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SM at work -- need advice

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SM at work -- need advice

Postby musagi » Sat Sep 06, 2014 5:07 am

Hi everybody,

I need an advice to cope with a particular situation at work, because it affects the way I work / focus and I am getting seriously depressed. It would be great to get concrete advice from people who suffer from selective mustism, but also from people who don't but have some understanding about the condition. In my current surrounding, nobody understands the condition and it is difficult for me to talk about it.

I am currently working in a team in which people are friendly and quite supportive. My boss also knows about it, however he sometimes behaves in a way that shows that he doesn't understand what it is (although he is generally supportive).

I am not able to communicate with my boss at all because the only times I meet him in is in settings that make me uncomfortable. This has affected my performance at work very negatively, though I never got blamed for it. So for the first time in my life, I felt that I was accepted and that I would be able to improve.

The problem is that it's been like this for a few months already (almost half a year). During the first months, my boss and some other people were wupportive and encouraging, but at that time, I didn't manage to respond positively. I noted their efforts ad it helped, but I was never able to communicate this. So I think that people got tired of it, and accepted that I will never talk to them.

The problem is now that that's how they act: they behave as if I will never talk. This means that the door that was once open for me to participate is now closed. I am accepted, but I won't be offered any opportunity to interact, because I have declined all those possibilities in the past. And now that I am a bit more ready to be a part of something, it feels like nobody will let me in any longer, and I will remain excluded anyway.

I have improved to the extent that I will interact if someone gives me the possibility, but not to the extent that I can create the possibility myself. I am not there yet. I have noticed this recently, and this has made me very depressed so that I have almost stopped working, because I am actually too depressed. An example of this is that the whole team went for a drink the other day. I was sitting between my boss and the only person in the team I manage to talk to (that I consider as a friend).

So I talked only to my friend first because it felt safe, waiting until I would be a bit more drunk to talk to other people. At some point, my friend talked to another guy and I couldn't hear their conversation, and then I realised that my boss had turned his back to me to talk to the other guys. So I couldn't join any conversation. So I was sitting alone with my beer, and no one even talked to me for at least 20 minutes. I knew that nobody would try, because now I just became the one who doesn't talk and that's what is expected from me. That made me so sad and I felt so excluded. Everybody was laughing and having fun, and nobody even thought I would want to be a part of it. The worst was that they were talking about my part of the world at some point, and at another time, they were talking about something I had been doing with another guy. But nobody turned towards me to include me, even though they were talking about stuff clearly relating to me. I didn't know what to do, though I really wanted to join. But I left and went back home, because it was so painful.

Also, recently I proposed some ideas to my boss by talking to him. This was awkward, but I did it. He said he'd send me some stuff to read and I would also send him some more stuff related to that. So I was pretty happy about that, but when I sent the stuff, he never got back to me and never sent what he said he would. This shouldn't matter, but it's jsut that I made this effort to talk and propose someting, and it took me so much energy and courage, and I got no response at all.

This kind of things has started to happen recently. Still a month ago, I would have been given the opportunity to talk, even though I wouldn't necessarily take it. But it felt safe to know that the possibility was there. And now that I feel a bit safer, all of this is gone and it feels like I'm condemned to stay outside forever. They still invite me to events and stuff, but that doesn't mean that they will talk to me I guess. I will go because I also want to be a part of the team, but now it became harder, and this is due to my own behaviour, I am the one that caused it. So there is nobody else to blame but myself and I don't know how to change this.

Anyway, I was wondering how to get out of this. There are 2 ways: either my situation improves and I can get a lot better, both for my performance at work and my mood. Or I remain stuck in myself, in which case I am not sure that I will be able to continue working at all. I have no idea about how to handle this. And I was wondering if any of this would make sense if I would explain it to them or to my boss, if that would be a good idea or if that would be seen as a spoiled kid complaining to get attention. Basically I would like to explain my behaviour and say that I didn't mean to reject people when they attempted to talk to me in the past, and that I still need to be offered the opportunity to interact even though I might not take it, or even though it might be awkward at the beginning. and I might also want to explain why it is important for me to get replies when I propose an idea (even though I didn't always replied in the past, but now I got better at it). Basically it feels like they have made efforts to help me, but now that the efforts could start paying, they are letting me down and I don't want this to happen, although I understand perfectly that they got bored/tired of it. But I am not sure that they can understand my perspecive.

