Does anyone else struggle with this as well? Its difficult for myself to be able to communicate with people in settings that have crowds a people wether its a work environment or out in public. I have had some experiences in group settings or even family settings that have not turned out so well. So therefore I try to avoid them as much as possible. This interferes with working, building friendships, and being able to feel comfortable around family members. The anxiety is so unbearable that it becomes nearly impossible to communicate with anyone. It has definitely took its toll over my life. I just want to be able to be myself around other people wether it be people that I know or someone that I am meeting for the first time. There has to be some sort of solution of being able to get over this.
Same @Mac27. When I’m at a birthday party for one of my cousins or otherwise, I often end up with my phone. When I’m in public with my friends, the same happens. I just feel the need to use it to lower my anxiety. People really try to talk to me and gets short, not so good replies. I just, conversations. Everyone with social anxiety wants to be a social person, right?
Sorry for this not being a helpful answer
Hi Mac27, I have a couple questions for you:
Do you feel the same anxiety in a private, 1-on-1 setting, as you do in these group settings? If no…
What is the context of these group environments? Is there at least one person that you already know?
One thing I’ve noticed in the therapy series is that Dr. Richards really stresses the point of taking steps one-at-a-time. If huge groups are too overwhelming, then don’t deal with them right away. Deal with smaller groups.
Luckily, with big groups of people, it’s VERY rare that the ENTIRE group will be engaged in 1 singular conversation about the same topic. It does happen sometimes, and in those cases I tend to just sit back and listen (unless I have a major point to make, and then I speak up) - big groups overwhelm me too.
However… most of the time, the big group is actually just a collection of SMALL groups, and these small groups are all having different conversations about different topics altogether.
This is great actually, because then you get to pick your battles and choose which conversations you get involved with! You can pick your groups in ways that help you make those small steps.
Here are some possible options, for example:
- 2 people leaning against the wall, having a conversation
- a group of 3 people on the couch and chairs, one of them being a friend of yours
- 4 people sitting at a table. If you know one of them, that helps.
- 1 person on their own. Walk up and say “Hi, I’m Ryan!” (if your name is actually Ryan - don’t pretend you’re me )
This is all way easier than a crowd of 8, 10, 15 people all at once. You simply don’t need to deal with ALL of them at the same time. I still use these small groups myself… a while back, a friend of mine invited me out to a cafe with her and a few of her friends I hadn’t met yet. Small group. I still took some time to sit back, listen, and get a read on the personality types so I can figure out how to talk to them, but long story short, I made some friends and when I see them on their own, we still talk and have fun! 2 of them even showed up to my band’s gig last weekend (and again, I know the initial friend better than those 2 people I met through her, and she wasn’t able to make it unfortunately).
Anyways, anecdote aside…
Approaching these groups is something that’s VERY easy to overcomplicate. The way I do it is simply walk up with a smile, and once one of them finishes a sentence and looks over, I nod and say “mind if I join the conversation?”
Most of the time, they say “Yeah sure!” and I let them continue on as I listen, and get a read on the topic and the personality types before chiming in. If they say “hey, sorry this is actually a bit private, can you give us some space?” then no worries, sometimes people have their own problems and they need privacy to deal with them (just like us at times). If they laugh and say “you serious bruh??? GTFO of hear dawg” while letting their smoke fall into their open drink…well, those aren’t people I care to associate with, so it’s no loss for me.
And if all of the people are like that… then why am I wasting my time at that crappy party? Hey, sometimes we follow a friend of ours to a party and it ends up not being our kind of crowd. It’s happened to me too! Most of the time though, the crowd is people I choose to spend my time with, so this isn’t really a huge problem.
Anyways, the point is - look for the small groups, within the big group. If you don’t know too many people there, but know at least one person, join a conversation with that person. If you know NO ONE there (like a business party and you’ve only worked there for 2 days), then look for the smallest groups you can. “Hi! Mind if I join the conversation?” - then lean back, listen, take it in, and chime in when you feel comfortable. If they ask you a question about the topic before you’re ready, then just say “hmmmm do you mind giving me a bit more context?” - that only helps you answer the question better.
Here’s another point to consider - if you are looking for small groups and find 1 person on their own…what do you think the chances are that maybe…JUST MAYBE…they’re in the exact same position as YOU?
Boom. You can relate to them, help them feel comfortable, and make a new friend through helping someone else, AND helping yourself.
RyanMueller, well said. This is a great post for how we all might consider a bigger party event to be approachable - just a collection of smaller conversations. If you can see it in this rational, real way that Ryan suggests, you’ll always be able to break down, take step by step any event that at first seems too big.