being socially proactive with anxiety
November 10, 2017 6:33 AM   Subscribe

How can I be proactive with social events when I have anxiety over rejection and don't want to bother people?

In the past couple months I have been trying to ramp up my social life so I have been inviting people over for small gatherings, initiating lunches, etc. [ETA:Most of my friends are in relationships, and I am single, so I think I may be placing a higher importance on these interactions.]

However, I get anxious when people aren't communicative/responsive about these meetings and I don't know how to handle this. For one example, I asked former coworkers to meet for lunch since I had the day off. They responded positively, I then messaged to tell them to give me a good time, and I heard crickets. I have lots of evidence that these two coworkers do like me, but I feel hurt by their non-response. I don't want to bother them by messaging again to ask about the plans.

Another example- I've been inviting people over as I've said. One friend suggested multiple gatherings at my house and I subsequently sent him messages with suggested dates. He was slow to respond, but eventually replied that he could come. I sent him the last message which he didn't reply to, so I figured I should stop bothering him. Then the night of the party, he sent me two messages asking why I hadn't texted or called. I promptly called, and he hadn't missed any of my messages, just hadn't replied. So apparently I need to bug him more? But I hate doing that because it makes me feel rejected.

He came to that next gathering, and stayed after longer than anyone, (just two of us talking) so it was apparent he wanted to be there. He then suggested another gathering but when I followed up via text he didn't respond until I wrote two messages, and still hasn't let me know if he can come.

So I guess my question is, how can I deal with these situations where it seems people want to hang out with me, but have other stuff in their lives/are bad at follow-up? I'm not naturally a "pursuer" and being in that role makes me feel uncomfortable. I guess I need reassurances that people want to hang out, and effort put in. But how do I get that across to people without seeming overly insecure- or is there no way?
posted by bearette to Human Relations (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an introvert and this doesn't come naturally but one thing that helped me a lot was to be more definitive with people. Don't ask them to suggest some days or times or places. You do the suggesting. Make it easier for them to do less work. It also helps it become clearer whether they are saying no to that time/date/place or to doing the thing with you at some point. Give them a more specific invitation.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:37 AM on November 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have this issue too! Would it be helpful to set up a regular thing every two weeks or monthly, so that the second Friday of every month is movie and potluck day or bowling day or something you and your friends enjoy? If you cast a wide net with invitations, you could have a small group that meets regularly or have a set event with different people who attend. After some initial work, if it is a hit with you and your friends, it wouldn't be as much work to keep it going.

I'll be paying attention to this thread, too, for ideas.
posted by shortyJBot at 6:58 AM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

You sound really similar to me. I'm introverted and deal with social anxiety but like having people around.

One thing that's helped me is reminding myself that other people don't dwell on things as much as I do. When they don't reply to my emails, it's not because they're stewing about something I did wrong or laughing at how stupid my email is. They're just busy working or taking care of their kids or being in their relationships or whatever it is.

I don't know how old you are, but there's definitely something changing in how youngish people deal with social obligations. Instead of turning down an invitation, people just don't reply now, or they wait until the last possible second. This annoys me to no end, but I try to just roll with it--set things up that are low pressure, that don't involve making reservations or anything. I like shortyJBot's idea too.

With the one guy who was flaky and then talked to you all night and then was flaky again, it sounds like maybe there were some other factors at play there? Like maybe he had some confusion about whether you were interested in him romantically? Or something else that left him unsure how to reply later? Or he is just uniquely flaky? I would try not to generalize what sounds like an interaction with its own specific set of factors in it.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:04 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry to butt in, but I have noticed a difference with younger people and social obligations! Several of my friends are almost 10 years younger than me (I'm 38), and I definitely notice they are more of the non-repliers. It's something I've noticed before. I find it very frustrating, but I'll keep in mind that it might be at least partially generational.
posted by bearette at 7:14 AM on November 10, 2017

I am an extrovert and probably want to come to your thing but often need reminding. If I don't respond right when I get your message (because I have to check my calendar or find a babysitter or make sure that is not likely a work-late day), I will probably forget to answer your message at all. Prodding is a favor, and I would say three unreplied-to messages would be the minimum for considering it a blow-off.

Sure, for some people you might be wrong--they were trying to blow you off with two--but that's where you talk yourself through the anxiety and point out that if they don't want to hang out, the extra message doesn't change that, and it doesn't hurt anything. Because it doesn't.

The non-replies are really not about you. And I agree that specific plans are easiest to reply to--invitations for a certain date and time, or with two or MAX three options, are much more likely to get a reply.
posted by gideonfrog at 1:24 PM on November 10, 2017

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