I have a confession to make: I’ve spent the majority of my life being shy. When I was a kid having to meet new people — adults especially, but even kids — was a challenge for me. I grew out of it in high school and college but then when it was time for me to hit the workforce, it came back.
If you’ve even been in a public place (such as a restaurant, movie theater or mall) around teenagers and you’re older than twenty-five, you’ve probably noticed that they can get quite obnoxious. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I went out to see a movie that a couple dozen teens were also interested in – and it made me appreciate and see the value in the premium theater that doesn’t allow people under 21. While I was once an obnoxious teenager myself (and it wasn’t that long ago), I remember my peers and I having at least some respect for our elders, whether they were strangers or our parents.
When you pass someone in the hallway in a familiar setting such as a college or office, it’s common courtesy to say “hi” to them. The same holds true when you enter a waiting area, elevator or other small area and there’s only one other person there. Sometimes, a question such as “how are you?” or “how’s going is asked?” and this is where it starts getting interesting.
When people make this kind of small talk, they often do it on auto pilot because the typical response they get is “good” and then they reply with “good.” So I recently tried an experiment. When someone passing me by or sharing an elevator with me would ask me how I was, I replied with “I’m dying” nonchalantly. Seven out of eight times, they said “good” or “cool” – they had no idea what I said – the other person asked “figuratively or literally?”.
It’s easy to snap at someone. They may say or do something that bothers you or they may just look a certain way. In this high stress world that many of us live in, people walk around like ticking time bombs, just waiting to explode. But it’s during these moments that we immediately respond with anger that we may say or do something that we regret. And they can hurt, and even irreparably damage, a relationship.
One piece of advice that I share with my speaking classes is that speaking to groups makes you a better communicator during one on one situations. This is because you learn good habits such as thinking before you speak. The communication that typically gets us in trouble happens in these moments where we speak without thinking. So here are three ways to avoid the angry response.
Ever catch yourself muttering something negative about yourself under your breath? I’ve caught myself doing it a lot and it’s something I’ve been to working to stop doing. It usually happens when I make a mistake — I’ll say something like “that was really dumb of me.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that when I said things like that, I started making more mistakes because I was essentially convincing myself that I was dumb.
There’s an interesting scene in “A Very Brady Christmas” where Mike Brady, the patriarch or the infamous Brady Bunch, is giving a speech before Christmas dinner. Mike’s speech is about the importance of family and traditional values such as honesty. What’s funny is that while Mike’s speech isn’t about anyone in the family in particular, members of his family think that he is talking about them and therefore interrupt him to confess about not being honest with the family.
Fears limit us more than anything else. They prevent us from meeting new people, strengthening relationships, moving ahead in our career and achieving financial abundance. While the internet and social media give us the opportunity to communicate with thousands (and potentially millions) of people without ever speaking a word, this path isn’t always the best one to go to reach your goals. This is especially true when trying to overcome communication fears.