Handling group conversations - advice needed!

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barchaetone
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21 Dec 2011, 11:08 pm

Since I decided to try to tackle the social anxiety that attends my AS, I've noticed improvements in certain areas. CBT so far has been helpful and I expect it to get better with time. The issue I wanted to ask all of you today regards conversation.

I have problems with group conversations. If the conversation involves a few extroverted people, who talk very fast and talk over each other, I shut down because I can't "read" the multiple streams of social information that are flowing all around me. However, what I'm thinking about now is just typical group discussions of people that are associates of one kind or another, and not close friends.

I find that I am very guarded about what I say, but that's also something that I'm working on. But the real problem involves handling the dynamics of a group conversation. I tend to wait for a pause before I jump in, believing that it's rude to just interrupt someone. The problem there is that other people use those pauses to jump in as well, and then we end up talking over each other. Almost every time, I will simply stop talking and wait for the other person to stop, and hope that I'll get a chance to butt in and that nobody else jumps in at that point. It doesn't always work.

I recently was in a conversation when this happened, and even at one point, the leader of the group asked me a direct question, and I started responding, then another person cut me off and started answering my question! I was stunned. Of course, I stopped talking and gave my reply after he was done.

Do any of you have advice as to how to handle these situations? One thing I know is that I am very guarded and submissive in these sorts of situations. I also know that I don't react quickly enough to even begin to respond, but it seems to me that NT people oftentimes know just what to do to make themselves not get sidelined, but to me it's just a mystery. Any advice would be appreciated!

Thanks!



SylviaLynn
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21 Dec 2011, 11:21 pm

Ooh. That's a tough one. Is this a business meeting situation, or more of a social gathering? I hate meetings but they're an evil of life sometimes. If you didn't hear someone you can say excuse me and ask them to repeat. If someone interrupts you it's ok to say excuse me with a smile and continue what you were saying. Usually they didn't actually mean to talk over you. If you know the agenda ahead of time it's good to at least think about it before the meeting.


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21 Dec 2011, 11:21 pm

It doesn't sound like you did anything wrong. That other guy sounds like a jerk for cutting you off.



SylviaLynn
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21 Dec 2011, 11:36 pm

People in groups get very excited and often interrupt each other unintentionally. He might not have meant to be a jerk. There is always the possibility that interrupting can be a method of establishing dominance, but still the proper thing to do is say excuse me and talk. He can't continue being rude without looking like an idiot.


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21 Dec 2011, 11:53 pm

I find it impossible not to interrupt. Sometimes I attempt to speak but then cut off which makes people aware you want to speak.
In group conversations I sink back and listen, sometimes I get so bored my mind will wander but in really interesting conversations I'll just listen and try my best to input. I wait for the pause but I'm not always successful.

I don't end to take socialising very seriously or give it any thought at all. My laid back approach gives me less anxiety and it's easier for me to speak up when I want. I'm not deliberately intrusive but sometimes it's the only choice for me. Some conversations I do take personally because I have a lot of strong opinions and I can pick up when people are talking about something they can't point me toward a source of where they got it, i.e "talking out of their..." well you know, right?

If all that fails drink some coffee. My stimulant medication make me yap yap yap away.


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22 Dec 2011, 12:54 am

I am silent during group conversations. There is either no pause to interject anything, or there is nothing to interject during a pause. My mind is blank, or I have stopped paying attention. Group conversations are usually boring to me. Also, I feel overloaded from all the people talking. People are always shocked to find out how much krap I can spew during one-on-one conversations if they only know me as the person who never says anything in a group.



barchaetone
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22 Dec 2011, 9:16 pm

btbnnyr,

We're peas in a pod. My wife says that I don't pick up on her cues that she's not interested in continuing a discussion...by which I mean a lengthy monologue. Oops!

When I recently asked her about how to handle this sort of thing, because I have watched her handle group conversations very well, she said that she listens to what the other person is saying when they are talking over each other and she adjusts what she has to say based on that. Of course, I was floored because I can't do that...I never even suspected that people can talk and listen at the same time. I can't process information that quickly.

