How do I avoid extremely negative feedback?

Finding this site has been a blessing! I’ve read what you said about discovering what your shyness is protecting you from, and I also read it in other parts of this site. I’d be interested in learning how one goes about doing that. What are the steps to discovering that?

Here is my particular scenario–and I wish so much that I could find others who relate to this because when I try to express it to friends and family, they think I’m being paranoid—which indeed I probably am in part. I suppose my demeanor visibly changes when anxiety strikes in social situations because I seem to get extremely negative feedback. Maybe I come across as arrogant and itching for a fight—I don’t know….but I seem to lose all sense of boundary when I get anxious. What I seem to invite under such circumstances is passive aggression. People start saying inappropriate and over- familiar things. It happens with strangers and it happens with acquaintances. It doesn’t happen with close, trusted friend — which is precisely why they are trusted friends. I’ve read on this site that as a highly sensitive person it is easy for me to feel unsafe—and that I indeed should remove myself quickly from “unsafe situations.” Well, this means I’m going to get a lot of exercise! I’m always going to be on the move! I’ve tried to deal with this in many ways—at times have ended up believing that the human race is filled with sadistic losers. Lately my recourse (quite successful) has been to draw a friendly barrier around myself so that I am distinctly separate from whomever I am interacting with. The minute I draw that distance I am no longer within their reach to attack me. It’s hard to remember to do this all the time though. Anyway, I believe that part of this is reality—there are indeed some sick, hurt people reacting to me for whatever reason. After many years of dealing with this, my instincts and nerves are so honed that I imagine hostility where it might not be. In other words, my paranoia and reality are one big messy mishmash. My overall attitude though…is that I am tired of having to walk away from unacceptable situations. I’d rather not expend the energy of going there in the first place. When I instinctively calculate that I stand a high chance of facing nastiness, I don’t even bother and get reclusive. By the way….I have sides of me that are definitely not shy. I find myself less shy when I have that protective, friendly barrier around me. Any thoughts and feedback would be appreciated.


  1. How to find what your shyness is protecting you from:
    1) Ask yourself and write the answer without “thinking” — just write whatever comes to mind.
    2) Ask the Universe or God and write the answer that comes to you. This technique is from Marianne Williamson and it really works!
    3) Hypnotherapy can guide you into communication with this sub-conscious shy part.
    4) Gestalt therapy will allow you to role-play the many parts of yourself.
    5) Invent your own way.

    Use one of the techniques above to find out what your shyness is protecting you from.

    Once you know what your shyness is protecting you from, you are is a position to provide the same level of protection in a different way. Check with a creative part of yourself and ask “Please give me three ways I can use to protect myself from x?” Use one of these ways in place of being shy.

    Check out your perceptions against reality.

    When someone is being rude to you, call them on it. Ask, “What did you mean by that?”, “Are you being rude on purpose?”, “Do you realize how what you said makes me feel?”

    Unless the person totally insensitive, they will respect your stating what was going on for you(they may be surprised). If they are totally insensitive, they are not worth spending more time with.

    If it turns out that your feelings were mostly caused from within, then you will have learned something about your perceptions of reality. Usually, the person you confronted will be OK if you take the time to explain, if not — the lesson learned will be worth the discomfort.

  2. I can really relate to so much of what you say and what others say on this bulletin board.

    I seem to feel unsafe in so many interactions with others, and it shows. What happens to me is that certain insensitive people see me as an easy target to laugh at and make fun of. Sometimes I get the subtle wisecracks they think I don’t pick up on, or they show the “I’m trying not to laugh at you until you leave, but I just can’t contain myself” look on their face. I find there are so many gossipers and wonder, “Geez, if they are saying that about so and so, what are they saying about ME?” My next action is to become reclusive. You talked about how you draw a friendly barrier around yourself so that you’re distinctly separate from whomever you interact with. Any way you can elaborate on this? Maybe your approach will be helpful to me.

  3. Isn’t this site fantastic? I feel like I can finally talk freely about something that made me feel so insane for so long.

    First of all, I generally invite hostility and teasing, I’ve noticed, when I come across as unfriendly and unapproachable. People have told me that I act like I don’t like them. It’s hard to remember that when you feel bullied or ganged up on—but that is generally the dynamic of the problem.

