In Part I and Part II, I began discussing social anxiety coping skills for improving communication. By improving your communication, you can cut out this source of anxiety (poor communication) and improve your relationships.
One thing that often comes up with many people who have problems with communication is learning to say no. Simply saying no.
I remember discussing this issue with a psychologist. This psychologist was telling me about a group that he ran for teaching assertiveness.
One evening all the attendees were sitting around and he had them try an exercise where the person next to them would ask them a question and they were to say no.
Many of the mock questions were things that folks would obviously say no to.
Surprisingly many people still had difficulty simply saying no – even though it was a mock exercise. Many tended to feel that they had to elaborate to explain why their answer was no. In other words saying something like “No I can’t because …”
This is really interesting because the situation was a controlled group exercise, not a real life situation, and it illustrated the point that some folks would really have trouble saying no in a real life situation – without elaborating – even if it was to a ridiculous enquiry.
One really good point to take from this example is that many times folks in conversations will reveal additional information because they aren’t comfortable simply saying no and this additional information then gives the person they were talking to more things to question. Ironically had they said no, that would have been the end of the matter, but now they’ve gone “down the rabbit hole” so to speak.
Now I’m not suggesting that you should go through life simply saying no all the time. There are certainly times when elaboration is helpful. However there are many times when people elaborate more because of a “knee jerk reaction” than out of any good reason.
A good recommendation is to do some retrospective thinking about a certain communication incident you’ve had in the past that was not so smooth or comfortable and see whether there were any instances in which you may have elaborated where it was not necessary and perhaps complicated things. I think you’ll probably find some.
The point is not to feel bad about it but to learn for next time. This is a useful strategy that allows one to not complicate situations further and have better flowing and shorter communications (which often is the goal).
It is really interesting how many folks with anxiety, panic attacks, and agoraphobia have trouble with assertiveness and communication but I’ve often found that continuing to learn communication strategies has been very helpful for so many of them.
I also believe the above suggestion can be helpful for anyone that has trouble being assertive or feels more awkward in situations than they have to.