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Old 11-02-2011, 08:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default How to handle playful teasing?

In my attempt to start to chip away at my SA, I've become much more aware about certain things I do/don't do in social interactions. The topic for today is playful teasing. I have a predictable reaction to playful teasing from all but my very closest family. I'm talking my wife and my kids - I never tease or are teased by my parents. And by teasing, I don't mean anything negative. I'm really just referring to the playful banter that most people engage in day in and day out, and which I find myself at an utter loss to do myself or respond to.

For an example, yesterday my wife introduced me to someone she knows that has the same name as me. As I shook his hand, he said, "That's a great name!" All I could do is issue a low, nervous giggle. Whenever something like this happens, my mind goes blank and I'm an utter loss as to what to say next. As I dissect the situation afterwards, I realize that I could have said something like "You better believe it!" but at the time my mind is completely blank. It makes me feel utterly stupid and slow-witted, although I have an Ivy League PhD. I'm aware that I have this problem but I can't do anything to prevent it from happening. It's like I get punched in the gut...

Another example from yesterday was that a nurse had something in my way as I exited the exam room. She said, "I'm trying to trip you and put you in ortho." Instead of saying, "yeah, that's all I need" (which I thought of only 30 seconds later), all I could muster is the same nervous giggle. Arg!

So, can anyone relate to this? Anyone worked through it and have any kind of solution, like CBT or something else that will stop me from reacting like this? I want to appear to be a normal person able to engage in playful banter. I talked to my wife about this today, and asked her how many times she'd find herself stunned like me throughout the day if she were me, and she said probably a dozen or so times at least. And when she's not receiving it, she's dishing it out continually with her patients and coworkers. People seem to enjoy it, and she couldn't imagine not engaging in this sort of very social behavior. For me it's a total mystery!

Thanks, y'all!
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Old 11-03-2011, 11:11 AM   #2 (permalink)
 
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I have this problem too. Those 2 examples you gave I probably would have reacted the same way. I think it is all a matter of comfort. When I'm comfortable around people I have no problem in engaging in this social banter and will rib friends/family constantly. However as soon as I'm uncomfortable, usually around new people, my mind goes blank.

Sometimes I wish life had a pause button where I could freeze time and allow me to relax and come back with a retort, unfortunately life is not like the Internet where you have time to think of a witty response before replying.
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Old 11-03-2011, 12:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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It's hard sometimes to be witty when nerves get in the way. Two common symptoms of SA are the mind going blank or racing thoughts -- both are due to anxiety and make it difficult to communicate. Don't feel slow witted or stupid. It's not a reflection of your intelligence, it's just a side effect of anxiety.

I find it's something that can be improved with practice. I used to have the same problem; I often found myself unable to joke around with people, and would just giggle awkwardly instead. Now I've gotten better at coming back with one-liners of my own. First, it helps to work on keeping calm during social interactions. It's easier to think of things to say when you are relaxed. This is a skill that takes time to learn, as it goes against the way anxiety makes us feel.

Second, try to force yourself to say whatever pops into your head. It doesn't matter how silly you think it is. Often times people with SA hold back, b/c we tend to be afraid that others will think the things we say are stupid. When I was in group therapy, the group leader told us that people tend to remember the way we make them feel over what we say. So rather than worrying how others will perceive us, we should focus more on coming across as jovial and amiable. It doesn't matter if the response you give is the wittiest comment ever to be spoken. What really matters is that you engaged in friendly banter, and that will make a bigger impact than the actual words you say. Hopefully knowing that will help take some of the pressure off and help you to feel more comfortable when talking with others.
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Old 11-03-2011, 01:35 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by au Lait View Post
It's hard sometimes to be witty when nerves get in the way. Two common symptoms of SA are the mind going blank or racing thoughts -- both are due to anxiety and make it difficult to communicate. Don't feel slow witted or stupid. It's not a reflection of your intelligence, it's just a side effect of anxiety.

I find it's something that can be improved with practice. I used to have the same problem; I often found myself unable to joke around with people, and would just giggle awkwardly instead. Now I've gotten better at coming back with one-liners of my own. First, it helps to work on keeping calm during social interactions. It's easier to think of things to say when you are relaxed. This is a skill that takes time to learn, as it goes against the way anxiety makes us feel.

