For me, Friday night happy hour is actually panic-attack social anxiety hour.

How can I avoid my coworkers after work? I am introvert who works in an open office environment surrounded by loud extroverts. It’s draining just to sit next to them. After spending 9-10 hours in close proximity, the last thing I want to do is spend another couple hours with them sitting at some cheesy bar eating nasty food and listening to them gossip about each other. I hate drinking too – at best I can’t concentrate on anything afterwards and I sleep poorly; at worst I end up throwing up and feeling horrible the next day. Going out with my coworkers literally feels like extra work to me; I only do it to keep up appearances.

What’s more, I’m on assignment in another city and they know that I’m by myself here, so I can’t use any excuse of having to meet other friends or going home to my girlfriend. The worst thing for me is probably a late Friday afternoon when I’m just about ready to go home and enjoy a quiet evening to myself, when somebody suddenly drops by and announces that we should all go out for drinks. My heart sinks at this point. It’s the equivalent of the boss coming over and dumping a stack of work on me right before I leave. I don’t know how to excuse myself. These are the type of people who are militantly insistent on people attending social events and drinking (and if you don’t go, you’re “boring” or “no fun”). I have social anxiety and have a hard time simply putting my foot down and enduring the teasing and taunting that comes if I just say no.

The guys who want to go out are all extroverted, WASPy, and stereotypically masculine. I am none of these things, yet somehow they always invite me. There’s some people they never seem to invite along; these are either foreign or married. Unfortunately I don’t fall into this category either.

I understand that they feel they’re being inclusive and friendly by expecting me to come out with them, but I would honestly prefer to keep my free time to myself. How can I gracefully excuse myself from going out with them while keeping up a civil working relationship?

Please tell me where you work, and put in a good word for me with HR, because there’s nothing more fun for me than a large crowd of extroverted, stereotypically masculine WASPs who like to go out boozing and gossiping. Throw in some sour gummi worms, and this is what I imagine heaven is like.

If you don’t want to go out, then don’t go. Since you’re apparently incapable of lying (what is wrong with you, dude?), give yourself a legitimate reason to skip on Friday nights…this might mean training for a marathon, taking guitar lessons, converting to Judaism, or committing to a several-hour drive each weekend to visit your Great-Aunt Edith. After a while, your co-workers will assume that you’re still otherwise occupied on Friday nights and will stop asking.

The only thing I worry about for your sake is your career. Like it or not, sometimes it isn’t enough to simply be good at your job and get your work done. If you’re working on some long-term career goals, and you want to have managerial or executive positions in your  future, you’re going to have to figure out a way to improve your people skills. It doesn’t sound like you’re in an industry that’s full of people who are happy to hunker down in front of a monitor with their headphones all day; this leads me to believe that you’re going to have to find a way to not have a panic attack every time someone asks you if you want to get a coffee with him. Being shy is one thing; crippling social anxiety is another. You might want to get some short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you learn techniques for dealing with these situations, or if it’s really bad, you can get some medication.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “For me, Friday night happy hour is actually panic-attack social anxiety hour.

  1. Anonymous

    I feel you on this one. I’d just say to put your foot down. There’s a word for people that are “militant” about making people go to social events that they’ve clearly stated no interest in: douchey. You don’t need an excuse. Just say no.

    Also, if being around these people is hell all the time, try looking for another job that caters more to introverts. They exist, ya know.

  2. Christine Merry

    Since I have a son who is an introvert I just read an entire book on the topic, “The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child” by Marti Olsen Laney,(A Dr. of Psych)–You are clearly not a child, but the book is fascinating in that it talks about how introverts use their brains vs. extroverts. Introverts draw energy from within, extroverts from without–and anyone can be shy, which is totally unrelated to introversion or extroversion. Anyway, her other books are great too. What I mainly learned is that you are what you are and there is nothing wrong being an introvert or an extrovert, but you need to be true to yourself b/c you won’t change. So, you may need to be straight up with people and just say bar scenes aren’t your thing (but bike rides or playing music or whatever is). Or, you may want to consider a different type of job. That’s my 2 cents!

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