The job posting states the interested candidate will work independently and need to be self-disciplined as there will be limited contact with others on a regular basis. Perhaps, your own lack of interest in or anxiety in working with other people may attract you to positions with these statements. However, at some point, you’ll need to sit down and chat with an interviewer.
For those who do not have good interpersonal skills and prefer to avoid social situations: they often do not have good people skills and often feel uncomfortable in situations where they have to interact with others on a regular basis. They may avoid specific training sessions where they could work on these skills. Therefore, the skills do not get better, anxiety grows, and when the interview is finally obtained, they are under significant stress, do not perform well and can act extremely nervous and the cycle continues.
The answer as difficult as it is to hear, is to put yourself in more situations where you interact with others, but on your own terms. Instead of picturing an interview where you feel you can’t control the situation and as a result may fare poorly, start with situations of your own making that are short in duration and with less to risk if things do not go well.
Let me give you an example. Suppose you typically go grocery shopping and do not talk to anyone until you get to the cashier. Even there, you may not say much and then you’re out of the store and on your way home. Think back to the store and picture the person behind the meat counter for instance. When they eye you standing there, it’s likely they will offer their help. Instead of saying, “No thanks” and moving away, you could ask him or her how to cook a cut of meat, or how long should the shish-kabobs be grilled and at what temperature. Even if you already know the information, it gets a conversation going. You can scoot away at any point. The butcher is going to remain behind the counter. If this sounds incredibly stressful, remember you can always hold up in the next aisle and compose yourself.
In the above example, if you are worried ahead of time of having to run into the butcher every time you go back to the store, you could alternatively try this kind of experiment in a grocery store you don’t often go to.
Some readers might be seriously wondering if there really are people out there who have difficulty interacting with others in simple every day situations. Yes, there are. Just imagine how utterly terrifying the job interview process may be for people who have skills and capabilities, but find the job interview itself an agonizing terror. While you may not find talking to people on a daily basis a stressful situation, you can’t expect others to just, “suck it up and get over it” which is advice I overhear often.
A Psychologist or professional Counsellor might look at past events and identify root causes of such a condition and label it as a phobia or a disorder of some kind. But with or without that label attached, the more one isolates themselves from people, the more challenging it becomes to initiate or respond favourably to interactions with others. In its extreme, I’ve known agoraphobic people who live comfortably in their own residences, who cannot walk beyond their door without extreme anxiety and outright fear.
Recently, I heard a fellow talking on the radio, but unfortunately missed the introduction and therefor didn’t hear the full interview. He was making an observation about the current younger generation who spend so much of their time on electronic devices. They are losing interpersonal communication skills. His point was that at an early age, toddlers and pre-schoolers socialize freely. If they are introduced at an early age to tablets, computers, cell phones, etc. this dynamic changes. He referenced groups of friends sitting at the same table, but none of them are talking to one other and instead are texting other people or the people at the table. Their communication skills are exceptionally good behind a screen, but face-to-face interactions are poor because they lack the practice older generations have typically had.
And it’s true most of the time that sooner or later, no matter how wonderful computers are, you have to go out and meet people if one of your goals is work. If you put off talking to everyone until you absolutely have to, then the stakes are incredibly high for that one interaction to go well; the job interview. If however, you take the approach that you will start with a series of brief conversations with people where less is on the line, you may find that you have some success, and can build on that success.
Unemployment is isolating. Without intending to do it, you may cut yourself off from friends, develop anxiety about being around other people, which could be brought on by feelings of low self-esteem associated with your lack of work. Good advice is to stay connected, meet and speak with others, starting with those you trust most to be sympathetic and well-meaning.
And remember that all those people who seem to find socializing so effortless, have other issues; we all do.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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