Second, try to force yourself to say whatever pops into your head. It doesn't matter how silly you think it is. Often times people with SA hold back, b/c we tend to be afraid that others will think the things we say are stupid. When I was in group therapy, the group leader told us that people tend to remember the way we make them feel over what we say. So rather than worrying how others will perceive us, we should focus more on coming across as jovial and amiable. It doesn't matter if the response you give is the wittiest comment ever to be spoken. What really matters is that you engaged in friendly banter, and that will make a bigger impact than the actual words you say. Hopefully knowing that will help take some of the pressure off and help you to feel more comfortable when talking with others.
This is some good advice, especially the second half. I can never remember what half the conversation was about when I talk to people but I do remember thinking that guy/girl was nice, I like him/her. So it makes sense that we remember how the other person makes us feel opposed to what they actually said. I'm gonna have to give this a try and just say what I'm thinking and not worry if its dumb, the only problem will be the times when I'm at a total loss for words.
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Old 11-03-2011, 03:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Thanks for the responses. Out of all the ways that my SA effects me this is probably one that makes me feel the worst.

Oddly, I'm often not aware of any feelings of anxiety when this situation arises. Sometimes, yes, like when meeting someone new, but not around my parents or coworkers, etc., with whom I can usually talk about anything. The problem is when something mildly playful is tossed my way, well, you know. Already described it! This often happens with my wife as well, but not so much because she knows that I can't handle it very well.

I do think that the advice to say the first thing that pops into your head would be a good way to try to counter the tendency to stay completely silent. The problem that I have is that absolutely nothing comes into my head at all, just a feeling of panic at suddenly being taken out of my comfort zone. By the time I'd be able to recover my wits enough to say anything at all, at least 30-40 seconds would have passed. I'm forced to wait for the other person to say something new, or if appropriate (as in teasing while saying goodbye), I simply giggle and walk away.

The thing I wonder about the most is, Is it possible to keep my mind from going blank? I'm starting CBT in about a week, and I have a hard time imagining that I can not react this way, because there is no conscious control over my reaction. I have been smiling more at people recently, and making more eye contact, but that's because I have some degree of conscious control over those things.

Thanks again for the advice!
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Old 11-05-2011, 07:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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I've done a little more reading on this situation. Even though I'm thoroughly aware that I'm reacting this way, it takes me by surprise each and every time. I asked my wife how she responds, and she says that she's already in a light-hearted mood when around other people, so when they say something light-hearted, it's easy to respond. That's totally different from me, because I'm already tense around people. I read that this "freezing" is something that happens instinctually, part of the flight or fight response.

Does anyone else have any experience similar to mine, and if so, how did they beat it? Thanks again.
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Interesting thread. You might want to post in the over 30's section too if you want advice from people your age and older.

Exposure therapy? Practicing with a therapist. Your wife? It's more to do with learning to be witty in the moment. Some people aren't naturally witty nor like that kind of humour. Some are naturally very good at it.

I'm not too bad at this but if I don't know the person well, am afraid my reply may offend. Takes too long to think of an "appropriate" response.

So practice with close friends first.
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by au Lait View Post
Second, try to force yourself to say whatever pops into your head. It doesn't matter how silly you think it is. Often times people with SA hold back, b/c we tend to be afraid that others will think the things we say are stupid. When I was in group therapy, the group leader told us that people tend to remember the way we make them feel over what we say. So rather than worrying how others will perceive us, we should focus more on coming across as jovial and amiable. It doesn't matter if the response you give is the wittiest comment ever to be spoken. What really matters is that you engaged in friendly banter, and that will make a bigger impact than the actual words you say. Hopefully knowing that will help take some of the pressure off and help you to feel more comfortable when talking with others.

This is quality advice in my opinion.
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Old 11-05-2011, 09:34 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Thanks for the advice. I'd love to practice with close friends, but I don't have any close friends, and I have only one casual friend. My wife is the only close friend I have!
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Old 11-05-2011, 09:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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I'll also probably have to do the exposure therapy. I'm so stiff and uptight around ANY other people besides my wife and kids that I definitely need as much practice as I can get.
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Old 11-05-2011, 09:38 PM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Also, I'm thinking that my reaction must be pretty darn rare, considering that few people have posted that they experience this. It'll be one of my top goals in therapy.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:45 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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A lot of people have severe SA on this forum and find it hard to respond to anything someone says. I mean people who hardly leave their house. You sound pretty mild in comparision...just because dont partake in repartee.
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Old 12-17-2011, 09:37 PM   #13 (permalink)
 
