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I have social anxiety, and this has been getting in the way of me interacting with my friends. A particularly problematic event is when one of them have a complaint, and then when I'm taking to them about said complaint, the others pick up, and then I panic and surrender, which only makes everyone else more distressed, because I'm panicking and not able to watch my words closely.

What can I say to either prevent them from ganging up on me, or more calmly give in when they start doing so? They don't really seem themselves as ganging up on me every time, but do to my anxiety, I have trouble discriminating between it happening and not happening, if they all join in.

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    What sort of "complaints" are you talking about here? Are they complaints about you personally and/or something that you're actually responsible for, or about others? Are they expecting you to solve actual problems, or just venting in general? – goldPseudo Apr 22 '18 at 4:30
  • @goldPseudo I would say, usually complaints about stuff I'm responsible for, and me not handling it in ways that one person doesn't like, and then the others typically chip in against me, but the stuff is often relatively subjective. – Dragon Apr 22 '18 at 5:02
  • Are 'the others' usually a part of the situation that is complained about, or do they usually just join in for the sake of supporting the person that is complaining? – enlighten_me Apr 23 '18 at 9:33
  • @enlighten_me It can go either way. The event that prompted this they were part of, but two of the people didn't encounter any problems with what I said, but the third person did, and then when they complained the others backed them up and I couldn't handle it anymore. – Dragon Apr 23 '18 at 20:31
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1. Say 'Thank you'

My mother used to give me useless advice: "Take care, Dear. Don't have an accident." That irritated me until I realised she was just being protective. So, I started saying, "Thank you, Mom." My subconscious heard my mouth say, "Thank you," and assumed there was something to be thankful for. My mother never changed but I felt better.

When your friends complain and criticise, you cannot read their minds. You cannot know for sure what they are thinking so, you are allowed to believe whatever you like. Assume they are trying to protect you from making mistakes and say, "Thank you for that." You will likely feel better.

2. Buy time

A guy answered me once with, "Oh, I didn't think of that." This is brilliant. It takes the pressure off and let's us say, "What an interesting idea. I'd like to think about that." This affirms the other person and gives us time to think it through. How often do we react with a shocked, "No," only to reconsider later and realise the idea had merit?

3. Take advice / Focus on the issue

At work once, a stranger said, "You are doing that all wrong. Come round to my place and I will show you how to do it properly." It felt so rude and arrogant that I called his bluff and visited. To my surprise, his advice was excellent and has earned me money ever since.

Ask 'Why? How?' practical questions that get useful information. When we ask practical questions, it helps us focus on the issue and that makes it easier to forget about ourselves. Then we can begin to relax.

4. Rehearse

Change does not come naturally. It will feel like theatre. So, practise your responses in front of your mirror.

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They probably don't realize that you see it as being ganged up on, so clarifying this to them might make them stop. It would be important to phrase it as 'I feel as if I am ganged up on, which may be due to my anxiety' rather than 'you are ganging up on me' because really this is a matter of perception. Next time it happens, try asking the person with the 'complaint' if you can discuss it privately because it makes you anxious when other people start chipping in.

It is important to explain that you aren't just asking to never have anyone say anything to you if they have a complaint, just to do so in private, and gently. This way it won't seem like you're trying to avoid accountability, just manage how these 'complaints' are raised. Additionally, explain that this has to do with your anxiety, so that they understand why you become in a panic and can behave appropriately. Explaining where you are coming from and why you are requesting what you are requesting it is the key here.

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