Yes, the guy was rude, and if anything that's how other people would see it as well.

This meeting was a small committee at a church.



SylviaLynn
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22 Dec 2011, 11:04 pm

I've been trying something new for the last couple of years. I've been letting people know that I don't take hints very well so if they'd like to change the subject or it's time to leave, please tell me. It won't hurt my feelings. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.


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barchaetone
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24 Dec 2011, 12:52 am

SylviaLynn,

That's a good strategy. I recently asked my spouse to do the same thing because if I haven't gotten the cues after 21 years of marriage, I'm not going to! She still is reluctant to do so, however.



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24 Dec 2011, 5:19 am

hi barchaetone and everyone, happy holidays! :D
well there are just people that are so high in energy and assertion in group conversations, i could be one with other NTs depending on whats going on in the conversation and purpose as to why i will take charge of it. i'm sorry tho if you probably have felt robbed of your voice and message and that could be stressful to stay in the group unheard.. you dont always have to go through that and/or talk to such people, its ok to withdraw yourself if you do not feel comfortable anymore or very well.. but if what you want to say is really important, its is very good that you wait for a pause or space in the conversation to jump in but there are other ways such as calling for their attention and say "excuse me" as you would like to answer the question or add more to the topic before it ends or change, or get the person next to you or whom you are most comfortable with and tell him what you want to say, like building an ally or support for you to be able to voice out your message to the entire group, he could do the excusing or talking or explaining for you too. like within a group single out a smaller audience that could bridge you to your whole or target audience..

i hope that helps somehow.. anyways have a happy holiday! :D


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24 Dec 2011, 1:23 pm

Having one-to-one conversations is easy for me. But group conversations? Forget it! I stand there so quietly, just listening. It's because a) I can't get a word in edgeways, and b) I fear I might look like I'm ''butting in'', because somebody's actually yelled ''I wasn't speaking to you!'' to me before, which knocked me back and has now made me become frightened of joining in group conversations, unless I'm specifically spoken to.

I find it much easier having group conversations with close family. And people with Alzheimer's, because if I do something wrong, they forget.


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barchaetone
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27 Dec 2011, 1:06 am

NcNbl wrote:
hi barchaetone and everyone, happy holidays! :D
well there are just people that are so high in energy and assertion in group conversations, i could be one with other NTs depending on whats going on in the conversation and purpose as to why i will take charge of it. i'm sorry tho if you probably have felt robbed of your voice and message and that could be stressful to stay in the group unheard.. you dont always have to go through that and/or talk to such people, its ok to withdraw yourself if you do not feel comfortable anymore or very well.. but if what you want to say is really important, its is very good that you wait for a pause or space in the conversation to jump in but there are other ways such as calling for their attention and say "excuse me" as you would like to answer the question or add more to the topic before it ends or change, or get the person next to you or whom you are most comfortable with and tell him what you want to say, like building an ally or support for you to be able to voice out your message to the entire group, he could do the excusing or talking or explaining for you too. like within a group single out a smaller audience that could bridge you to your whole or target audience..

i hope that helps somehow.. anyways have a happy holiday! :D


Happy Holidays to you too, and thanks for your reply! Your advice on handling the situation is very similar to my NT wife's. She also said that I shouldn't wait for pauses, but knowing when to jump in I think is a NT skill...I can't imagine getting the timing right. Is that something that NT people struggle with too?

I'm so confused by the overstimulation of group discussions that trying to figure out when to interrupt with an "Excuse me" is difficult. Not impossible, but I've never done it before and don't know how to get any practice. I also can't ever imagine myself skillfully handling speaking over someone else, or turning to someone else while the larger discussion is going on. I'd be afraid of missing something critical while other people were talking, because I have a hard time even following the main conversation when I'm paying attention to it. Even my family members say I'm two steps behind in group conversations that I'm paying attention to. Happened yesterday at Christmas dinner, when my son commented on it. Makes me feel awful, always has.



barchaetone
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28 Dec 2011, 7:26 pm

Sorry for the downer in my last post. I'm normally pretty upbeat but was in a bad mood.