anxiety · life · ramblings · social anxiety · socially awkward

Stealth in Spontaneity

The title of this post is a joke on myself. I’m the last person in the world who is suave and composed when it comes to being spontaneous. I always got the drop in my stomach during my school years whenever the teacher would calmly announce, “Now, I want you guys to pair off” or “Everyone should work together in small groups, choose your partners yourselves.” My internal voice would be screaming the word WHYYYY. My default at the time was to sit rigidly in my seat and make myself look as small as possible, unable to make a move towards any of my classmates or even try to ask someone if they would partner up with me. I didn’t bail out every time there was group work. Sometimes I did out of convenience because I didn’t know how to push myself to react ASAP to the sudden change in the situation which was causing me so much distress.

As an adult, the distress has stayed with me but manifested in different ways that prove I am still somewhere on the spectrum of anxious, socially anxious, and socially awkward all rolled up into one. I cannot pinpoint which of the three it really is because for a lot of situations I feel a mixture of all three.

Still, when strangers talk to me, I find that I typically go for the shortest answer possible that I can give. I definitely don’t do it to be rude or standoffish but I have a feeling I may have come across that way. There was a good number of years during adolescence where I hardly spoke and it became difficult for me to respond verbally when spoken to without getting overly anxious. It took me another good number of years to move on from that in my own way, which included an amateur method of preparing answers in advance to simple questions so I could have default answers to save myself. Questions like, “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” or “Do you need help?” Me: “I’m fine.” “I’m good.” “No, I’m okay.” “No, I’m doing all right so far.”

The bad part is that a lot of times when I utilized these answers, especially during those struggling years where I had to force myself to speak verbally, it was like dragging nails on a chalkboard. I hated the sound of my own voice. Thus, I would speak very fast, sometimes accidentally slurring my words together with barely any pauses in between. This would cause the other person not to hear me clearly so I would have to repeat myself.

I feel semi-natural when I respond with an answer that isn’t too long. I live in the city, so a question like, “How are you?” from a stranger doesn’t seem like an open-ended one that requires a meaningful answer from me, anyway. So I am fine with that, but there are moments I overthink. Once, I was next in line and observed a customer in front of me having lively banter with the barista that went beyond the usual pleasantries. Suddenly I was self-conscious of what little I had to offer in conversation. I am not a person who can chat with a stranger or crack a joke to break the ice. I would be too scared to try even though I long for that kind of connection no matter how brief it would be.

All the time in stores, I answer the employee’s inquiry of, “Do you need help?” with the practiced, “Oh no, I’m just looking.” I habitually find myself spitting that sentence out like an autoreply message even during times I actually do need help locating an item in a store. I never rectify the error either. Technically I could say, “Actually, nevermind, I do. Can you help me find ____?” but by the time my brain catches up with my mouth, I think, Too late, dummy.

My problem is I would indeed like to be more spontaneous with my answers but I rely heavily on my prepared responses or I go for the first one I can think of in my panic-induced state of, Hurry up and say something back. I’m always afraid of leaving people hanging. Then when I do leave people hanging, it takes me several more seconds to process what I just said and realize I could have said xyz instead. Commence the internal headdesk (if you don’t know what I mean, Google will tell you).

Yesterday I was browsing a row of women’s blazers that were hung up high on a wall rack. I was engrossed in trying to find one in my size that at first I didn’t hear someone asking in a loud tone, “Excuse me, what are you looking for? Hello? What are you looking for?” Her voice and manner of speech were a bit intimidating so when I finally poked my head out to face her, I timidly told her I was searching for a blazer in a size small. She used a long hook to reach up to flip through the rack until she pulled down one for me. I thanked her and began walking off. She pointed me to the fitting room and asked me to bring back the outfit if I didn’t want it. Her voice was at a normal speaking volume by this point but I still felt iffy about her because of the sharp tone of how she had initially spoken to me. I chalked it up to her accent, which to my ears sounded very European, perhaps Russian. When I finished trying on the blazer, I left it on a rack there in the room instead of putting it back in the section where I originally got it from. Then I deliberately walked the other way to get to the upstairs portion of the store as an added measure to ensure I wouldn’t run into the woman again.

