I get nervous and anxious whenever I find myself in social situations with lots of people I don’t know. I think this is mild social anxiety. It makes me feel nervous and anxious.
A big part of the problem is my hearing loss, which definitely does not help with conversations. I often misunderstand what people are saying to me especially if there is a lot of background noise. So in noisy places I desperately try to avoid having to talk to anyone. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people, it’s because it probably won’t work out very well.
In noisy places if people do start talking to me it is usually just a one-way conversation. They talk at me and I nod and smile without having a clue what they’re talking about. I may hear the odd few words but when they ask a question I’m in trouble! Usually I can tell when people ask a question because they stop talking or their tone of voice changes.
I often worry about making myself look like an idiot because if someone says something to me like “how are you?” and I reply with “27” they will wonder what I am on about. Or they may say something to me and I don’t reply at all because I haven’t heard them. So then they might think am ignoring them.
I can only understand what people are saying if I am looking at their face so I can read their lips. So I find myself constantly looking around at everyone in close proximity, trying not to stare, just in case they are saying something to me.
I feel lonely sometimes because I don’t often see my friends in person, such as meeting up for a drink. I feel like I should make more of an effort to meet up with people but my anxiety holds me back.
The problem is I often run out of things to say and I don’t like awkward silences. Often I manage “hi how are you?” and then my mind goes blank. It’s fine with talkative people because they keep the conversation flowing. If I run out of things to say they often say something themselves so there are few awkward silences. But with more quiet people it’s not that easy, and is often more awkward.
I try to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone, as I tend to spend too much time sat at home on my computer.
I recently went to a social club where there were lots of people with disabilities. I challenged myself in my mind to learn at least five people’s names, or at least talk to 5 different people. I think I managed to talk to about three or four different people but I only learned one person’s name. Challenging myself to do this I think makes the situation more manageable, otherwise I will just sit there and do nothing.
They played music in the background and it was in a big hall so there was a lot of people talking, which added to the noise levels. It was hard to understand what people are saying and this made me apprehensive about trying to start conversations. So in hindsight I think that was not the best place for me to meet new people. It’s hard because there was quite a lot of people there so in theory it’s a good place to meet people. But if I can’t understand what anyone is saying then I’m not going to get anywhere. I probably won’t go back there again.
It was the second time I’d been to that place. The first time I was a chicken and hardly talked to anyone. I just stayed on my own table and played Scrabble with my carer, probably as an excuse not to make the effort to talk to anyone. But the second time I did better and actually made the effort to go up to people, so at least I tried. Even though I couldn’t understand what they’re saying. So at least I did better this time.
I want to try and make some new friends in my local area but I’m not sure where is the best place to do it. It needs to be somewhere relatively quiet so that I can actually have conversations with people. But places with lots of people tend to be noisy. It’s a catch 22.
The place I’ve had most success in meeting new people has been in the nightclubs. Most of the time they come up to me and start talking, but because of the loud music I often don’t understand what they are saying. Even so, I have met many people this way and some I am still in contact with. But it’s not ideal, not least because of the music, but also because they are often drunk. They might want to talk to me when they are tipsy but when they have sobered up it might be a different matter.
Speed dating I think would be a good thing to try, but so far I have not found anything like that near me. I will keep looking.