So if there are people who don't suffer from selective mutism here, does this story make sense to you and could you understand it? What can I say to make it understandable to others and is it a good idea to talk about it?
And is there anybody suffering from selective mutism who has been through something similar, and how did you deal with it?

Sorry for the long explanations!
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Re: SM at work -- need advice

Postby mixtape02 » Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:31 pm

I still have traits of selective mutism, and it gets worse when I'm in the class room or have a job. I understand your fear, especially in that people feel you will never talk, so they've become accustomed to excluding you.

I've found that it's pretty urgent to speak up, no matter how little, in the beginning or else they'll assume I don't ever want to talk. They assume I'm comfortable being on my own, and I possibly don't even have any interest in their conversations so I would have absolutely nothing to say. But I do, and I need to force the words out before it's too late, whenever they come to me.

When I see an opening, I need to speak! Just butt in, try to add some casual ice breaking words in there, like, "Hey! I heard my name, what are you saying about me?" while smiling and chuckling at the end. Then, if they're your friend, they'll say "Oh, I was telling him about the time you ____ with [other guy's name]" and so on and so forth, and you can take over the story and say a few words about the thing he was talking about, while smiling and not letting on that you felt awkward joining the conversation. Then you might remain quiet for the rest of the socializing, but at least someone with half a mind will turn towards you and allow you to join the circle and not completely face their back towards you and block your entry. Even if you didn't want to talk, that's downright rude!
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Re: SM at work -- need advice

Postby paula2 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 10:30 pm

How are you with talking on the phone? Are you able to (and would it make sense) to talk to people through phone and/or email? That way you could possibly forge your way to making more meaningful relationships with people from work.

If you can talk to the person on phone rather than face to face, that might be good practice. As a teen, I used to write down what I was going to say, even the greeting. I would sometimes write out full sentences out as well as I tend to lose my thoughts pretty quick when speaking out loud. I would write a list of short topics to hit upon. You could maybe even follow up on the same conversation later face to face.
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Re: SM at work -- need advice

Postby Distant1 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 8:28 pm

I can't imagine the burden this plays in your role at work. I do not have SM Now. My Daughter has a Severe case of it and I am pretty sure I had it until the age of around 14 or so.

One of the things I was thinking while reading through your message is that bosses tend to play a different role than are other peers. They have completely different responsibilities in the building and because of that they have different relationships with there employees. I guess what I'm saying is that your not the only one fighting for some type of social approval from your boss. Some people are charming, witty and say all the right things even if it's the boss on the other end. I have never been like that and always found myself distanced from superiors. I don't like trying to please anyone.

There are exorcises to bond communication skills that you could implement into your workplace. Would it be possible to have a Summer BBQ or Holiday party at your house where you are in your comfort zone and have more control? If these people want to understand or help you they may attend.
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Re: SM at work -- need advice

Postby realityhere » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:33 pm

Seems like your fellow coworkers aren't aware that it took a good deal of time for you to acclimate to your work surroundings and become comfortable with what are the communication dynamics there. So by the time you were comfortable enough, your co-workers got used to the fact that you don't talk much and figured that's the way you will stay.

Does your company use intranet email? You express yourself well here as a writer, and maybe you need to express some of your thoughts in a shortened version in an email, starting with the co-worker you've been comfortable talking to and go from there up to your boss. An explanation of selective mutism and the accompanying anxiety can go a long way in getting ppl to know what your condition is and give you the opportunities to talk in a setting that's comfortable for you. You can also explain that with this condition, it takes you longer to acclimate and feel comfortable before talking, don't take it as an offense if I don't talk, and also add that you enjoy working with the guys. Don't expect everybody there will understand, but there are some ppl who will try if you take the effort to reach out to them in some way, in written form if necessary, then talking later. Key is that you reach out to them in some way, not the other way around. It will show that you care about communication with others, no matter how difficult it is for you.

Hope this helps.
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