I’ve struggled with social anxiety all my life, but it wasn’t until I took a retail job that I figured out what kind of people make me especially anxious. I wrote an article about job hunting with anxiety and depression, but for most of us, the anxiety doesn’t end once you land a job. Working in a high-end boutique smack-dab in the heart of California wine country, I encountered people with all kinds of temperaments and different levels of social skills. After a few months, I came to the realization that one type of person always made me irritable and anxious, and that type?
Self-absorbed older women who constantly interrupt me.
I call these women “bulldozers” because they just overwhelm any and every word I say with little to no regard for my feelings. They were slightly narcissistic and between 40 to 60 years old. Unfortunately, these women liked to talk a lot, and over time I learned to keep my responses either short or noncommittal so I could limit the “bulldozing.” Of course, as I was in customer service, I couldn’t just ignore them, much as I wanted to. Any time I spoke to them, they would respond before I could even finish my sentence. As a result, I would end up flustered with my anxiety swirling in the pit of my stomach.
How could I interact with these people and stay calm when they didn’t give me a chance to even speak?
The worst interactions always centered on questions. I would start to ask a question, but then a bulldozer would ask one of her own before I could finish, and I would get confused because I didn’t hear her question. These bulldozers acted annoyed when they repeated themselves, thinking I was in the wrong, yet they were the ones who interrupted me! I cannot tell you how frustrated and anxious I got, but I hid it all behind my retail voice and smile.
By no means am I saying that all these women were mean. Surprisingly enough, some of these women came off as nice, even when bulldozing me. Were they not aware how rude they were being to me? In hindsight, they probably thought they were having normal communications with me and were totally oblivious to how their constant interrupting actually upset the balance of communication.
I’m not working in retail anymore, thankfully, but I still come across these bulldozers. In a way, retail taught me how to deal with bulldozers out in the wild. I haven’t quite gotten the courage to actually call someone out on her bulldozing, but I suspect one day I’ll conquer my anxiety and put a bulldozer in her place. I have a voice too, even if it’s not as strong.
These bulldozing women are just one of my many triggers. If one of your triggers is a person or type of person, how does it make you anxious? How do you remain calm when communicating with said person?