Overthinking Social Responses
by Nadine Briggs
Most children and teens with social challenges also have issues with anxiety. The anxiety can lead to an overabundance of “what if…” thoughts. Kids who have an opportunity to socialize with another person might talk themselves out of it by overthinking the interaction and by considering all the things that could go wrong.
They might think that what they say will sound weird or “cringey”. They might overthink the timing of when they respond. I work with one teen who overthinks texts messages so much so that she might not respond to a text at all. She can lose sight of the fact that when someone texts her, that means that they are thinking of her and they want to connect socially. This particular teen might become annoyed by a text if it is received at an inconvenient time. She might over think the timing of when she should respond by wondering if the person is in school, doing homework, having dinner, or just otherwise too busy to receive her response. If this overthinking becomes overwhelming, she might not respond at all. The message of a non-response could be interpreted as a signal that she doesn’t want the friendship. The fact is that the teen is craving the friendship but overthinking is causing a type of social paralysis.
The answer is to understand that communication does not have to be “perfect”. A friendship should not be destroyed by a clunky response, so the stakes are low. The person receiving the response can decide to read it when it’s convenient for them. We suggest sending text messages during the hours of 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
The bottom line is that when someone reaches out, respond. Try not to let texts or calls go unanswered for days. When that happens, the person who didn’t get the response might not send the next one. A “cringey” response is better than no response at all.