How to cope with feeling "outside" company
March 7, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

How to cope with feeling "outside" company

Situation: When others joke together or just talk and don't include me for a while, I feel outside. I can cope with that in single situations, we all have to. But for example at dinner at my job, I feel like a bit of a quiet outsider while my colleagues chat. Usually, before we hit the lunch break, I feel like I'm part of the sociale sphere. But after the experience of suddenly having been the "outsider" I have a hard time not judging myself a bit, as "not like them"; while when I'm satisfied with the situation, and I connect with what's going on, I just feel like any other human being. The situation of sitting at a table, dining, somehow makes me uneasy because: 1) the formailty of it. 2) the chatting which is often about things I can't say much about like echonomic stuff, or other things that don't interest me much in my sparetime. Now, I'm very quiet in these situations, so quiet that it's clear that I'm not part of this situation, just a listener, but a listener for the whole 30 min. lunch break. And people wonder about this change of character in these situations.

The problem is, I think a LOT about things like this, because I get an intuitive feeling of uneasiness. And after the lunch break I feel a bit different in a way, since I don't engage like they do. Man is a social animal, and when I'm put in a situation like this, I feel like an observer of the others rather than a part of it.

I can function perfectly socially, it's almost like it's either 100% confident, and self-secure, or the other way around; like the situation is anti-me, and that I don't know how to handle it.

How do I cope with this?
posted by Lotsofcoffee to Human Relations (33 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried therapy?
posted by Grither at 9:09 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No, it's too expensive. It's seriously expensive where I live. Around 120$ for an hour.
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 9:10 AM on March 7, 2012

This reminds me of a close friend who left my birthday party once, mere minutes after she'd arrived, complaining that "no one was talking to her." What she did was show up, coast alongside existing conversations and listen for a few minutes, and then check out because no one specifically tried to involve her.

Your fear that you're being deliberately excluded inhibits you from participating. You can't expect people to meet you more than halfway every time, to have the patience or interest to draw you out -- in a group of adults, it's pretty much expected that each is responsible for holding their own. And there is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy to it, because the less you attempt to inject yourself into a conversation, the less people will think you care about being involved. They're not snubbing you because they don't like you, they're overlooking you because you don't seem to be engaged.

If you really are engaged as a listener (and not just sort of awkwardly sulking or waiting for someone to ask what you think) then there are ways to signal that to the group. Nod when you agree with something, laugh, or vocally signal your agreement, that sort of thing. Or jump in with an easy question for someone else to answer about the topic. You don't have to steer the conversation or contribute memorably to it, you just have to act and sound like you're interested. Really, that's all there is to it.

If the problem is that you're really not interested in the existing conversations, you're probably making that incredibly clear to those around you. Which is, in itself, a conversational faux pas. In a social setting, you should either rise to the occasion and take these chats as an opportunity to learn something about people and/or things you're not that interested in, or you should artfully change the subject. This latter is usually done by appealing to someone directly with either a compliment or a question (or both). Get people talking about themselves, you'll be surprised what you find out.
posted by hermitosis at 9:17 AM on March 7, 2012 [18 favorites]

Maybe I'm missing something here. If they all eat lunch together and talk about things that don't interest you, why do you feel you always have to sit/talk with them? Do you work in the kind of place where it's physically not possible to go elsewhere or sit in a quiet place by yourself for lunch sometimes? Will you be fired or otherwise punished at work if you're not social all the time? I ask because one of the great things about being an adult is that you can often opt out of social situations where you don't fit in, and choose to not spend time with people you're not comfortable around. Not always, of course, and it's good (actually pretty necessary) to be able to cope when you have to, as you said you can in one-off situations. But is there a reason you have to put yourself through this every day? I guess what I'm saying is, I rarely feel like a social outsider but that's because I no longer put myself in situations that I know I won't enjoy unless I have to.

On preview, if you do have to sit with them every day, I agree with hermitosis.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:22 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, that's a great anwer.

I just have an experience of people not liking me when I want to know them. They have to come to me before they like me, for some reason. It's like I can't charm or persuade others the other way around. So I always expect that, if I do something engaging and keep it on, to others, then they won't like me, because they see that I want to get to know them.

