Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Talking Back to Anxiety

Anxiety can come upon us at both expected and unexpected times. In my consultation with others who are particularly susceptible to visits from anxiety, I have found it useful to formulate a "script" to cut short anxiety's "lecture".

Someone much more adept in social graces than I once shared some great advice for what to say at a party, networking event, or other mingling opportunity when you find yourself talked into a corner by someone who can't read your more subtle cues that it's time to change conversation partners. She suggests you look across the room, tell the other person there's someone here with whom you've been looking forward to connecting, and then politely excusing yourself. That's it! Problem solved: conversation ended.

Her advice is effective because you use the exact same script no matter who you're talking to. Having a script before you go avoids the problem of having to think on your feet.

Anxiety is a lot like a dominating conversation partner. It does not read your more subtle cues that you do not want to engage in this conversation further. It doesn't understand that you aren't always interested in what it has to say. It thinks it's always right and isn't good at hearing from others why it's wrong.

I've had the pleasure of working with some very creative anti-anxiety script writers. Each tailored his/her script to counter particularly salient points in anxiety's message. Some particularly tactful scripts I've heard, include: "I am not in charge of how others see me"; "I am okay with the way my life is right now"; "I am taking a break from listening to you"; and "Thanks for your input, anxiety, but I am the expert on what's best for me." Perhaps one of these scripts might help to extricate yourself the next time anxiety starts to talk you into a corner.

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