Younger kids might not be able to articulate why socializing is hard for them. They might also not even understand when or why they are anxious. To gain insight directly from those who struggle socially, I asked some of my teens and young adults. Here are the reasons they gave:
1. Control – they report wanting to maintain control and know they aren’t able to control social situations. Control helps them to know what to expect and they tend to not be particularly skilled at “going with the flow”.
2. Judgment – they are concerned that others will judge them. They think that the might be ridiculed either behind their back or directly to their face. Whether this has been a real pattern for them or only perceived, it worries them. They have had so many experiences where they have felt different that they expect to be judged or viewed negatively.
3. Processing Time – Some people require longer processing time than others. During fast talking conversations, it can be hard to keep up. Just when they come up with the perfect retort, they realize that the moment has passed.
4. Lack of Conversation Skills – They often times don’t know how to keep a conversation going. They run out of things to say and then feel the discomfort of awkward silences which causes anxiety.
To improve in these 4 areas, those who struggle with socializing need coaching and practice in a safe and understanding setting. There are no easy answers and quick fixes and it takes commitment and effort on the part of the individual to practice these skills and reduce their social anxiety. Some benefit from therapy and medical interventions in addition in-the-moment coaching but most will gain the skills needed to make socializing less worrisome.