As luck would have it, I did see her upstairs. A brand of water bottles for both hot and cold water caught my attention, which is totally beside the point of this story, but I was so busy looking at it that again she caught me off-guard. I heard the question, “Miss, did you take the outfit?” Two seconds later I realized I was being spoken to and peered around to see her standing there. She had a slight inviting smile on her face. That was disarming to me because she certainly did not give off a sunny disposition earlier. Did I misjudge her? Fiddling with the water bottle lid, I said, “Oh, um, no.” She asked where I put it and I told her it was on the dressing rack. The answer satisfied her and she turned to go around the corner.

I was thinking of two things in that instance as the conversation ended. First was that I thought my way of answering her was a kinda cold. Like how I tend to shoot first and take seconds longer to think about what I just said, the thought crossed my mind that I could have told her I tried on the outfit but that it was too big for me. Except I didn’t think of that until that very moment after she stopped talking to me. Ugh! The second thought I had was, I didn’t even put the outfit back where she asked me to place it back if I didn’t want it, which was accompanied by a tinge of guilt. I had been anticipating her anger over me ignoring her instructions, but I only realized long after she walked away that the fact I said “dressing rack” did not exclusively mean the rack in the dressing room, so she probably assumed I meant the rack she originally pulled the outfit from.

Featured Image by Steve Johnson.

21 thoughts on “Stealth in Spontaneity

  1. Sometimes I put myself in other ppl’s shoes so I feel more compassion for the situation – like the retail scene so I can feel better about how I react. Hahahahha.

    In Thailand and Cambodia they follow you around the store. It’s SO ANNOYING. It’s cultural. I get it. But sometimes I’m ready to snap, like “Hey, can you step back a bit?” But honestly, I just leave the store if they are too “shadowy”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes too. The crazy part of my brain, unfortunately, likes to still push me into staying in the loop of irrational thought patterns even when I can use logic to shatter those prenotions.

      Oh boy, I hate it when people follow me around the store. It makes for a TERRIBLE shopping experience. I know employees are just doing their job but it seriously feels like they’re afraid customers will steal while they aren’t looking. It’s just an overall uncomfortable situation to have someone watching you constantly as you shop, so I can understand why you would leave if they keep sticking too close to you. I do the same lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup. Apparently in Korea it’s even worse. You can’t even pick up merchandise. But maybe that’s just in select areas 😛


  2. Not sure what’s worse. Your lack of spontaneity in answering or my total bluntness 😂 When caught off guard I spontaneously say exactly what I think, even though I would either not say it or choose a different way of saying it if I had thought for just 5 seconds 🙄
    But I am also European after all 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL yep I was so not spontaneous. It’s one of my longstanding traits that I dislike about myself. I can see how being spontaenous could also be problematic even though I wish I were like that. Both types have a strength and weakness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it. We’re all different and I’m pretty sure it would be rather boring if we were all AMAZING 😉

        If you wish you were more like me, I give you example of my behaviour. I’m at the salsa party (I love dancing and I’m always one of the last ones to leave). The music is not very inspiring to say the least, possibly not that many familiar faces, so my friend and I decide to leave the party way before the end.
        While we’re changing our shoes, the dj, who is a good friend comes to give us hugs and moans that we’re leaving without dancing with him.
        Before my super polite English friend manages to open her mouth to say something nice like: ‘Next time for sure. We’re so tired after work today’ he hears ‘Maybe you’ll play better next time’
        …from a spontaneous me of course!
        Seeing his reaction to my words made me already regret what I said, but it’s too late. His feelings are hurt and I feel bad, because I actually really like him and any other night I totally enjoy his selection of music. This happened a few years ago and I still haven’t found it in myself to explain and apologise for what I said.
        So… I think keeping your mouth shut sometimes can bring more good than being blunt like me.
        As you said – both have their good and bad sides.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Those little signs of attitude definitely make me shrink back into my shell, too. I would also be uncomfortable around someone like that, whether she intended to be rude or not. I could understand that she has an accent, so perhaps she spoke louder than she intended, but I’d be put off guard, too. Ah, guilt. I’ve been having a tough relationship with that lately. It’s been foremost on my mind as of late. I knew that feeling for so long, but never really addressed it until recently…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did get a perception of her based on how her behavior was reflected in my mind. People are so tricky in that respect… I can never tell if my opinion of someone is “right” because it’s colored by my own bias.

