A Secret About Dealing With People

I’m a writer by nature. I like words.

I’m not good with people.

People require talking, and the second I open my mouth, I almost invariably embarrass myself. Usually by stumbling over my words, or mispronouncing something, or commenting on a line of thought that makes sense to me, but I haven’t verbally volunteered to everyone else, thus making it appear random and unrelated to the topic.

I think faster than I can speak, which is why I like to write. Typing comes faster than speaking, and even if I don’t get everything down coherently to start with, there’s always the backspace button.

But even when I slow myself down enough to get the words out of my mouth before moving on to my next thought, my thoughts are still racing on, long after we’ve finished a topic and moved on. I find myself constantly wondering, analyzing my interactions with other people. Maybe it’s a symptom of my tendency to be a bit of a wallflower, maybe it’s just the writer in me, people watching, but I constantly find myself more or less attempting to read people’s minds. No, I don’t mean to say that I think I’m telepathic. I just spend a lot of time replaying my interactions with people, thinking about their tone of voice, word choice, and body language. Doing so has made me realize one thing about everyone I’ve ever interacted with:

Everyone hates me.

Nah, just kidding. But you would be surprised how much of unguarded human interaction can actually come across as hostile, angry, sad, upset, distant, or uninterested. And I’m sure you can see my point here–over analyzing anything is never good. We are our own worst critics, so when we remember things–unless we’re Gilderoy Lockhart–we tend to remember them with a negative spin. Add that bias to the natural relaxed tendency for people to come off as uncaring in some manner (simply because they aren’t making an expected show of positivity, affection, what not) and of course you’re going to convince yourself that the world is out to get you.

I am very guilty of having done this many, many times. After having been teased throughout childhood for being “too smiley” and then “too quirky” and then “too loud” and then “too quirky” for the second time, I developed a tendency to concern myself with whether or not I was annoying people. And then I would convince myself that I was annoying everyone, simply because a joke I made fell flat, or someone didn’t respond the way I was expecting about something I said, or I didn’t hear about something that happened when everyone else did, or I didn’t get invited to do things with certain people.

And then one day, out of the blue, someone I was totally convinced thought I was annoying invited me out with a bunch of their friends that I had never met. There was no obligation to invite me, it was a completely separate event from anything that would necessitate involving the both of us, but I was invited anyways. So I went, and it was a blast! And that got me thinking, “Why am I so hard on myself? Why did I constantly push myself away from other people?”  And the only answer I could come up with is that I was so afraid of others judging me, I was judging myself for them.

And suddenly all of the little, tiny toxic things we do–I do–to sabotage ourselves came flooding into my mind; all the put downs, and the body shaming, and the constant struggle to be absolutely perfect. And I knew it wasn’t worth it, because all of it had only brought negativity into my life, and here I was, having so much fun, feeling so positive for once, simply because someone I had assumed disliked me, actually liked me enough to want to spend their time with me.

I realized that day that trying to be telepathic (in a figurative sense) wasn’t healthy. And frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. So I decided that from that point forward, I was going to assume that everyone I meet and interact with likes me, until they let me know otherwise. And honestly? It’s actually helped me become more confident in my interactions with people. Because when you go into an interaction assuming you’ve already won the other person’s appreciation, instead of having to earn it, you start to feel a genuine kinship with that person. You want to do nice things for that person, because you realize that, more often than not, you appreciate that person without them needing to prove their worth, too.

So start believing that people like you. Because if they don’t they’ll let you know. And if they let you know, screw them. Nobody likes them, anyways.

Now let’s all go get ice cream.

-tlc

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