Here’s a hilarious listening mistake from fifteen years ago:

  15. 15
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Regarding your “social coercion” post: I happen to agree with your critics on the food thing. I spent much of the last few days wheedling my stick-in-the-mud parents to freakin’ try the garlic-tomato soup I made (tl;dr they liked it). I don’t feel particularly bad about that.

    I especially agree with the person who alluded to how often women are cast in the role of mommy to the manchild significant other who won’t try anything new, refuses to dress up to go anywhere, etc. etc. Although this has changed in recent decades, at least in some places, there’s still an expectation that women in romantic relationships with men bear some responsibility for picking out the man’s wardrobe, feeding him, and “civilizing” him in the sense of bringing “a woman’s touch” into his life. It’s another patriarchal catch-22: you’re either the nag or you’re “neglecting” him. (And, of course, if you leave him for some guy with an adventurous palate, you’re a “shallow b1tch.”)

    1. 15.1
      WMDKitty -- Survivor

      Umm… there’s a difference between, “Hey, would you like to try this?” and “TRY THIS!!” *shoves unknown new food into mouth*

      The former respects a person’s boundaries. The latter… well. The latter just takes me back to the childhood food battles with my parents pushing some vile thing (invariably green, allegedly “vegetables”) onto my plate, telling me to “try it, [I'll] like it.” I didn’t like it the last twenty times you dropped it on my plate, I’m not gonna like it this time, and I’m not gonna budge. (Worse: 31 years, and Mom still occasionally does this to me.)

      I’m sensory. Please respect my boundaries, especially in regards to food. If I’m feeling brave or adventurous or just plain curious, I might try that new dish. Maybe. Sometimes I just need familiar foods and textures.

      1. 15.1.1
        Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

        I’m not sure where you’re getting “TRY THIS!!” from. Persuasion isn’t coercion/assault.

        I find the argument that both are on a spectrum, same as, say, catcalling and rape, disingenuous. When I try to get a relative or friend to try something I’ve made, there isn’t the same power differential and institutional oppression.

        I’m sensory.

        We’re all sensory. If you mean you have neurosensory issues, that’s fine. I respect those, as well as PTSD around food issues (I had some serious battles with my parents over food, too, when I was little), and ethical and even religious dietary restrictions.

        What I don’t respect, really, is utter and chronic lack of adventurousness when it comes to food. Too often it stems from xenophobia and/or parental overindulgence. Then you get the types who say, “I only eat meat and potatoes — none of that rabbit food,” usually men; and the types who make a big production out of how picky they are to draw attention to themselves and to exercise power in social gatherings. Nothing like an acquaintance whose pickiness means that every time the group goes out, it goes to some shitty chain “pub” restaurant so Picky McPickerson can have chicken nuggets. (Bonus points if she’s a very slender woman and all the men “worry” that she’ll get enough to eat unless she’s catered to.)

        If you’re 25 and you’ll eat only three or four bland items, ever, and you don’t have any underlying medical issues, I judge. I judge hard. I don’t apologize for it.

        1. 15.1.1.1
          ischemgeek

          There is a difference between persuasion and coercion. Persuasion = “Try this because it’s really good and you like X and Y similar things so I think you’ll like this.” Coersion = “Try this or I’ll keep bothering you until you try it, and/or punish you for not trying it and/or force it on you physically.”

          One is healthy interaction. The other, repeated often enough, is emotional abuse.

          Grownass adults should be allowed to try new foods on their own terms. Because we’re not toddlers who need some parent figure to coerce us into broadening our horizons ‘for our own good’.

          And I say that as someone who will try damn near anything if it’s put in front of me as long as it doesn’t contain turnip (it makes me sick, literally), celery (texture), or liver. On my own terms. Which might mean it takes me five or ten minutes to be ready to taste it. But if you strong-arm me into rushing, I’ll dig in my heels and not taste at all because I try new shit on my terms in the way that makes me most comfortable and anyone trying to strong-arm me into rushing can go pound salt.

        2. 15.1.1.2
          Rick Pikul

          I’ve run into people who are clearly going beyond persuasion when it comes to trying to get me to try something. They also tend to be the kind of person who will refuse to tell you what’s in it.

          Guess why I’m asking: Yep, there are foods that will send me to the ER. The reason I’m not that open about it is that I also hate dealing with the “he’s allergic to peanuts” freakout[1] and the resulting backlash against me.

          [1] For the record, the proteins I react to aren’t the oil soluble ones that cause the indirect contact issues.

          1. Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

            I did say I don’t judge people who avoid certain foods for medical reasons.

            And, yes, refusing to disclose ingredients is rude and dangerous.

        3. 15.1.1.3
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          If you’re 25 and you’ll eat only three or four bland items, ever, and you don’t have any underlying medical issues, I judge. I judge hard. I don’t apologize for it.

          I think, though, that there’s a difference between judging people and trying to make them change. For instance, I judge people who have the ability and resources to read but choose not to do it, especially if they smugly remark that they “don’t read.” But that doesn’t mean I’m going to shove books at them and try to convince them to read those books.

          In my opinion, if someone is an adult and their behavior is not affecting you personally, it’s a bit condescending and rude to try to get them to change that behavior.

        4. 15.1.1.4
          WMDKitty -- Survivor

          Yes, I have neurosensory issues, specifically with sensory processing. To get more specific, the normal brain “filters out” a lot of stimuli throughout the day, such as your shirt being in contact with your skin. Mine doesn’t, which leads to me being highly AWARE of… well… EVERYTHING (often to the point of ending up in tears because it’s just TOO MUCH STIMULATION.)

          I’m usually good with new foods, unless it hits one of my particular sensory “hot buttons”, especially the “texture” one. Like, oatmeal, for example. It looks totally non-threatening, perfectly bland and safe. But the texture makes me gag. I also gag every time I blow my nose and get snot (or worse, one of those slimy-sticky bogeys) on me.

          So if there’s something I “don’t eat”, it’s because I know it’s going to hit a trigger, it’s something I’ve had a bad experience with, or it contains something I know will either not digest right (lactose) or will trigger a migraine (anything caffeinated or chocolate). I’m not being picky or finicky, and I’m usually up for trying almost anything (at least food-wise). Hell, I ate a cricket yesterday — wasn’t all that different to a potato crisp — and LIKED it!

  16. 16
    BG

    Apologies for being late to the party. This is the first time I’ve wended my way all the way to the bottom of the ftb site. However I was compelled to comment on this topic because when I read,

    “I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked up and introduced myself to people–or, worse, been invited somewhere with a group of established friends–who then proceeded to ignore me and keep discussing their own inside jokes and gossip. When I was younger and more socially anxious, reaching out to people was almost impossible because I was terrified of this exact possibility and the awkwardness that ensues when you’re greeted and introduced and then ignored.”

    I burst into tears. A reaction that was completely surprising. I guess as a 41 year old professional who holds a senior leadership position in a software company my notion that I had licked my social anxiety issues needs some further evaluation.

    Your excellent suggestions need to be applied to the workplace. The management fast track, in my experience, is not the domain of the introvert, and corporate culture is inclined to keep it that way. The type A personality I take to the office is no different than dressing in a suit. I put it on in the morning and take it off at home, it certainly isn’t ME, I’ve ginned it up in order to compete. Though I wonder at what cost to my own psyche.

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    Link Roundup 3: Conversations About Communication Across Power Gradients | Research to be Done

    [...] How to Make Your Social Spaces Welcoming to Shy People: What it sounds like, a very good list, and something a lot of event organizers could take a lot from. [...]

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