    Building the friendly fence is so hard to describe–because I don’t feel that I do it perfectly each time. I come to it by instinct each time. And sometimes the instinct is not in good working order. It’s pretty much striking this balance of being able to look around me (instead of closing everything out) and yet not interacting with my surroundings in that high-pitched nervous Nellie way that I have. Does that make sense? I have to literally feel a distance between myself and the world–I have to feel completely separate without feeling isolated. In fact, the separateness becomes so well-paced that I often end up feeling more intimate with my surroundings–simply because I’ve created boundaries. This is a combo of the mind, body, spirit thing–and I just came upon it out of sheer desperation. I simply can’t take feeling vulnerable around unknown people anymore. I live in a city–and the incidence of frustrated, grey faced strangers who have no hesitation about acting cruel to someone unknown and seeming fragile is greater here. It’s my experience that folks living in condensed populations are a little “coo-coo” at time—they are under a lot of stress :0) If this hasn’t answered your question to your satisfaction, feel free to probe me. Sometimes certain questions help me think more concisely. Hope this helps!

  4. Sorry I didn’t get back right away. Thanks for your response.

    I do have another question regarding your successful recourse. In those situations, are you observing and in tune with your surroundings, yet keeping to yourself (i.e. not initiating conversation, or keeping conversation to a minimum)?

    The only way I think I would have the feeling of separation *without* the feeling of isolation is to not have the *desire* to interact at that moment, to feel at peace with being quiet. I’m not quite at that point. Maybe I need to work on spirit.

  5. First I must confess that for the last day and a half I’ve lost the momentum of my friendly fence. That’s okay though–even just talking about it here helps me to remember that I have done it right before and will do it right again!

    In answer to your question–yes, I do think part of the friendly fence is about staying in the quiet and not trying to engage in too much conversation. I noted that Kevin, in response to another post, remarked that he has come to terms with his quietness. Perhaps what I am experiencing is partly due to acceptance of my need. Interestingly, when I allow quietness and separateness to surround me, I am that much more able to engage with conversation with strangers. It’s kind of like we are meeting halfway–on both my terms and their terms. Does this make sense?

    I do know that when I try disregard the friendly fence and try to relate as an “extrovert” (my odd interpretation of an extrovert, anyway), things disintegrate fast. I become irritable, paranoid, and very hard to read.

    It is so cool that we can discuss this! I am so tired of explaining myself to people who don’t understand what the heck I’m talking about! :0)

  6. Your response TOTALLY makes sense to me-

    All this time, I’ve been approaching situations from the point of *fighting* my quietness, or as you put it, trying to relate as an extrovert. And as Kevin says on this site, the more you try to change your shyness, sometimes the stronger it becomes.

    So, I see your “friendly fence” approach as a positive solution for me! My thought now is that if I go into a perceivably unsafe social situation, instead of *fighting* it, a way of creating a safe “mini-environment” within that larger unsafe environment, is to build my friendly fence. Not only will I no longer be within their reach to attack me, I will be much more relaxed and less anxious (because I created that safe mini-environment). It makes sense to me now why you said you are much more able to engage in conversation with strangers when you allow quietness and separateness to surround you. You’ve created your safe mini-environment.

    Also, I now see building a friendly fence as acknowledging, accepting, and honoring one’s quietness. How peaceful that sounds!

  7. Do you feel you have recaptured your sense of the friendly fence? It sounded like this really worked for you, according to your earlier posts on this thread. What causes you to lose that persona, and what enables you to get in that mode?

  8. I would say I had a major slip with the friendly fence for a few days. I was feeling particularly vulnerable and it got so bad that when I walked along a busy street in my area one day, I felt wide open to attack. I was absorbing all sorts of weird feelings and just being hypersensitive to everything around me. If you’ve read any literature on shyness and sensitivity, you’ll understand that I was in an overstimulated state. When I get into this state I just feel negative stuff coming at me–like people are purposely bumping into me and stuff.

    In the past I would’ve let a slip like this discourage me. I would’ve written off the friendly fence concept as a failure. But today I was back on track–and I noticed that after the slip the friendly fence was a lot sturdier. So maybe the slips are necessary for building stronger resolve and stronger foundations.

    How about you, have you tried it at all?

  9. Glad to see you’re back on track. Yes, I have tried creating a friendly fence. It is harder than it seems. I will have to practice it. Some situations are easier than others to pull it off. I did have a positive reaction with someone I know, in which I decided before the encounter not to pursue a lengthy conversation. Usually, I would try to (awkwardly) initiate a conversation and he would keep his responses to a minimum. He must have sensed I was more relaxed this time because he seemed eager to talk to me, and did so for a while. Even though I hate it when others actions dictate my outlook on the rest of the day, it definitely made my day!

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