But if I'm included the other way around, then people always end up liking me, because I don't have to impress them or convince them that I'm worthwhile. Now this sounds like bad self-esteem, I know, but it's based on quite a lot of experience. And I don't feel like I'm over-doing anything when I'm doing it the other way around, yet, a lot of times, people seem a bit taken back by it.

Anyway, that's more in one-on-one situations. In these bigger sociale situations with 4+ persons you're absolutely right. I have to do an effort myself as an adult.

But how does one come into a conversation where you feel like everything that's talked about is something outside your own range of knowledge?
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2012

Response by poster: To DestinationUnknown: That's very true. But I'm practicing being social. I actually do eat my lunch and then leave, usually. But I see this as a way of developing this part of myself, especially because there are situations where you can't just leave, and you're stuck for a whole day. Like weddings or other celebrations. And I need to cope with these situations and have fun instead of living in my head. I just need to learn how to get out and engage.
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 9:25 AM on March 7, 2012

Basically everything you're writing screams "I have social anxiety" to me. Why don't you post where you live and people can recommend cheaper therapy options, because you're probably wrong about $120/hour being the cheapest you can find it (and have you quadruple checked your health insurance coverage of mental health?), but you should also look for books and the sort about overcoming social anxiety.
posted by brainmouse at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe you're just not wired to socialize that formally with the people you work with.

And that's okay. Some of the best advice I got when it came to workplace socializing came in a roundabout way from another secretary -- when I asked if she was going to the company Christmas party (which I was uncomfortable about, and didn't want to go), she scoffed, "No, because I have a life." She got on with us fine, she chatted with people now and again, but she just plain didn't want to socialize with her workmates in this one specific way. Parties were for her friends; her workmates got the informal chats, and that was the way she liked it.

Maybe it's the same thing in your case; a formal, sit-down meal with your workmates makes you feel uncomfortable, because you don't know them as well as you do your friends; I bet that if you are at dinner with your friends, you're more likely to speak up and chime in in conversations, yes? Because you know them and trust them more, I'd wager. At least, more so than the people you work with.

And that's okay. You just know your workmates less, or differently, than you know your friends, so you have a few more barriers around them. And that's okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

But how does one come into a conversation where you feel like everything that's talked about is something outside your own range of knowledge?

This is counterintuitive but easy! You ask a question. Almost everyone loves to look like an expert and to explain even fairly basic stuff. (Clearly, modify this approach for very grumpy people or very high levels of expertise and try to ask more sophisticated questions.) If you seem interested in what interests them, people will like you - it may be a bare bones kind of 'like', but it's a start. If you can build on your questions by relating them to your own experience or knowledge, that will bump up the 'like' factor.

This does sound like low self esteem, if only because it appears that when you feel that you have to impress people, it throws you off. Or possibly you're seeking out people who are unlikely to like you because you have low self esteem/have some compulsive need to feel your inferiority is 'real' instead of situational? This is a real thing, as I know only too well.
posted by Frowner at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

And if you can't afford therapy, focused journalling about your thoughts and feelings PLUS strategizing for the future can be very effective - almost as effective, actually, as therapy. Get one of those CBT books that everyone is always recommending on here too.
posted by Frowner at 9:33 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lotsofcoffee, you've asked some variation of this question over and over again on AskMe. At some point, you will have to accept that there are no easy answers you'll be satisfied with. Instead of seeking and seeking and never finding, why don't you go back and read all the advice you've been given and pretend "as if" you really believe it and will give in an honest try? Either that or accept that since you're thinking yourself into knots over this, it might be better to just accept that you can't change it right now and try to live your life anyway? I'm sure this is only exacerbated by your anxiety.
posted by stockpuppet at 9:39 AM on March 7, 2012 [17 favorites]

I would favorite this comment a million times, stockpuppet.

I also really doubt people think about this "change" that comes over you as much or as negatively as you do.
posted by sm1tten at 9:46 AM on March 7, 2012

Response by poster: I knew that questions would come from a Metafilter user.

