Tuesday, 3 April 2012

How am I doing?

Being too self-conscious is a recog-nised problem, but what about being too other-conscious? Just as awkward, just as embarr-assing, and equally likely to stop you enjoying life.

Like the way women are hyper-sensitive to other people's comments about their appearance, which results in most women disliking or even hating how they look. Or the way men monitor comments about their lack of masculinity, terrified they might be seen as "gay" or "girlie" or "wimpy".

Then there's socialising. While we're busy chatting away, we're privately wondering how our conversation is going down. Am I creating a good impression or do I look like a complete plonker? Do people like me or do they think I'm a pain in the neck?

I'm quite prone to being too other-conscious myself. Of course we should all be aware of other people and how they see us. But I spend too much time wondering what people are thinking and not wanting them to be too scandalised or bemused or offended. Entirely pointless, since speaking one's mind has to mean stepping on someone's toes now and again.

At least I don't go a step further and imagine what they might be thinking. Unlike the rampantly paranoid, I don't convince myself someone's got it in for me and is secretly hoping for my downfall. I don't dream up all sorts of devious plots and manoeuvrings. That's because I basically see other people as well-disposed towards me.

And at least I'm not so paranoid about other people's hidden thoughts that I avoid socialising altogether and flee from unexpected conversations. I enjoy talking to people, it's just that I always secretly wonder if I'm crossing some unspoken boundary or committing some unknown social gaffe.

This wariness probably owes something to my father, who used to say exactly what he thought regardless of the fall-out. If anyone got angry or upset he simply accused them of over-sensitivity. So I've gone in the other direction and have a tendency to walk on eggshells.

That's a bit girlie, isn't it? A bit wimpy in fact. Goodness knows what people are saying about me....


  1. Oversensitivy to others, like you said, is bred in childhood, usually around an aggressive or unpredictable parent. I can relate. But thankfully in the past, h'm 10 years, I can't be arsed to care about other people's opinions of me, if they have any.

    Too busy with my life and my own dreams. But it took me far too long to get there.


  2. The older I get the less bothered I am about the impression I'm making. Maybe this is a natural kind of development? You have to care bit less as things start to give out, hang out and fall out generally.....

  3. www - I'm still waiting for that indifference to other people's opinions to develop. No sign of it just yet....

    Macy - It's certainly true that I don't give a toss about things giving out, hanging out and falling out. After all, I can't do much about the state of my body.

  4. Engaging in 'feedback loops' is an integral part of communication. It's how we assess where we are at in our relating to others. Like all aspects of personality there are extremes. If its bothering you, then you have a problem. If you have a problem you need to asses what the dynamics and parameters of that problem are and make the necessary adjustments.

    80% of inter-personal communication is conducted with no problems for those involved. 20% of communication has some form of problem with it and that's when you will/should receive/give feedback as to the problem. 80% of problem communication can be fixed by a review and restatement of what was said. The remainder (4%) is 'difficult communication' and, perhaps, is something that should not (or we wish 'had not') been said.

    The latter requires a whole new assessment of the content matter and its effects upon the relationship between the communicants.

  5. John - But surely feedback loops rely on the other person giving you feedback - which in most cases doesn't happen.

    Where does the 80% figure come from? That seems a very generous figure to me. Communication is so often fraught with misunderstandings, confusion, someone taking offence etc.

  6. I sort of assumed we all feel like this sometimes?!!

    Occasionally I worry about what people thought, after the conversation/event. Was I speaking too loud, was I insensitive etc. perhaps I have a built in time delay?!

  7. "....John - But surely feedback loops rely on the other person giving you feedback - which in most cases doesn't happen. ....

    Oh yes it does happen - all the time. Even ignoring you is feedback, walking away is feedback - you just need to read the "communication cycle" - it's commonly described in many social science text books.

    We each have unique backgrounds which influence our behaviours. All communication MUST occur in a Time/Space dimension whereby my perceptions of your background influence my behaviour towards you and your perceptions of my background and behaviour towards you will influence your perceptions of me and effect your behavioural response towards me!

