The mystery of internal panic during awkward conversations


Or rather, the lack of mystery because it’s cause is always the same thing. Some form of anxiety, or an esteem issue. You name it. Most of us have experienced it at least once.

In my case, I am pretty introverted and that makes for some awkward conversations. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about introverts. For instance, I don’t shield myself with a dark umbrella and live in a box. Nor do I consider myself to be shy. I just don’t like talking to people that I don’t know very well because it’s exhausting.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those people, it’s just that conversations require energy. Now if someone out there wanted to locate the introvert energy source (that isn’t caffeine because I’d rather not have to pee a million times) and come up with a way to recharge it, I’d be all ears.

Until then, I will have to go through the same phases of internal panic that I do any time I speak to someone that I don’t know. I should stress that for me, I can talk to people who say something to me, but initiating conversations is the hard part. I spend so long thinking about it that I exhaust myself before I can say a word.

For example, say I wanted to try out a new restaurant – first of all I might do research. Look up the menu, memorize the prices and write my script. The idea behind that is limiting the amount of interaction I have with someone else. Except, by the time I’ve spent two hours planning a thirty second conversation, I’m not exactly in the best frame of mind. Eventually, I work up the courage to go the place. I get to the door and…


In a lot of cases, I end up leaving and just going to buy something else. That’s probably better than what happens when I eventually give myself a good talking to (my self-snark is off the chain) and decide to ‘act’.

The problem with that is that I’m the one with the script. I know exactly what I’m going to say. I know how much what I want costs. I know that I don’t want the interaction to last longer than half a minute. The other person doesn’t know any of that. So the second I’m thrown off, I get quiet. The awkwardness starts around the point where I’m asked to repeat myself. That always puts me on edge because I am aware that I have a quiet voice and I try to project it in public, but short of yelling at people, it’s apparently not loud enough.

By that point, I’m already in the ‘please let a giant hole swallow me and transport me to my bed’ zone and ready to end the conversation. So when I’m asked questions, the entire song and dance is repeated.

Person: [Question]

Me: mumble, mumble, mumble

Person: What?

Me: mumble, mumble, mumble

Person: WHAT?

Me: Never mind/*head shake*/*nod*

I am always thankful for the Three Amigos, or my triple ‘Get Out Of Awkwardville’ card. I find that the ‘never mind’ is always audible. Apparently my irritation with myself makes me forget that I’m talking to a stranger and for a second, I am extremely confident in that I don’t want this person to mind ever again.

If only I could also never mind, but nope. Later when there’s nothing but tranquillity and the occasional screeching fox as background noise, I find myself replaying conversations in my mind. I can do that for about an hour. I even critique myself, like, ‘Oh, I should have said that!’ and ‘What the fuck was my problem?’ and more shit until eventually I’m just so tired that I vow not to speak to anyone ever again. Except for myself because who else is going to listen to my random, snarky shit?

Of course, in this world, that’s kind of impossible. Talking is necessary most of the time.

Nevermind, I always tell myself. Next time just pretend that you’re super confident and it’ll be fine. And that does work but introversion is like a phone battery with inverted function. On some days, it’s at 0% and I can interact just fine. On others, it’s on 100% and I can barely operate. Some days it’s on 50% and I switch off halfway through a conversation and end up feeling like the douchiest person alive. I just can’t help it. It’s like when Terminator chips are removed. Just boom. Nothing.

I think I might just become an advocate of conversational whiteboards. It would make everything so much easier.


post prompt via Daily Prompt: Panic | image via here


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