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I'm a student and I've been taking a course which involves tutorials where we have to discuss a certain topic with others, as well as interviewing "clients" about certain things.

To my surprise, in such settings my "social anxiety" hardly troubled me at all - I found myself confidently speaking about the topic at hand. Also my interviews ran smoothly because I "knew" what to say, I "knew" how to respond to what they have said, and I "knew" how the interview would begin and end. Basically, there was a high degree of "structure" in all this, and there was a set "agenda / purpose" to these exchanges. Hence, I felt completely at ease.

But the funny thing is, as soon as the group discussions strayed "off-topic" - for example people talking about what they did in the weekend, or about what they ate in the last break - something in me just "switched off"; for some reason I could no longer be a part of that discussion, when just moments previously I had been discussing away about some abstract topic.

I think what truly scares me about social "banter" is that... the field is, in a sense, too open - there is no set "agenda" we have agreed to talk about, it's all "loose" with a complete lack of structure... and hence I just have no idea what to do.

If you observe people having "social" conversations - where the point of the conversation is not about discussing a certain topic, but about having a conversation for conversation's sake ("smalltalk"), you'll know what I mean. There are just so many random, rapid turns in conversation direction, random interjections, random jokes... and so on.

And all that... "lack of structure" just... in a way intimidates me. Of course I have tried becoming a part of such "social" banter by saying something. But what happens? Suddenly, the chatter, the laughter dies down. Suddenly it all becomes "serious". Suddenly it becomes stilted, no longer the "fluid" chatter these people have been having.

Whatever I say just always seem to end up being too structured, too organised, too "serious" - breaking that natural, "structureless", seamless flow of social chatter.
 

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I'm a student and I've been taking a course which involves tutorials where we have to discuss a certain topic with others, as well as interviewing "clients" about certain things.

To my surprise, in such settings my "social anxiety" hardly troubled me at all - I found myself confidently speaking about the topic at hand. Also my interviews ran smoothly because I "knew" what to say, I "knew" how to respond to what they have said, and I "knew" how the interview would begin and end. Basically, there was a high degree of "structure" in all this, and there was a set "agenda / purpose" to these exchanges. Hence, I felt completely at ease.

But the funny thing is, as soon as the group discussions strayed "off-topic" - for example people talking about what they did in the weekend, or about what they ate in the last break - something in me just "switched off"; for some reason I could no longer be a part of that discussion, when just moments previously I had been discussing away about some abstract topic.

I think what truly scares me about social "banter" is that... the field is, in a sense, too open - there is no set "agenda" we have agreed to talk about, it's all "loose" with a complete lack of structure... and hence I just have no idea what to do.

If you observe people having "social" conversations - where the point of the conversation is not about discussing a certain topic, but about having a conversation for conversation's sake ("smalltalk"), you'll know what I mean. There are just so many random, rapid turns in conversation direction, random interjections, random jokes... and so on.

And all that... "lack of structure" just... in a way intimidates me. Of course I have tried becoming a part of such "social" banter by saying something. But what happens? Suddenly, the chatter, the laughter dies down. Suddenly it all becomes "serious". Suddenly it becomes stilted, no longer the "fluid" chatter these people have been having.

Whatever I say just always seem to end up being too structured, too organised, too "serious" - breaking that natural, "structureless", seamless flow of social chatter.
You may have articulated my exact problem with most social situations. I simply can't handle "small talk", the quick pace, the inside jokes, etc. It's the main reason I can never break into a circle of friends. If a conversation consists of a debate or argument, I can sometimes contribute to it without any resulting anxiety. But sadly, most conversations have little real depth. Maybe if I smiled or laughed more others would be more inclined to converse with me, but it is just too hard to force it most of the time. Too bad life isn't a formal dialogue with explicit rules, boundaries and conventions. I wish it were.
 

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This is a tough one. I think most of us can agree this is something we struggle with. We need to learn how to "connect" with people.

A little trick that's been working for me is to keep the conversation about the other person. Take a sincere interest in who they are and ask open-ended questions. Who, what, when, where, why, and how are your six best friends in these situations. People love to talk about themselves, and they'll love you if you let them. Don't fake it though. Take a true interest in who that person is and you'll be surprised how naturally it can flow. You'll notice that they're doing all the talking and you just have to be the "listener".

Don't be afraid to smile and/or laugh. Smiling let's the other person know that you're comfortable around them. Laughing can take the edge off that "seriousness" tone we give off (I suffer with this too.) Even if what they say isn't funny in the least, laugh. It will make them feel good.

I'm becoming more and more convinced every day that if you want to connect with someone, you need to focus on them and not you.

Just yesterday I was talking to an acquaintance who always gives me anxiety because he's so outgoing. Every time I talk to him I find myself freezing up, stumbling into awkward silences, and not knowing what to say. I remembered to ask him questions about himself and I actually had a smooth conversation with him for the first time. He said something about how he wanted to punch his boss in the face and I went blank like I usually do. Then I asked "what did your boss have to say about that?" and he went on for another 5 minutes, which led to more dialogue.

Good luck.
 

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same here. i do pretty well in group discussions, i'd be talking non-stop and full of ideas and all that. but as soon as the teacher say, "okay, take a break!" i'd have no idea what to do.

I think in situations like group discussions we know what we're talking about. we're sure of the message we want to pass. but in those free flowing conversations, it's like someone can say something really out of the blue and we'd have no idea how to respond.

i really really do especially well with free flowing conversations at home and wit good friends though, so i guess it's a matter of self confidence.
 

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I know exactly what you mean. If I force myself to "small talk" In my head I use something like a " movie script" , But the other people are so natural and unpredictable, my script is always messy. That's why I'm struggling with "small talk". I think its because I'm to anxious to speak from the heart so I'll speak from my brain, and have to think about every word I have to say.
 

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Ok wow... I'm pretty much the exact opposite of you guys, even though I used to be similar a few years ago when my SA was really bad. Now I lose track when the talk gets serious and/or intelligent, because I don't know what to say, I don't have any deep opinions or anything. I like small talk, and can mostly get along well with others on a superficial level (generally this is much easier with girls than guys).
 

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To be fair I think the reason in-depth converstaions make you feel like that is because you end up concentrating more on the topic rather than yourself. With "small talk" its basically meaningless and doesnt really give you something "grand enough" to focus on. When you go and say "Hi" to someone there's nothing more in it than the word and the fact your greeting someone. When you actually get into a deep conversation/debate/argument its alot more than that and it helps bring out the "real" you as your adding your own oppinion of something into a discussion and no longer trying to conversate just to be "sociable" which in a sense is "artificial" and not really a good thing.
 
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