Ever immediately get negative vibes from people you hardly know? Ever sense that co-workers could be more sociable and more gregarious if they tried just a little bit harder? Ever want to slap them upside the head to alert them to the happiness they are missing should they only let themselves be a little bit more outgoing and become part of the group? Ever give up on them because they appear icy, aloof and detached and, down deep, they really don't want to be included? Ever conclude they are just too much trouble, just too high-maintenance?
You've just been hoodwinked, misled and ensnared. You just met the anxious personality on the job.
Anxious people are rapt and entrapped in a most tormenting world. They're so frightened and terrified of being rejected by other people and so utterly convinced they will be, that they flinch from others to spare themselves the agony they anticipate. The irony is that while shunning close relationships with others on the job relieves them of the anxiety of waiting for the inevitable rejection, it also removes them from what they genuinely and ardently desire: the acceptance, approval and appreciation of others. They are, as your grandmother would say, "lost souls."
In spite of what you would think, anxious people are really pining to be part of everyone else's world, if only they knew how. But their experiences with others are like recurring, dreadful hallucinations. They are absolutely convinced that people are going to treat them inconsiderately. And yet, their problematic caginess and guardedness is indeed upsetting and bewildering.
What anxious people panic about most seems always to happen—other people just don't like them! As it happens, however, others just don't know what to make of them. Because of their aloofness and indifference, others often conclude (wrongfully) that they are unfriendly and just don't want to be part of the group.
And so the cycle continues. Anxious people feel abandoned, unwelcome, awkwardly eccentric and miserable. No matter what they do, they rarely feel psychologically at ease with themselves or others. If they're not anxious, they're down in the dumps. And, sadly, they are frequently both. Their internal negative self-talk is that if they are away from others, they don't have to face the likelihood of rejection.
Because so much of our time is spent in the workplace, our physical and emotional well-being depends mainly on the social support systems and connections we flesh out with one another there. And because anxious people retreat from others you will seldom find yourself intensely involved with them. But when you are, the best way to support these people is to recognize how their anxiety and sensitivity to disparagement weakens and immobilizes them. Be considerate and encouraging. Step back once in a while and take another glimpse. You may be staring at a reflection of your own shortcomings.