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Question
Posted by: Timid | 2004/10/11

Scared of people

Dear CS,

I have a slight problem here. I am scared of people! It is a lot easier for me to write an e-mail than it is to make a telephone call or to see and speak to someone in person! It has gotten to the point that my job is being affected! Today, for example, my boss has asked me to contact someone regarding outstanding work. This specific person has insulted me (and my company) quite rudely in the past, eventhough we gave his company work, and he messed up quite badly. I am petrified at the thought of making the call, and it seems as though he doesn't respond on my e-mails. When I talk on the phone or in person, I start to stutter to the point that I cannot get a sentence out straight! I do not have a speaking impediment. This is starting to worry me, and I wonder if there is perhaps a self-help method or book that can help me overcome my fear of speaking to people? Or any advice?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Dear Timid,
Sounds rather like Social Anxiety Disorder, a form of shyness which can be greatly helped by shrinks, with medication and counselling. It's an issue of assertiveness, and not only learning some teachniques for being assertive, abut also recognizing the differences between aggression and assertiveness.
It sounds like this guy is faulty and late in his work, and not keeping to the undertakings he has given your company. He deserves to be dealt with firmly, but I understand that you feel nervous about doing this ( although it is the other guy who ought to be feeling nervous). How understanding is your boss ? How would he take it if you went to him and said that you find it difficult to confront people in person or by phone, and though you plan to seek help to clear up this problem, right now you would appreciate it if he could give you more guidance about how best to handle such situations, and maybe allow you to hear him call this person, and to show you, as a role-model, how it ought to be done ( maybe there's a way it can be done on speaker phone, so that you can listen in to both sides of the confrontation ) --- and your boss can emphasize to this guy that he will have to deal with you and do so politely and efficiently, including replying promptly to your emails and calls.

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