      Guilt can weigh heavily on a person… I carry around a lot of things that are years old and I still feel bad about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, that’s the thing about perspective :\ because it’s mostly a reflection of ourselves, too. Like I am more sensitive to those little nuances but other people might brush it off or be more understanding like, “Oh, she’s probably having a bad day! La-di-da,” but I’d be like, “Hm… maybe she doesn’t like me…”
        Maybe there’s a guided meditation for letting go of guilt! I never thought of looking one up until now 😮 Guided meditations help to visualize these things, so I like them a lot for these kinds of things.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The unconscious thought I always have is that the person doesn’t like me. XD Ugh, why do you do that to me, brain. :/ I’ve done guided meditations on the Calm app before but they are a little basic. They have premium ones but I’m lazy as I don’t want to pay money lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah that’s what I don’t like about the meditation apps. They claim they want to help you but then they demand some pretty exorbitant fees. I like The Honest Guys on YouTube. Unfortunately you need to play the video, but they have some good ones 🙂


  4. If she was Russian, it could easily be a culture thing.
    They are not known as the shy type of woman 😉

    But I wouldn’t have felt comfortable either! I hardly ever feel comfortable in clothing stores because I feel like they are watching me whether I keep things nice and tidy.
    That’s their job!
    They should be the one putting things back to the rack!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard that Russian people can be a bit blunt in how they speak which can come across as harsher than intended, though I wasn’t sure if it was a stereotype or had some truth to it.

      I feel the same in clothing stores. I am not as comfortable browsing a section if a sales associate is nearby fixing stuff. Now that I think about it, that was the first time a person in retail has asked me to put something back in the original place where I got it from if I don’t want it. And yet in the dressing room, the associate there told me to leave whatever I didn’t want on the dressing room rack.


  5. So relate to this post. Like you I do not deal well with spontaneity and I rather a group event or even a pair-work kind of thing be over as soon as possible. It’s not just about the heart skipping a beat at the realisation that you have to work with others, but also it brings on anxiety throughout the whole thing.

    Not too sure about the saleslady who seemed to keep pestering you in the shop. Maybe it was just her way of talking and part of her personality that she seemed to want to keep an eye on you. I don’t think you sounded cold when responding to her…more like short and to the point and sometimes people don’t appreciate that lol. You didn’t want the outfit, you didn’t and put it back somewhere in the shop and you’re not a thief. No explanation needed XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Group events still give me incredibly terrible jitters. Working in a pair can sometimes be kinda okay but it depends on the person I am working with. I agree about the feeling of wanting it to be over with asap. Who knew sitting still would be like running a marathon lol.

      I was short and to the point but I hate that I sucked at the spontaneity of it. I just said the first thing I could think of. Her way of speaking when she initially interacted with me was off-putting so maybe I was feeling awkward about both seeing her and talking to her again when I didn’t really want to.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nah, not cold at all. As a former retail worker, we’re always making contact with every customer throughout the store.

        Unless you are spitting on us and telling us off, simply answering concisely is more than enough for us.

        Andrea mentioned above, it’s also part of their job to take care of things. If they’re on their toes, they think of ways to make things better for their customers and potential customers.

        My girlfriend was looking for a small blazer earlier in the week, so we went through the same process!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. After working in retail, I don’t take it personally when the workers are abrupt. The sheer number of stupid people you encounter just means that you stop giving a f&£k about people you won’t even remember in fifteen minutes. Not to say her behaviour was appropriate, but as someone who also tends to overanalyze social interactions, I know that it has nothing to do with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, I probably was more intimidated by her than I needed to be. From her perspective, I would imagine I wasn’t the first customer to be poking around the clothing rack even though I could barely reach it, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, yeah… It’s funny because as a customer, it’s not your fault that stores put stuff out of reach, but as the worker some days you just feel like there are always those customers who decide to be extra. In reality, no one is to blame, but it’s hard to see things from different perspectives sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.