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I've thought a lot about this particular issue since I first posted months ago. I've been doing some CBT and I can see how it will be helpful with certain aspects of my anxiety. However, something has come into sharper focus: 1) I react this way to anything playful or non-literal, regardless of my anxiety or comfort level with the person AND 2) I simply cannot respond in a playful way to a literal question. It's not so much that my "mind goes blank" as it is a seeming inability to "think outside the box" with regard to reality. The anxiety and panic comes from not being able to respond, NOT from the social situation. (This happens in private with my wife, who I am pretty comfortable with!) I just commented last night to my wife about a TV program we were watching (Locked Up Abroad). A Mexican cop, in a tense situation, asked a guy if he was bringing anything back from Mexico. The American guy responded, "Nothing but a bad hangover!" And the cop laughed. I pointed out to my wife that never, in a million years, would I make a witty reply to a serious question. My train of thought at all times is to give people literal answers to literal questions. It still really amazes her, because she and just about everyone else that she knows engages in this sort of banter all the time. I think I've realized that it may be a symptom of Asperger's (that I think about things in a very literal fashion) rather than Social Anxiety, and therefore it probably won't resolve no matter how hard I try to fix it. Is there anyone on this board with Asperger's that can relate?
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Old 12-17-2011, 09:48 PM   #14 (permalink)
 
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oh boy am I glad I finally saw this thread. I am responding to your original post, bar.

I have grappled with this thing for what seems like my entire life. I mean the following in the best way possible: I'm very glad to see that you are close to my age.

It also makes me feel better to see that you are highly intelligent. I don't mean to say that that's one of my traits. I'll try to explain, and I warn you, all the following is pretty much all about me:

I have always been concerned about my level of intelligence (is it enough), my sense of humor (or more often what seems like a lack of), and not being able to partake in the banter that seems to be a large part of day to day socializing that most people engage in.

I've always been of the mind that a person needs a nimble intellect in order to be funny....... I don't know what I'm trying to say now. I've had some Guinness.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I have always been bothered by this very same thing.

All I know for sure is that the anxiety gets in the way of your natural thought process. It's a vicious cycle of anxiousness, thoughts, resulting behavior, which leads to self criticism which leads to anxiousness, and the whole thing starts over again. CBT is about breaking that cycle at any point, so once you've practiced it so it's like second nature, you'll have broken that cycle and you'll be able to think clearly when in a conversation.

I guess the most important thing (to me) that I'm trying to say is, I'm so relieved to read your post. I mean, I know I'm no PhD, but I'm also not stupid. Just, thanks for writing about the situation so well.
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Old 12-18-2011, 12:21 AM   #15 (permalink)
 
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Personally, I love it when people playfully tease me. Normally people don't and it kind of hurts. I'm not sure if it's because they think I'm too fragile to take it or because I'm just not worth communicating with. But when a teasing comment comes my way, I feel positively normal. It's glorious!!!

(Although yes, I too wish to be more witty. )
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Old 12-18-2011, 01:30 AM   #16 (permalink)
 
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You're not alone Barch. I'm rubbish at banter and gentle teasing. I can't do sarcasm properly- people don't get it or think I'm being serious. I guess it's because I'm so stiff and awkward. I hope that CBT will help me ease up and become lighter.

Like Secretly, people who are familiar with me don't tend to tease me or involve me in jokes. It makes me feel left out. Yet, when people do include me I panic and anxiety goes right up and the banter dies with me. Maybe if I had a more smiley face....
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Old 12-18-2011, 01:53 AM   #17 (permalink)
 
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Yes, I do relate to this. Usually my only response (especially to people I don't know at all) is to just smile and make a quick laugh-breath noise.
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Old 12-18-2011, 05:43 AM   #18 (permalink)
 
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more:

I have a list of stock phrases for responses. Like for similar names, such as the situation you were in, bar, I'd use "you must be in the directory" or "you're in the directory too?" or maybe, on a slightly different tack, "we Thomases are a fabulous bunch", something like that. only problem with stock responses is, they don't always quite "fit". Sometimes I get a strange look or not much of a response at all, and the conversation kind of dies right then. At least it's something, I guess.
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Old 12-18-2011, 08:50 AM   #19 (permalink)
 
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I'm the same way --- when in doubt, I giggle nervously. The thing is though, if it's a stranger reason you, not having a reply and just laughing is acceptable. They won't find you witty or anything, but it's a pretty normal response. I wouldn't stress too much over it, although I, like you, always look back and wish I could have had something clever to say!
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:20 PM   #20 (permalink)
 
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Thanks very much for the responses.

Leonardess, it's interesting that this has also been a problem for you, and that you've adapted somewhat by coming up with stock replies. That's a good tip that I'll try to do.

Secretly, I totally agree with you. People don't goof around with me and on those rare occasions when they do, it makes me feel included, but I'm still disappointed by my inability to respond. I think this issue really hinders my ability to relate to other men, because I can't participate in the constant ribbing men give each other, especially when their friendly (that, and I don't like sports). As a consequences, the very few friends that I have are female.
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