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Difficulty Forming Connections With People


Barry Blue

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So I'm taking a college class on public administration and part of it includes reading the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. The book mentions the type of people that have the personality to cause what the book calls "epidemics", How does one who has always been a loner in life learn how to form connections with people? Ever since I was a little kid I've always had difficulty making friends. Dating? HA! Because of these social failures, I'm an adult who has no real connections with family of friends. It's lead to a lot of isolation and depression. I think this has also caused me to have a very poor self image and self conscious about the way I look due to these interactions with people. My question is how you overcame these issues or how do you deal with them? I would love to be the type of person that is able to form connections with people and keep acquaintances but it seems that my brain is not wired to do that.

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I haven't read the book so I'm not sure what you mean by "epidemics" outside of the sickness/medical kind. As for forming connections, I think your first step is to identify what particular aspect of it you have difficulty with. Some people are able to talk to many people but cannot form actual friendships, maybe due to bad conversation skills, lack of tact, abrasive personality or something like that. Others isolate themselves and simply don't meet enough new people on a day-to-day basis to find people they click with. You haven't given us a lot to go on, but it sounds like you may be isolating yourself physically, and then when you do encounter people, you're so self-conscious that you "freeze" when you try to talk to them. I'm just guessing here based on what you wrote. I used to have few friends and very little social skills, so I froze up a lot when talking to people, which made it more difficult to actually connect with them. Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself to connect with others?

A good thing to remember too, is that oftentimes, it's very difficult to connect with people in general. I find that people who I actually form meaningful connections with, it happened over time and over many encounters. It's hard to connect right away at the first meeting, since any talk during a first meeting with someone is generally pretty shallow/small talk.

Also, this is a good site to check out: http://www.succeedsocially.com - Lots of good, practical advice on developing social skills. A majority of the articles are geared towards people with few or no friends (I think the site owner used to be very socially awkward).

Edited by lovenote
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I haven't read the book so I'm not sure what you mean by "epidemics" outside of the sickness/medical kind. As for forming connections, I think your first step is to identify what particular aspect of it you have difficulty with. Some people are able to talk to many people but cannot form actual friendships, maybe due to bad conversation skills, lack of tact, abrasive personality or something like that. Others isolate themselves and simply don't meet enough new people on a day-to-day basis to find people they click with. You haven't given us a lot to go on, but it sounds like you may be isolating yourself physically, and then when you do encounter people, you're so self-conscious that you "freeze" when you try to talk to them. I'm just guessing here based on what you wrote. I used to have few friends and very little social skills, so I froze up a lot when talking to people, which made it more difficult to actually connect with them. Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself to connect with others?

A good thing to remember too, is that oftentimes, it's very difficult to connect with people in general. I find that people who I actually form meaningful connections with, it happened over time and over many encounters. It's hard to connect right away at the first meeting, since any talk during a first meeting with someone is generally pretty shallow/small talk.

Also, this is a good site to check out: http://www.succeedsocially.com - Lots of good, practical advice on developing social skills. A majority of the articles are geared towards people with few or no friends (I think the site owner used to be very socially awkward).

I generally have no problem talking to people, but it usually never ends up becoming a friendship. It is possible that this is because of poor social skills. As a response to this, I have learned over the past fifteen years to isolate myself and to stay away from people because I don't trust my own social ability. When I spoke about epidemic, I wasn't talking about the medical type, but the social. A good example that the book mentions is with Paul Revere learning that the British were coming. This message started with one stable boy overhearing a British soldier and then proceeding to tell the farm head, who then proceeded to tell Paul. He in turn rode through the colony informing people and by morning the British encountered a huge militia. The guy you never hear about, who I don't remember his name, attempted to spread the message but failed. In fact, some of the colony members didn't even know about the British until the following morning.

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I find making friends very hard as well and I am isolated. I'm just now trying to get treatment for it, now I have a formal diagnosis of social anxiety. The treatment I'm likely to have is CBT, though I've tried this before without much success it was through self help so maybe with support...

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A good way to practice is to attend support groups. I occasionally attend a mood disorder group, in which I practice opening up appropriately and maintaining boundaries. From past experience, I advise generally keeping these relationships within the group, though, because if the friendship (or romantic relationship) goes sour, it could ruin the group for one or both people. Maybe branch out to an interest group. My husband and I met on the fan site for a band, back when it was still creepy to meet people online.

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