Tuesday, 5 May 2009


I’m often a bit inhibited when I’m talking to other people. I find it hard just to chatter away about anything and everything. There’s always a part of me that’s nervous I’m going to say something totally stupid or inappropriate or offensive.

So I tend to be hesitant, weighing my words and checking my thoughts as if I’m about to come out as a werewolf. Too many doubts and I fall silent, letting someone more confident make the running.

Alcohol doesn’t help, in fact it hinders, slowing me down so much that it’s an effort to say anything at all. And other people’s conversation stops making sense and simply washes over me.

People say to me, but you’re unlikely to say anything really awful, just relax and let whatever wants to come out come out. But asking me to relax is guaranteed to put me instantly on guard.

One thing that can melt my inhibitions though is enthusiasm. If I’m really fired up about something, my usual reticence vanishes and I start babbling away like a four year old, quite unconcerned about other people’s reactions.

Okay, I have certain thoughts and feelings I don’t want to reveal. But so do lots of people, and it doesn’t stop them gabbing away nineteen to the dozen. They manage to keep their secrets without damming up everything else.

So if it’s hard to chatter, why not stay silent? Well, that can work with someone I know well, who finds companionship enough. But with strangers, silence becomes awkward. They expect the social lubricant of a steady flow of words.

There’s an old cliché “Engage brain before opening mouth”. On the contrary. In my case, too much thinking and my mouth seizes up. What I need to know is how to switch the bloody thing off.

Isn't Gok Wan absolutely adorable? Did you know that at school he was bullied for being fat and gay? And that now he supports the anti-bullying charity Kidscape?


  1. Nick I was like that for years. I almost refused to go places, when I went along it was agony. I watched all the confident 'Big Mouths' holding court and bluffing away - because that was what they were doing.

    I then worked hard, bloody hard at proving to myself and to everyone else that I was an OK person.

    Now I concentrate on enjoying myself and having fun. It is by far the best way!

    There is a meet-up on Thursday for Hails, are you coming?

  2. Grannymar - Thanks for the advice. So the big mouths are all bluffing away? Oh, I know I'm basically an OK person but I'm afraid others won't think the same.

    Unfortunately can't make Thursday, I'm very busy that day.

  3. I reckon most people are secretly less confident than they seem. Or maybe I just like to think that because it makes me feel more comfortable :-)

  4. Conor - I suspect you're right. So why don't they all admit it instead of pretending they're perfectly at ease?

  5. "Holding court and bluffing away"--that's really true--I know that's what I do when I'm called upon to do so. But my lord, all that projecting of self-confidence (even if completely false) can be exhausting. Not to mention often pointless. I guess the most honest and comfortable place is somewhere between the bluffing and total avoidance, but I think it's very hard to get to that place. I'm working on it myself.

  6. Leah - Thanks for that thoughtful comment. I guess the most comfortable place is just being myself, but we're cajoled in so many ways to be something not-self. Glad to know you're still working on it too!

  7. I used to feel worried about meeting new people, but then I realised that loads of other people do to. Knowing that made a difference to my confidence. It's not always easy to chat unguardedly with strangers though, but I often say too much to people I know well and then, when going over it in my head later, think I, perhaps, should have said a little less! And for me, alcohol makes this a whole lot worse!

    I admire people that think a lot before they speak and wish I could do a bit more of that too.

  8. Suburbia - Oh yes, I know lots of people are nervous about new encounters, but it doesn't stop me being equally nervous. And I think saying too much would be much easier to deal with!

    How kind of you, admiring people who think before they speak!

  9. Oh dear .I'm one of those people that comes across as supremely confident when I'm actually quite insecure. I don't think I chatter incessantly but I can lead a conversation. And you're right about engaging the brain before opening your mouth. I should do it more often!

  10. Baino - Ah, now it's all coming out! Engaging the brain is what I should do a bit less. I need to learn to follow my instincts instead.

  11. I thought long and seriously about this Nick as you have touched on this topic before.
    I wasn't born a chatty cathy, in fact even as a young woman I was told by my father I had nothing to say and if I said anything people would laugh at me. Seriously.
    So I surmounted that. Stage work helped even though my nerves would be dreadful.
    I think the realization that everyone is equally nervous helped me a lot, also I'm not afraid anymore to show my affection for people or to touch them casually which seems to help both them and me. I know when I'm gently touched it makes me more confident. And why is that I wonder?

  12. www - To be told by your father you have nothing to say is appalling, that must have had such a negative effect. That's a good point about showing affection for people, because if they can see the affection I guess they're less likely to take offence at something you've said. I do like touching, and being touched as well. As you say, it inspires confidence.

  13. A few years ago I bought a book on tape called The Art of Smalltalk -- or something like that. Anyway, whatever the title, it REALLY helped me alot because I always felt awkward and like I was saying the wrong thing. That said, there is a total value to being able to be comfortable with silence. Our culture doesn't recognize that though.

  14. Liz D - I'm not too bad at small talk, it's more getting beyond that to the significant things that can be more sensitive. And yes, why can't we all be more comfortable with a bit of silence?

  15. I am a born chatterbox, at ease in most situations, comfortable enough to admit my mistakes and sensitive enough to demonstrate my vulnerability. This doesn't mean that I am always confident in myself.

    If you and I were chimps, I'm sure it would be socially acceptable for you to do kinsethetic chimp like things involving preening and branch swinging while I yabbered away in chimp lingo.

  16. Hulla - I'd love to be a born chatterbox, how did you arrange that? I like to think my mistakes and my vulnerability are pretty plain to see, but maybe not. And socialising would be an awful lot easier if I had the option of preening and branch swinging, lol.

  17. Not sure quite how I arranged the whole chatterbox thingie. I can blag my way through almost anything though or at least make people smile at my endeavours.

    Branch swinging and preening could be the new square dancing and book clubbing. Social gatherings can be so creative.

  18. Hulla - Hey, great idea, I shall start a branch swinging group straightaway. Ormeau Park will never be the same again.

  19. Oh I am so like you, nick. Just read the comments and lots says they have found a way round it but not me. I am very quiet. I dislike being with people because I feel i should talk but I don't have anything to say. Even people I want to meet and be with I don't like meeting and being with. Does that make any sense?

    But I can talk fine to George. or myself.

  20. Liz - That makes total sense. I'm glad someone feels the same way! If you ever find the magic De-Inhibiting pill, chuck a few my way!