But hey, it's based on situations. And they're different, don't you agree? I see an overall similarity. If you read the answers to my previous questions (which have helped me in those situations), they're different from the answers to this questions. I know that all my questions are related, since they're about my relations to the outside world, but I feel like I'm dissecting every situation that makes me uncomfortable on this forum, and soon I've recieved answers here to all these situations.

I got some good advice from people here, so they help. It's not just anxiety masturbation, it's a dissection of my situation-based anxiety, and it helps. Soon I'm out of seperate situations, and then I can just go back to previous topics and re-read them when I'm a bit troubled.
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2012

I don't agree that the situations are different, actually. I mean, sure, the specifics are different, but the reasons for why you feel how you feel seem like they're exactly the same. It won't help to only solve each individual specific problem as a separate thing, because there are always new situations, and you will always not know how to deal with them if you look at it that way. You should focus on figuring out how to overcome your anxieties as a whole, and then all of the situations will resolve themselves.
posted by brainmouse at 9:51 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

But hey, it's based on situations. And they're different, don't you agree?

I'm having hard time seeing how they're different. Maybe if you included more specifics about who exactly you're having a problem with (using a pseudonym of course) and what was said, it would be easier to tailor advice to fit.
posted by stockpuppet at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, based on this question and previous questions, I think you have social anxiety. I say this as someone that has social anxiety. As others have mentioned, there are ways to get help for this, but I get that therapy can be expensive. Continue to look at all resources for getting help though.

With that being said...

What are your thoughts before attending an event? Generally speaking, but if your thoughts are: OMG I am so nervous, I feel sick to my stomach, what am I going to do if I'm alone at this event, what if people don't talk to me, etc...

Then you need to change your framing (which sounds obvious), but it's difficult to do. I think you need to play the 'what if' game with yourself before attending these events.

This comment from mikewas has been so incredibly helpful when it comes to me overcoming certain social obstacles. It calms my anxiety down and gives me the courage to do things that I struggle with because of my anxiety.

I think the problem is that you think "A LOT" about things like this. I can understand that, but at the same time, this insecurity makes you come across as uneasy and uncomfortable in your own skin, and possibly unhappy which in turn makes it difficult for people to WANT to approach you or know how to include you into conversations.

If you struggle with figuring out what to talk about based on lack of knowledge pertaining to a certain topic, then ASK QUESTIONS. You can also insert some jokes into the conversation occasionally too.

If anything, I think you are great on an interpersonal level, but struggle with small group communication. If you want I can send you some readings from a Small Group Communication course which might help you out.
posted by livinglearning at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2012

I cope with this by realizing that I have to fake it during work related social situations. I become shy sitting at a table with people at work because it's still a 'work' situation. To me that means I don't entirely trust the situation--even if it has all the trappings of being relaxing and 'fun' (laughing; eating). I see work breaks and lunches as fairly artificial. It's a sudden mix of work situation + supposed 'social' situation that happens every day at such-and-such a time and breaks up after alloted minutes, etc. Maybe you don't respond to this situation because, although people at work can eventually become real friends, it's not necessary and, unfortunately, rare as an occurrence. The tone that work related social situations tends to take on combined with my own lack of wanting to invest too much in things that are not entirely genuine (at least during lunch--due to the fact that I am probably tired and have no energy to uphold completely fake relationships for no reason other than to be interesting for thirty minutes at lunch) means that I am never totally at ease during the kind of work break you describe. I fake it.
posted by marimeko at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know where you live, but check out any potential sources of free/sliding-fee scale therapy. I've received both in the past--free through a university, sliding-fee based (which was free for my poor ass) at a behavioral health clinic. If you're not sure where to look, ask at your public library. They are used to questions about free services, and may have some information already compiled for you.

Because the bottom line is that all of your questions point to social anxiety.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2012

This sort of thing is just LIFE. Every time I am sitting around with coworkers and every single one of them but me has a husband and kids, and the entire discussion revolves around having a husband and kids and what the husbands and kids are up to, I have nothing to contribute. (Or at least, people get annoyed looks if you try to talk about your friend's kids or something.) You know what? I just sit there and wait it out until it's time to leave if I can't leave, or leave if I can. Trust me, nobody's noticing that I am sitting there with nothing to say and they certainly aren't focusing on how I am awful and should be shunned for my lack of conversation. They are too busy focusing on themselves.