    Simple, really!

  8. I must write a blog piece about the "80/20 rule"!

  9. john D, i'll be waiting for that!

    you are doing ok! you barely open your mouth so you can barely get it wrong!
    i sometimes have all those worries but the older i get the less i do. not sure if thats a good or bad thing :)

  10. Suburbia - I'm sure we do, but I think the majority are less bothered by other people's reactions than I am!

    John - I find most people either don't give any sign of what they're really thinking or they put on a friendly face which is just politeness.

    And whatever the social science textbooks say (and I've read quite a few myself), it's what I actually experience in daily life that I have to deal with.

    I'll be waiting for your blog piece as well!

  11. Kylie - I barely open my mouth, indeed. How very dare you! That's sometimes true but at other times I can chatter away like a lunatic.

    How come everyone else leaves all these worries behind as they get older? Are my ageing mechanisms defective?

  12. you look like your aging mechanisms work ok :)

    i have just run out of energy for silly worries

  13. Kylie - In my experience, worrying consumes time rather than energy.

    If only pointless worries could be effortlessly drained off from the brain.

  14. " ...John - I find most people either don't give any sign of what they're really thinking or they put on a friendly face which is just politeness. ...."

    Sure - some people practice at 'poker face' (but you must see that even that is 'feedback' and challengeable) - like - "Why do you appear to be disinterested in what I have to say?" - Some people are too bored to respond to you, others, its a professional defence mechanism. The police, for example, actively practice at giving nothing away!

    You are interacting well enough here - you may need to incorporate that into 'face-to-face' interactions.

  15. I think it's good to be monitoring in the back of the mind whether we're overstepping boundaries. I'm often amazed at how over sensitive people can be, so even though it feels to me as if I'm doing it a lot, I may not be doing it as much as I think.

    People who don't care what others think can be hard going indeed.

  16. I'd much rather read a book than worry what others thought about me

  17. John D - Are you deliberately being patronising? Or am I being over-sensitive?

    Jenny - This is it, some people are astonishingly touchy over what seem to me like quite mild or commonplace remarks. But you're also right about people who're oblivious to what others think.

    Myra - That's very sensible and single-minded of you!

  18. I go in the opposite direction of never thinking about what others think. If someone doesn't like me, I figure that's their loss, not mine. I'm 100% happy with who I am!

    My husband thinks I could use a little more sensitivity - ha!

  19. Bijoux - I'm also pretty happy with who I am, I just worry that other people don't see me quite so positively! Your attitude to others is a lot healthier.

  20. My father is exactly like what yours was like. Having tried diplomacy, I too started being exactly like him with him and he resented that till I pointed out that I was just being like he was. He now tells me that I am unnecessarily getting agitated. I answer that to the contrary, I am just being honest and straight forward with him. It works.

    He is too old to change, but I am not like that with others. Not because I want to avoid walking on egg shells, but I would rather be assertive than aggressive. Diplomatic rather than hurtful. I certainly do not accept being treated like a door mat.

  21. Ramana - Glad you've found an approach to your father that works. I never managed to do that!

    I'm all in favour of assertive but diplomatic. I don't see the point of upsetting people unnecessarily.

  22. I'm all in favour of a cup of coffee. What do you think?

  23. Grannymar - Good idea! I'll email you.

  24. I don't worry overly much about the impression I'm making, but I tend to be more careful than most about asking personal questions unless it's someone I know very well. I have to ask such intensely personal questions in my work that I worry I'll lose sight of what is appropriate and so I just stay quiet.

  25. Agent - Interesting point about the crossover from your work to your private life. I guess you could easily ask something very intrusive without thinking.

  26. Definitely girly.

    I worry far too much about other people. When I'm telling a story I tell it quickly, get words muddled and end up making no sense - and all because I'm afraid I might bore people.

  27. Liz - I tend to garble my stories as well, not so much because I think they're boring but just because I'm nervous about people's reactions.