Do you struggle with communicating?
Maybe you rehearse conversations in your head before they’ve happened? Or you’ll replay one back and think in frustration, “I wish I’d said that instead!”
Your goes mind blank, and your voice hoarse when put on-the-spot in class.
But guess what… You’re not the only one!
Communication seems to be a fundamental skill that most wish we could master. It benefits job interviews, advances careers, and secures our connections.
Additionally, the level we communicate, and how often, easily establishes our strong relationships, and failing ones.
So why do some of us fear first dates? Tense up in front of audiences? And avoid talking about our feelings?
Well…. That’s Anxiety! And something we will all feel from time to time.
It’s completely normal! Defined as, ‘worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’.
Understanding the difference between this normal anxiety, and anxiety that’s detrimental on your life, careers and relationships is important.
Throughout I will be speaking about my own experiences!
Anxiety is normal- but when should you be concerned?
When we feel overwhelming amounts of fear, and anxiety, our bodies go into high alert, and we can struggle to cope.
From my personal experience, and clarifying it with research, ‘anxiety can persist in the long term for individuals with a history of trauma.’
This means you can carry along the feelings of trauma you’d felt, into any stressful situation, such as new social experiences.
Looking back at my first weeks of Uni when I was just beginning to meet new people, I know now, everyone felt as anxious as me!
We were all strangers sitting awkwardly in class. We had a lot to lose, and prove, being there. But we had so much more to gain!
In school, I was never scared to perform in front of a class. And I was usually the most disruptive.
Sadly I just didn’t care! About school, or myself.
Although I’d experienced anxiety walking alone in the corridors, or into the canteen with eyes glaring on me, I hadn’t known what it was then. And at the time of being shamed slanderously, I felt deserving to feel the way I did.
To feel this shame again- in a new place around new people felt abnormal. I didn’t have a reason for feeling the way I did because these people didn’t know me, or my story.
When the lecturer asked us all to, “stand up, say your name, and a fun fact about yourself”…
That’s when the anxiety kicked in; my body became closed, and my mind began stockpiling things to say.
Did I go for a funny fact? No. My funny facts were of my intoxicated self. That wasn’t going to make a great first impression.
Did I go for something dull and talk about a broken limb? No. They’ll see me as a dull person. I wasn’t dull.… Was I?….
When the first person spoke, my brain scattered around to find a similar story to theirs. And then when the second person spoke; the third, the fourth…
I knew already my ‘fun facts’ weren’t so fun in the eyes of my classmates. And whatever I said threatened standing out, or being defined for the rest of that year!
I watched at how easy everyone seemed to manage it.
Instead of hearing the names, and stories, of those who spoke my mind taunted how many people were left too.
Feeling claustrophobic, I prayed for a miracle.
Maybe the lecturer wouldn’t see me.
We’d run out of time.
Or they’d see how distressed I felt, and let me off out of pity!
I prayed not to stumble on my words. I coughed quietly, and discreetly begged my voice not to break.
When I spoke, I curled into myself for protection. I didn’t make eye contact, and I didn’t feel better afterwards.
I felt pathetic.
All I had to do was say my name and something fun!
Punishing myself, I sat stiff and silent for the rest of that Seminar.
I didn’t go to any more introductory Seminars.
Or any, for a long time!
The more lessons I began to miss, the harder it was for me to go. And although I hated myself for this- I hated how I felt being there, just as much.
The combination of those two feelings was distressing, and became detrimental.
If I wasn’t lying in bed whilst my flat mates studied, I was convincing them to come out, and get drunk, with me. Desperately wanting to feel more like myself.
Communicating prevents you from putting emotional investment into time wasters.
As humans, we focus too much time worrying about the outcome of communicating.
Not everything we need, and want, to talk about is going to be what the reciprocator will like to hear. And because of this fear of fighting; upsetting somebody, or embarrassing ourselves for admitting to feelings, we often choose to ignore saying these things. Remaining hopeful it’ll just fall into place!
If you feel a particular way, or want certain aspects of a relationship to change, then it’s essential you communicate it for your own sake, and sanity!
And to avoid any confusion you must be certain you’ve communicated correctly. Clarifying points and questions. Instead of just assuming things from vague answers.
Previously I wrote about being honest with a love interest. As it saves both time, and emotional investment.
Well recently I gained a further insight on this, after sharing my feelings to another.
I’d got upset, and insecure, about their sudden lack of effort. And instead of doing the typical, ‘I’ll play hard to get back.” I wanted them to comprehend and told him I was emotionally invested!
Speaking up (whilst hard) gave me some relief. And In my head, it had positively pushed our relationship forwards! – He had just been busy with work, but assured me he was only making time for me.
A few weeks later, and four months on, we spoke about where things were going. I discovered he’d only recently gotten out of a relationship, and wasn’t looking for one any time soon.
So in other words- I was stuck in limbo having to decide whether to let it go, or let him have his cake and eat it!
As shit as it was on their behalf, portraying a boyfriend persona, I couldn’t be mad.
I could be hurt, by how he went about it- communicating my feelings was an open opportunity for him to say this wasn’t going anywhere.
But because he didn’t, I made the assumption it was.
We are all learning and growing. And although I could’ve done without the added insecurities an encounter like that brings to me, I took a lot from it. And walked away knowing my self- worth, which I’m truly thankful for!
Being honest, no matter how hard, shows a level of respect.
Communicating our feelings, or telling our friends when they’ve crossed a line, can be hard. But it shows respect in your relationship, and will help them to grow as a person!