Don't take it personally. This will pass.

Or if possible, just go off by yourself for lunch.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Again I have to defend myself here for some reason....

When I ask these questions, I'm just wondering about how others act, feel or think. I live a good life, only a fragment is filled with these kind of worries. I'm not suffering 24/7 or anything close to that, it's very very situation-based, and that's why I hesitate to the anxiety diagnosis.

I'm just trying to free myself from the worries of these remaining unpleasant situations. I think a lot about everything, always, I've done so through all my life. I've always been very sensitive and had a strong feeling of just and wanting to include outsiders. And I enjoy reading comments, and I get new perspectives, and learn. I do live my life, I enjoy most of it, and asking questions on Metafilter doesn't mean that I don't. I'm just a perfectionist, and I'm very curious. My brain just works like this, but I think some users are concluding dramatically from my urge to spill my "guts" to this forum.

I never expect easy answers. I just want a variation of comments that I can use to perhaps, if lucky, re-interpret certain situations (and again: I've already got some very good, and usable tips, from here). And that others, like me, can read and perhaps use these as well. No harm there. I have already changed quite a few things over the last couple of months, some because of this forum! While my thoughts and situation-based uneasiness can be frustrating, the posts and comments here really do help me get some air in my thoughts, and sharing these with others. If I only kept a diary or similar, I would just sit there with these thoughts myself.

I don't see anyone's motivation for getting annoyed with that, or trying to make me stop posting my questions, as if I'm hurting someone with them or wasting people's time. I wouldn't spend my time writing them down in the first place if I didn't get anything back.

So please, if you don't have anything to comment, or if you're annoyed by my questions or thinking I'm just lying to myself or whatever, and can't see any logic in what I've written in this post, then don't enter the topic. Again. Trust me when I say that the answers here do help....
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2012

Best answer: "I feel like I'm dissecting every situation that makes me uncomfortable on this forum, and soon I've recieved answers here to all these situations."

I think that seeing the larger picture--that all of these situations really stem from your outlook/brain chemistry/unique experiences that have formed this composite in your mind--will ultimately be more helpful for you. Yes, they're all different situations. But they're all really the same, too. If you learn how to challenge the place where your mind takes you (your assumptions, your gut reactions) in these types of situations, then you have the tools to conquer any situation that comes your way. If you frame each as an individual and unique situation, then you have to start from square one every time you encounter a problem. It will ultimately be more empowering for you to realize that you already have the tools you need to solve a problem. And, yes, therapy will give you those tools. They'll identify a pattern and help you combat that pattern to lead to a happier, healthier life. I speak from experience.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:19 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

lotsofcoffee, I'm honestly surprised to hear that you percieved my comment annoyed in tone or as trying to make you stop posting your questions. Would it reassure you to know that I was actually feeling calm, and just musing in an attempt to help you? I certainly don’t perceive you as trying to waste people’s time maliciously. However, I know from experience in my own life that mulling over something that is essentially the same problem again and again is often fruitless, and can contribute to the problem itself. Perhaps you have a tendency to attribute more thought or malicious thought to others than is actually there at all?
posted by stockpuppet at 10:28 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry about that, clearly a misunderstanding on my behalf, because of the general hostile posts in others threads. My bad.
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2012

Crap, I lost my post. Um, on rewrite:

OP, do you think that your reflexiveness to be so defensive, to thread-sit, to specify what kinds of responses you are looking for, actually help you here? I'm not trying to be catty, nor are any of my comments, but I really don't think this is a good venue for you. To me, all of your questions revolve around a very core anxiety that you don't seem to address so much as kind of repeatedly acknowledge. You seem to see most things as a "me versus everyone else" type of thing, and that there is something wrong with you. And this type of thinking/inaccurate framing of situations/endless dissection underlies all of your questions.

