10 Things TO Say
As promised, here are 10 things TO say to someone with social anxiety. Again, I want to point out everyone is different, and statements should be altered to fit the person you’re talking to.
1. “How can I help?”
This is different than “I’m here for you,” which is a pretty open-ended and sometimes what’s said when people want credit for helping without actually helping. Asking how you can help shows me you mean it and are willing to cash in on the offer.
2. “Do you need a minute?”
This is in reference to seeing me become anxious. There are a few people at work that will ask me if I need to go get a drink or take a minute in the back. They don’t ask if I’m anxious, they don’t draw attention to it. Those people are lovely.
3. “Take all the time you need.”
YES! This shows understanding that time is not something I want, it’s something I need. It shows you putting my needs ahead of your wants and also shows that you’re willing to help more should you be able to.
4. “Don’t worry about it.”
This might seem generic, but if my anxiety impacts your life, I will feel bad about it. And unless you tell me not to, I will worry about it and probably assume that you hate me for not being able to hang out. Telling me not to worry won’t make me stop, but it help me remember the worries are irrational.
5. “Thank you for telling me.”
This makes it clear that you understand how hard my anxiety is for me to talk about and that I don’t tell many people. This is essentially acceptance of what I’ve said combined with a pat on the back for actually talking about it.
6. “I’m not sure I understand, can you explain?”
If I bring up my anxiety, you are allowed to ask questions about it. If you don’t understand something that I’ve said, you can say so, and I’ll do my best to explain. Don’t feel like you can’t ask. I WANT you to ask and understand what I’m saying.
7. “You are not a burden.”
This is similar to #4. I often feel like a burden, especially after someone’s helped me or I’ve cancelled plans. My best friends remind me every time I ask them for help that they are happy to and I’m not a burden to them. It’s incredibly helpful. They’re fantastic.
8. “I still love/care about you.”
I had a friend who, after I told him I have social anxiety, said “I’ll never think differently of you for something like that.” He said that over three years ago, and I still remember it, so obviously it meant something.
9. “Would you like to come to [event I won’t want to go to]?”
A few weeks ago, my older sister asked me if I wanted to go to a concert with her and my parents. After I said I didn’t, she said she hadn’t thought I would, but didn’t want me to feel left out. It made me happy to know she asked anyway. Plus, you never know, I might say yes.
10. “That must be really hard.”
Thank you! It is! This is the exact opposite of last week’s “I’m shy too.” By admitting it must be hard for me to have anxiety, you are saying that you know the difference between shy and social anxiety, and realize that this is a real disorder. Thank you.
Keep in mind how your words might be perceived and remember that I don’t talk about my anxiety very often (except for here). If I do bring it up, you can ask about it.
Also, there are things I’m always going to be afraid of (being a burden, letting people down, etc.) Even if to you it feels obvious that you’re not mad, it doesn’t to me. Let me know anyway. Even if I know you’re not mad, it’s nice to have that reassurance.