You’re only giving yourself a hard time when you decide to bottle it up, or moan about it to others!
Usually, I’m the abrupt, honest, villain. It’s a role I hate, but it comes from putting my shoes into anothers.
If I was being cheated on, I’d want to know.
If I’d overstepped a mark, or acted nasty to another, I’d want my friends to talk to me about it, rather than at the pub when I’m not there.
I have often dismissed those that can’t show me this level of respect. Since in my stubborn eyes they’re un-trustworthy, unable to help me grow, develop, and will keep being an anxious burden on my shoulder.
Not communicating to the culprit means they’ll never understand what they’re doing can be hurtful to another. So how else are they going to learn to be better?
Moaning about it to others only exacerbates the problem. It will never solve it, or make it disappear.
Actually sitting down and communicating gives the person a chance to learn, and grow, out of respect to you.
And if you talk and nothing changes? You’ve given them that chance but they don’t want to change. So now you need to decide whether it’s worth it or not.
I should’ve told this boy at the end, if he wanted to be single, he should only be hooking up with girls and not playing the boyfriend role. But sadly I feared for the backlash I’d get on this occasion, so I can only hope he reads this and learns it for himself.
We can’t avoid conflict, but we can avoid unnecessary drama.
Although defined as a disagreement, conflict is like a ‘natural energy source’. It’s inevitable, neutral, and not right or wrong.
What we decide to do with that energy will correspond to how we move forward. Creating either positive solutions, or unnecessary drama.
Unnecessary drama is the negative energy, that comes as a result of misused conflict energy.
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid conflict. There will always be someone in our path who disagrees with our points, or will find a justification for why they’re right, and so you must be wrong.
We can however, avoid unnecessary drama by not dismissing the conflict, and sitting down to work through it.
One example of this was in Uni, and telling my housemates they weren’t doing enough cleaning around the house.- A problem most will experience as a student, if you don’t like living in a dumping ground.
Voicing my feelings meant either seeing a change, and a cleaner house, or the beginning of an unnecessary argument.
If I didn’t voice these feelings, and I ignored the lazy habits out of fearing the repercussions, the house got messy. I’d get unhappy- my dialect became bitchy, and all these feelings of frustration I bottled up over spilt on a bad day!
….So I was the culprit of unnecessary drama!
Of course, it’s not just what we’re communicating, it’s how. And over the years of meeting a variety of different people, and being told I can sound like a complete b*tch, I learnt that having a monotone sucks. And not everything I say will sound the way I want somebody to hear it.
So after watching millions of videos on ‘how to change your tone of voice,’ and still not reaping the benefits. I learnt speaking to trusted friends, who conduct themselves well, a great tool to help me go into situations less abrasively!
Unfortunately no matter what, or how, you say things to toxic people, they will always take it as a personal insult, or even lash out on the self- defence. Nitpicking your words and assigning them new narratives.
Giving them the sack, can be the best thing to do in these circumstances!
As long as what you’re saying is coming from a good place, and not because you’re trying to create unnecessary drama, or make them feel insecure, then say it with your chest!
How the other person decides to responds to the conflict is entirely down to them- you can not be responsible for how they feel when you’ve asserted yourself, and intentions in the right manner.
Short term it might slap you in the face for doing this- Long term it’s beneficial for the both of you!
So how do you get this anxiety to go away?
Unfortunately, like I said at the beginning your anxiety won’t ever go away. It’s a natural body response. But if it does consume your life, affect your relationships, grades or careers, there are some techniques that have really benefited me.
You can check my blog post on this, for a deeper insight of what it actually is. Essentially though, it helps your mind and body to relax, and will replace your anxious thoughts into more positive ones!
2. Focus on being in the present!
If you’re anxious for a presentation, a first date, or a big social event and your mind keeps fearing the worst, find something that relaxes you, and helps your mind focus on being in the present.
Often I find cleaning with good music a great way to do this!
Another way, especially before bed, I focus on my breathing, and practice meditation. (Another benefit I got out of hypnotherapy!) But you are able to work through it yourself!
3. Speak to a trusted friend!
Like I mentioned earlier, if you struggle to start significant conversations, talk to a trusted friend first. One you know will have genuinely good intentions for you! They can often be helpful in trying to untangle your thoughts and help clarify what you’re going to say.
4. “Dare to be dull!”
This quote I got came from Matt Abraham’s Ted Talk. Which I have added in because it’s been beneficial to me, and speaks more scientifically/ factual about communication!
All your life we’re taught to stand out, and not be dull. But after watching this, I had a new perspective.
This need for perfection makes us our own worst enemy when performing in front of a crowd! “We need to start viewing communication as an optimist, rather than a challenge or threat!
Everyone can get nervous, but be dull and get over yourself.
5. “Greet your anxiety!”
In case you decide not to watch the TED TALK. I felt the need to also share this technique, since it has helped me so much recently.
Although this might sound strange, by saying, ‘hey this is natural, it’s just me feeling anxious because I think I’d be really great doing this job,’ or whatever it may be that you’re anxious about, you’ve acknowledged it’s there. And you’ve given a positive affirmation towards it.
Allowing you to focus on the interview at hand!
6. If you’re anxiety is having detrimental effects on your life, friendships and education- PLEASE speak to somebody!
I am more than happy to listen if you have no one else to confide in. Or if you feel uncomfortable talking to friends. But please do not punish yourself, and allow it to get out of control!