The type of navel-gazing that you are doing, I don't know what other than therapy would help break you of that. And I say that as an anxious person for whom therapy was only minimally helpful and meds not at all, but realising that I was torturing myself thinking about things that no one else was (i.e. my previous comment in this thread), was, and that instead of trying to figure out how to make myself "be" someone who fit in, I needed to figure out how to stop ruminating/over-dissecting. Otherwise, I'd simply find something else to overthink.

I'm only speaking from my experience, of course, and trying not to project too hard. But, I think that you may need to try something different from what you're doing here.
posted by sm1tten at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am a bit socially anxious, although I am a lot less so than I used to be. Here are some things that have helped for me:

1) Realizing that most of the time, other people are not judging me as much as I think they are. It's a hard truth to realize, but most of the time, people are so caught up in themselves that they do not have the energy to expend on thinking about you and dissecting your every action/non-action/statement. THEY are probably wondering what YOU are thinking about THEM. Which brings me to my second point:

2) In social situations, sitting there very quietly, not giving verbal or non-verbal cues, can come across to other people as though you are sitting in judgment of them. YOU know that you are being quiet because you feel like you don't have anything to contribute, or you don't know how to contribute. However, THEY don't necessarily know that, and their minds might leap to the conclusion that you're not shy, you're actually snobbish or judgmental. To socially anxious people like you and me, who worrry about others' impressions of them, this is a distressing realization. How do we combat this/prevent it? That brings me to point #3:

3) In order to improve the situation, I had to do things that didn't come naturally to me, in order to communicate that I was open to being a part of the conversation. I learned to force myself (sounds unpleasant, but with practice it comes naturally) to communicate my interest verbally and non-verbally (nods, smiles, "Oh, really?" "Uh huh"). I practiced open body language (no crossed arms, sitting facing others). I also forced myself to speak up and contribute to the discussion. A lot of people just are not going to invite you to join in, but that doesn't mean they don't want you to. It just means they don't know if you want them to, or they themselves don't know how to.

It has helped me to reframe my own thinking to believe that most people, most of the time, are nice and have good intentions. Whether or not that's true doesn't matter; it helps my own attitude and reactions. I have had to learn to take responsibility for my own part in social interactions, to learn to read others' social cues correctly, to step up and participate and not wait for others to do the inviting. Yes, it's hard, but it can be done. I used to be painfully shy and awkward as a child, but most of the time now, I appear relatively at ease in social situations. It has taken practice, just like anything.

The people recommending therapy are doing so because a therapist can help you with that learning process (of reading others' social cues) and the practice (stepping up and being active rather than passive in social interactions). Hopefully you'll be able to find a less expensive source of help, but until then, I really encourage you to try the steps I've outlined above.

Good luck.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

adding to the excellent advice from hurdy gurdy girl--

engage yourself in the conversation, even if you don't participate. Watch the person who is talking. Make modest reactions to what they say, perhaps nodding thoughtfully, shaking your head ruefully, widen your eyes in surprise. You're not pantomiming with exaggerated facial expressions, but you are following the conversation with interest.

When your body leads, your mind will follow. Act happy, and you will be happy. Act interested, and you will be interested. Act like part of the group and you will be part of the group.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:33 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or if you genuinely want to join in these conversations, why not read up on the topics they discuss, so you don't feel so ignorant about them? And if you don't want to know about those subjects, why care if you can't join in the conversation? Some of my colleagues talk a lot about crappy reality shows and I can't join in but I could if I watched the shows- however, I'd rather just accept that these types of conversation aren't for me...
posted by KateViolet at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2012

Act like part of the group and you will be part of the group.

In a nutshell, the best advice so far.
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

OP, do you think that your reflexiveness to be so defensive, to thread-sit, to specify what kinds of responses you are looking for, actually help you here? I'm not trying to be catty, nor are any of my comments, but I really don't think this is a good venue for you. To me, all of your questions revolve around a very core anxiety that you don't seem to address so much as kind of repeatedly acknowledge. You seem to see most things as a "me versus everyone else" type of thing, and that there is something wrong with you. And this type of thinking/inaccurate framing of situations/endless dissection underlies all of your questions.

