Human interactions are filled with potential pitfalls for everyone. A person doesn’t need to have social anxiety or depression to find it difficult to connect with others.
We can’t read each other’s minds, we fear rejection, or we are worried that we will be seen as annoying. The phrase “coming on too strong” applies to friendships and romantic relationships equally.
Living with socially anxiety means a person fears social interaction. It doesn’t mean a person doesn’t want friends, but finds it more difficult than the typical human.
However, there some key mistakes that someone with social anxiety can make, especially at the beginning of a friendship. Here are the top three, and how to avoid them.
**1. Don’t assume the worst; You're not a mind reader.**I get it. You sent a text message or left a voicemail message an hour ago and you haven’t heard back. It _must _ mean the other person hates you. What other possible explanation could there be?
Here are just some of the reasons you haven’t heard back that have nothing to do with you: sleeping, at the movies, phone battery has died, working, spending time with another friend or family member, binge watching on Netflix, swimming, or writing an article on social anxiety for HealthCentral.com.
There are millions of reasons people don’t answer their phones, and they have absolutely nothing to do with negative feelings toward you. Having friends means having trust in those people. It means having faith that they find value in your presence in their lives. Even if the friendship is brand new, there is still a base amount of trust you should have. After all, there is a reason you’re pursuing the friendship in the first place.
The worst thing you can do is stalk them, whether by phone, text, or in person. It makes people uncomfortable and it sends a clear message that you don’t trust them. And who wants to be friends with someone who thinks so little of them?
2. Anger kills relationships.
To piggyback on mistake number one, assuming the worst often leads us to become angry. It’s an understandable progression: if you feel someone has treated you poorly, then it only makes sense that this would anger you. Pointing that anger at another person, however, probably isn’t going to turn out well, especially if what you’re mad about is the result of your own paranoia or misunderstanding.
Solid friendships carry an unspoken, but extremely valuable, social contract. Both parties need to agree not to jump to conclusions. Even if you are positive the other person is wrong, you need to proceed with caution. Be direct, but polite. You aren’t waging war, here; you are attempting to clear up a misunderstanding.
Move forward with the goal of getting both parties on the same page and making amends. It isn’t about blame. It isn’t about retribution. A solid friendship is built largely on understanding and forgiveness.
Passive-aggression, hostility, and anger will destroy any relationship. Value your friendship more than your anger at what the friend may or may not have done. Keep an open mind and give your friend the benefit of the doubt.
3. It isn't about you, it's about the both of you.
Arguably the most important mistake a person can make is forgetting that a friendship involves two people, not just one. Looking at every situation from the viewpoint of how it impacts only you is a sure way to ruin any relationship.
Imagine that your friend only cared about his or her own feelings and never considered yours. Many of us with social anxiety, myself included, often feel that people aren’t taking into account our emotions. We feel abused, mistreated, or even just misunderstood, and it makes us feel terrible.
It is imperative that we don’t make others feel that way. Not only is that the right thing to do, but it pays big dividends when it comes to maintaining friendships. By putting yourself in other people’s shoes, you can make sure that you are meeting their emotional needs.
When you do this, they’ll be inspired, encouraged, and have the emotional reserves to help meet your needs. This is the natural give-and-take that exists in healthy and stable friendships.
It may seem cliché, but the best way to keep a good friend is to be a good friend.
Gabe Howard is a frequent contributor to HealthCentral.com and a person who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Interact with him on his website, www.GabeHoward.com.