Advice I've been given
Advice I've gotten. I've been given a few good pointers by mental health professionals and a Tibetan Buddhist teacher (you just never know where the good ideas come from!)The first was that no one can see how you feel. As raw as I am when I am at my most anxious, I conceal those feelings. I am not wearing a banner that says, "I am vulnerable and afraid". And so, when dealing with other people, as the old saying goes, "do not attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance." The vast majority of people we encounter are blissfully unaware of how we anxious people feel -- so if they seem to be messing wit us, it might just be that they are difficult people and have no intention of messing up our day.The second thing I learned, and is never easy to do, is to be assertive. I try to say what I mean and mean what i say. I have to give myself permission to tell people I am uncomfortable and not be concerned that "they think I am crazy?" The best way to do this is is to tell a person who is doing something that makes me uncomfortable how I feel about their actions, not them as a person, but the action that is unnerving. To give you an example I had a very pushy coworker who would interrupt me (and other people) in meetings and simply state his opinion as if he didn't care what I had to say. After a few weeks I wanted to kill him or hide under my desk. A good bit of advise I got was to take him aside in a friendly way -- I asked him to go downstairs to get a cup of coffee, and tell him how I felt about being interrupted. I didn't call him names or get angry, I told him it was hard for me to say this, but when he interrupted me I was angered because I had a good point I wanted to make and never got the chance too. He immediately apologized. Basically he admitted he did have a tendency to speak out of turn, he had done it in school, he had been that way at home as a kid, and he didn't mean to make anyone uncomfortable. From that day forward, whenever he started to interrupt me, I would stop and say "Tom, let me finish my point before you jump in." and he would just stop speaking and politely defer to me.The third bit of advice I got that has been really helpful is called, "Holding". A Tibetan lama said that whenever we feel ourselves reacting to a situation, pause instead, and examine that reaction. He taught that this was a useful daily exercise to help us understand where our "sticking points" are and how to be more gentle with ourselves and others.One student said that he often felt "less than", he often felt he was not worthy of other people's time and if he said something he would look stupid. The teacher said, "That is still thinking too much about your 'self' and missing the moment. Whether you feel angry or frighted, 'you' feel" and that the point of the exercise was to see that 'you' and the feelings are not the same. He made the point that we often make the subtle mistake of believing "I am anxious" or "I am angry" or "I am sad" -- we believe we are defined by our emotions. His advice was that the next time you see or hear something that makes you angry, sad or afraid, pause and take a breath. Look at the emotion. Understand that this mind, this self, is not the emotion. The emotion is fleeting, like a cloud moving through the sky on a windy day, it does not stain the sky, when the cloud moves on the sky is still there. When the emotion has passed the mind, the self, is still there.I believe the point of each of these bits of advice is that I have choices, I can choose integrity and assertiveness. If I want to feel less anxious, it is very helpful to know that I am allowed to feel anxious, I am allowed to say to people around me that I am anxious and I am allowed to let that anxiety pass. I do not have to be defined by my feelings and feelings change. I am worthy of polite consideration in every social situation and anyone who breaks that social contract is making an unspoken error. I am allowed to point that error out and I can still treat people with the dignity I would expect without being a doormat.