Afternoon Inqueery

AI: Social Situations

Hello there and happy Tuesday afternoon.

I used to be really scared to talk in front of groups of people. Just speaking up in class would often be accompanied by a racing heartbeat and a burst of adrenaline. Actually getting up in front of a class to give a presentation was worse than a nightmare. My shakey voice would stutter along, fumbling nervously as quickly as possible toward the finishing line.

At some point, this all changed. I think just being forced to do it over and over in many different situations helped. What also helped was having to get up in front of a group of 12-13 year olds last summer on the first day of an enrichment program and introduce myself and explain what I do and who I am. There’s nothing quite as frightening as facing down a group of tweens who are looking for any sign of weakness to exploit. After doing that, nothing seems to faze me about getting up in front of groups anymore.

What kinds of social situations tend to (or used to) make you flustered or nervous? Why? How do (or did) you “deal” with it?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 3pm ET.

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Will is the admin of Queereka, part of the Skepchick network. They are a cultural/medical anthropologist who works at the intersections of sex/gender, sexuality, health, and education. Their other interests include politics, science studies, popular culture, and public perceptions and understandings of anthropology. Follow them on Twitter at @anthrowill and Facebook at


  1. January 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm —

    I’m generally good in front of crowds, but I’ve found a place that scares me to death. I just joined the SCA, a historical re-enactment society, and decided to draw from my music background and learn about music from the period studied. I also picked up a new instrument for it.

    Suffice it to say, playing an unfamiliar instrument in front of people who haven’t yet learned how charming I am scares the life out of me. So far, I’ve only brought it to bardic circles where it’s expected to mess up and there are only a handful of people, but I agreed not only to play but sing an adapted Tim Minchin song in a couple of weeks and it has me freaking out.

    • January 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm —

      Oooh! What instrument? I assume to get past this, you are practicing a whole lot? =)

      • January 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm —

        The mandolin. And yes, practicing a whole lot, both the playing and the singing. For the first, the big problem is the song I’m doing is F Sharp, so adapting the acordion to mandolin has been a challenge, but it sounds pretty good. For the second, I don’t really sing. Fortunately, it’s literally only one note of real singing (F#), and my friends who are amazing singers have been helping. That and a chromatic tuner.

        The other thing I’ve been doing is dancing around my apartment while I practice. It’s for a Feast of Fools, a Twelfth Night tradition where servants and royalty switch places and everyone is just silly, so I figure I should perform with a silly dance anyway. It helps me take the whole thing less seriously.

  2. January 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm —

    I can’t remember doing any presentations or things like that at school although I think my mind has blocked most of my school life for self preservation (the memories are stored in 3 files in my mind “something bad”, “something really bad” and “you don’t want to know”). I was always a shy child and blossomed into a shy adult who at times has been too afraid of being laughed at to ask for an item I want to buy.

    Thankfully Mr davo_301 isn’t shy so if I get a bad bout of nerves he will ask for me or if he isn’t there I try and build myself up to ask. This did happen today at work, standing outside an office, building the confidence to put my name down to do the 3 peak challenge.

    • January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm —

      What’s the 3 peak challenge? Sounds interesting.

      • January 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm —

        You have to walk up the 3 tallest mountains in Britton (Snowdon – Scafell Pike – Ben Nevis) in 24 hours including traviling.

  3. January 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm —

    The only social situation that makes me visibly flustered and nervous is asking someone out. For pretty much everything else I’m comfortable pretending to be an extrovert.

  4. January 11, 2012 at 12:36 am —

    Public speaking and being around people I don’t know both made me nervous. I find humour helped both these situations, although some situations work out better than others, i.e. know your audience!

  5. January 11, 2012 at 1:08 am —

    Fine with crowds, fine with being in front of people. What i have a hard time with is making phone calls. I hate, hate, hate having to pick up the phone and dial someone, especially if they aren’t someone I know.

    • January 11, 2012 at 1:11 am —

      Oh, YES! I hate this, too!!!! My boyfriend always gets annoyed because I will put off handling stuff that requires a phone call (sometimes to the extent that he has to do it).

    • January 11, 2012 at 2:57 am —

      Hehe that sounds exactly like me as well. I have no problem with talking to people or groups in person, but telephone calls to people I don’t know are awful. My girlfriend usually ends up calling people for me, much to her annoyance.

  6. January 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm —

    I tend to avoid social situations altogether. I had to drop out of college because I couldn’t handle the crowds.

    When I was in school I just flat out refused to do presentations. Regardless of the impact on my mark.

    However, with proper planning I can go weeks without being forced to talk to anybody. There’s a grocery store in my town that operates 24 hours and is pretty much deserted between two and four a.m. Most of everything else I need to accomplish can be done over the internet.

    I’m not sure if this is sexist or not but I’m much, much, much more scared of talking to girls than I am of boys. That’s why I never go to the bank, or restaurants, or a lot of places.

    I’ve tried to talk to professionals about it but it’s like putting a hydrophobia therapy clinic on an island. The prerequisites to even beginning to address the issue exclude me from having access to it. I went once and it’s like a gauntlet of social phobia.

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