There are so many silly things which make me feel awkward in work. One which regularly sticks out to me is the tea round, offering to make people tea. Verbal instructions quite often go in one ear and out the other with me, so offering to make 5 people tea is simply too overwhelming. I’d forget everything or get it wrong. I do make it for my colleague, as one cup is just fine, but I always feel full of guilt when I offer them a drink that I am not making it for everyone and when someone asks everyone if they would like a drink I always say no as I know I can’t return the favor. Feelings of guilt then dwell of my mind for a disproportionately long time.
I’ve never socialised with work colleagues in terms or pubs or meals out as I find it too much. In my last job I spent years of avoiding all social activity with my colleagues. I made the mistake of once agreeing to do a 360 degree feedback survey where random colleagues are asked to feedback about you anonymously. Some of the comments hurt even now. I was thought to be aloof, unsocial, someone who sucked up to the exception of others. In reality, if you give me a task, any task, I will give it my all obsessively and will strive to complete as much as I can, as efficiently as possible. That coupled with being quiet, wearing my headphones a lot, finding general chit chat hard made it seem like I was rejecting everyone and in a team people probably felt I was trying to make them look bad by producing too much work. It’s impossible to stop myself when I get going on something though.
I did give the hurtful comments some thought though and decided that there must be a way of finding a middle ground. What really helped was getting involved with health and well being work for our team. I had the support of others to arrange events for staff which fitted my interests. I was able to arrange lunch time walks and similar activities which are my passions, when I walk I find it much easier to talk as the attention isn’t focused on me. I got to know a few colleagues through doing this, and I think in time people started to think of me as less of an aloof outsider, or at least a few people did anyway. I volunteered for walk for health for my lunch break which mean’t I could lead walks open to the public and my colleagues. Although I didn’t have the communication skills necessarily to openly keep inviting people to walk I knew that there would always be the core members of the walking group there every week even if no-one in work was able to come after I’d sent an email out.
When I moved to a new employer (once I’d finally got over the horror of the change) I started to email out about walking at lunch times, as again I felt like a complete outsider. I like communicating in writing and having a set time and structure for something. An example of how I differ took place today -only one person had accepted the email invite to come out. Although the office was full I didn’t know how to approach or ask people to come, it just feels too overwhelming, and I don’t know how to do it. The person who was coming went round asking people one by one if they could come and in the end we ended up with a group of 4. I watched this person doing this, and wished I had those skills. Even though I can observe them, I just can’t seem to put them into practice.
One thing I really dread in work is someone getting upset or bringing in their child/baby to work. I don’t know how to react to either. It’s not that I don’t think their baby or child is cute. If we were to go out for a walk I am sure I could engage a child in nature play, I just don’t know how to respond socially to that situation. If someone is upset I can feel sad for them, but not necessarily know how to comfort them. I know both these things make me come across as aloof and uncaring, but that’s far from the truth. I can be thoughtful in a practical way, for example if a colleague was having a rough time I might try and do something physically nice for them like buy them something they like or I might send them some positive feedback about something they have done by email, it’s just in the ‘moment’ I don’t know how to respond.
I guess perhaps there’s an element of being more open with people and being more open to asking for help. Perhaps there are some things I will never be good at. If I was able to take a couple of people aside and explain how hard I found certain things, perhaps they would give me a foot up now and again. That person unknowingly helping me out today certainly made a huge difference to my mood for the rest of the day.