Yeah I wonder if what you are doing here is a sort of microcosm of what's happening to you in those social situations you describe. Is it possible that you're anxious because you can't control the situation, or because you feel you should be able to control the situation? Because in a sense, this is a social situation, and it's one where you can get a feeling of (apparent) control e.g. by specifying who should participate in your threads and how.

I imagine control issues are fairly common in social anxiety.
posted by BibiRose at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You might be right. But then we could stop after the 1st answer, being "get therapy".

I got some interesting questions here that I've already used and they helped me. I see two types of answers. One is trying to tell this and this might be wrong, but not coming up with any actual solution. The other is also coming up with some sort of practical solution that I can test. I find it far stretched to conclude that that's me trying to "control the situation in here".

If I can't require answers that are usable in practice, that I can try and learn from, or use IRL, then I could just not post here and go to therapy.
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: My problem with the idea of a "core anxiety" is that it's abstract, again, a diagnosis, but to what use? A while ago, I was sure I had social anxiety, and thinking this, everything just got worse, and then I just blamed it on my diagnosis and thought I couldn't change it. But I could, when I started focusing on situations rather than some abstract mental concept like anxiety, that's unsolvable.

Another funny thing is that the exact over-dissection of everything is not always a negative thing. In a philosophical context, for example, I've found it extremely useful. So "not thinking too much" has to be nuanced as well, so that only the negative aspect of that disappears. I don't know if it can even be seperated.

I think it's a misunderstanding that I'm trying to control the thread though. I just want answers that I can go out and try out and use, something that can help me change in these situations, or at least do an effort, instead of answers like "yep, you have social anxiety" or "you're trying to control situations".
I a thread like this, the OP will need a next step as well, for example, if someone else has tried to control situations, how did they get out of this? What did they do, that changed it? What thought patterns were the catalysts of this need for control? How do you handle a situation when you're not in control? How can you be in a situation where you feel out of control without feeling like a stranger, etc. To me it's just fair that the answers are more than "get therapy", because, as I also implied already, I KNOW that's an option.

So again, we're back to the original questions, just with a nuance. Anyone who sits in a situation where people talk about things they don't care for are in a situation that's "out of control" for them. So it's sort of implied already that this is the case.
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 10:49 AM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: Anyway, guys, I don't feel like posting here anymore. I thought I could use this place to actually get some advice in certain situations, but instead a lot of people seem to insist on me having anxiety disorder. I might. But when I ask a question in here it's not to get that possibility thrown into my face constantly. It is to get an answer to that question about the specific situations, NOT about me as a whole person. And since there are some who feel that I can't just focus on situations - and you MIGHT be right - then I don't see how I can post here anymore, since that's what I wanted to use this board for. Situations-based questions. So now my only solution is to go to therapy, since that's what a lot in here think is the only way to solve this. We'll see....
posted by Lotsofcoffee at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2012

The capacity for abstract thinking and the ability to generalize a specific solution in one situation to a whole class of different contexts is what separates being human from being a highly-trained monkey.

If you came in here and asked, "what is 2+2?", we might explain to you, using demonstrations of physical objects, what addition is, and showing that adding two objects to two more objects gives you 4 objects and that you might need an overall review of arithmetic. If your next question was "well, what is 3+4? THIS IS SPECIFIC TO THIS SITUATION WHICH IS DIFFERENT FROM WHEN I ASKED 'WHAT IS 2+2?' !", then I might get the impression that you didn't really understand that you can't simply solve addition problems by asking for advice for every single different problem you'll find but instead need to understand the basic process of addition.

You obviously don't like being told you are wrong, and you get a fixed idea about how to solve a problem and have trouble deviating from that line of reasoning. Colloquially, this is known as "an inability to see the forest for the trees."

Along with "therapy", another common suggestion here at MeFi is Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. That might help you with a few rules-based guides to how to manage yourself.

Basically, you need to develop social skills. That's basically what people mean when they say "therapy." But therapy is just being suggested as a means of developing those skills and getting you into a mindset that is more conducive to socializing comfortably with others.
posted by deanc at 2:35 PM on March 25, 2012

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