… or faux pas. I’ve heard it both ways >_>
I’ve been thinking about how confidence changes pretty much everything in a social situation. That’s hardly an original thought, but I’m starting to think that people easily fool themselves into thinking that their perception of themselves is the right one, but everything about that self-image is based on confidence, or the lack thereof. I’ve been thinking about a really simple, harmless situation that happens to me quite a lot. It goes like this:
Quentin (talks fast with his head turned away): Ophelia, could you go down to the office and tell Gary that the tramumble mumble photocopier in five minutes?
Ophelia: Sorry, what?
Quentin: Gary, in the office.
Ophelia: Sorry, I didn’t catch-
Quentin: Gary, the guy with dark hair and glasses.
Ophelia: But what was the last bit?
Quentin: Tell him the transport to fix the photocopier will be here in five minutes!
I hate not understanding what people are trying to tell me,- who wouldn’t? I think it’s incredibly embarrassing to have to ask people to repeat themselves several times. It happens to everyone, the only difference is how confident we are. Bear with me on this:
If Ophelia has low confidence in her social ability she will probably perceive the misunderstanding as her fault. She thinks it’s embarrassing that she couldn’t hear what Quentin was saying, and to make it worse she thinks she phrased her following utterances wrong which made Quentin believe that she wanted him to clarify a different part of his question.
If Ophelia has high confidence in her social ability, she will probably perceive the misunderstanding as Quentin’s fault. How embarrassing of him to fail to communicate a simple question, and to make it worse, he interrupted her and misinterpreted her questions for clarifications twice!
Obviously, it’s a made-up situation and it doesn’t really matter who’s “fault” it is. I don’t think anyone thinks twice about it when someone else makes the “error”. What matters is that the interpretation is different depending on the level of confidence. I feel like it’s damn near impossible to break the pattern, because if you have low confidence in general, you’re always going to perceive situations in a way that conforms to the idea that you are less than good. To make matters worse, as soon as you take on the “responsibility” for the faux pas, people pretty much accept that it was your “fault” too and strengthens that belief. And vice versa, although if you have a sound confidence you can probably accept that you mess up every once in a while without thinking too much about it. Speaking from personal experience, I can think about situations like that in a completely rational way, but there’s always a part deep inside of me that feels ashamed and embarrassed no matter what. It’s the same part of me that says “They’re lying”, “Oh, he’s just being nice” or “I’m an imposter” when someone gives me a compliment.
I think the only true way to overcome social anxiety is to stop giving a fuck what people think, or view life as a great social experiment. I’m not sure if it works but at least it makes things more interesting!