Any social state of affairs can include just a few tense unknowns: How will conversations stream? What is going to we discuss? Will I say one thing awkward… or, will another person? As a result of the solutions to those questions unfold in actual time in the course of the interplay, you would possibly naturally look to unpack them after the very fact—significantly if issues did not fairly go as easily as you’d hoped. If this line of thought turns into repetitive and chronically self-critical, although, you may be partaking in what psychologists name “post-event processing.”
Whereas anybody can exit a social setting and have their mind seemingly play it again to them, the phenomenon of post-event processing in psychology is commonly understood as half and parcel of social anxiousness, says scientific psychologist Dubravka Gavric, PhD, CPsych, co-founder of Waterloo CBT Clinic. “When socially anxious people interact in post-event processing, they have a tendency to fixate and dwell on unfavorable features of a social interplay for prolonged durations of time,” she says. “It’s widespread for them to zero in on issues that didn’t go nicely—like, issues they stated, one other individual’s response, their very own emotions of hysteria, or how they appeared—and overlook the constructive issues that occurred.”
“The hole between how we expect that we must have behaved and the way we truly behaved is the seed of numerous post-event processing.” —Todd Kashdan, PhD, scientific psychologist
Even in the event you don’t establish with having social anxiousness, although, it’s necessary to keep in mind that (virtually) “all of us expertise socially anxious moments or moments the place we’re involved with how others are perceiving or judging us,” says scientific psychologist Todd Kashdan, PhD, director of the Effectively-Being Laboratory at George Mason College and writer of The Upside of Your Darkside. “These conditions are inclined to elevate our expectations of ourselves, such that we will not often meet them.” The ensuing hole between “how we expect that we must have behaved and the way we truly behaved is the seed of numerous post-event processing,” he says.
What tends to set off post-event processing?
In brief, any social setting can result in post-event processing. “Research have proven that it happens after each interactions like conversations and efficiency duties like speeches,” says Dr. Gavric. “However, the largest predictor is how anxious the individual felt in the course of the social state of affairs: Extra anxiousness can result in extra dwelling afterward.”
After all, sure conditions usually tend to create a way of anxiousness from the outset than others—like “conditions the place you believe you studied you’ve made a social blunder and social settings with excessive stakes, the place you would possibly be capable to establish some real-world penalties of any misstep you may need made,” says Dr. Kashdan. Enter: first dates, job interviews, work displays, assembly your accomplice’s mother and father, and the like. “These are conditions the place your social function is actually on the road,” he says. “The stakes are increased as a result of these occasions are rare, and there’s significance to the relationships remaining intact.” Because of this, you’re extra prone to stroll out of one among these interactions with a need to play it again in your head and think about whether or not something you stated or did may need jeopardized the dialog—and, by extension, the connection in query.
That conduct is extra doubtless now, too, on condition that the pandemic has sheltered us from in-person interactions to the purpose the place you would possibly’ve misplaced some consolation with having them. “As we return to in-person social settings once more, it’s regular to really feel like they’re not going as easily as you’d like, which creates the situations for extra post-event processing,” says scientific psychologist Quincy Wong, PhD, whose analysis facilities on social anxiousness.
A lot of the explanation behind that comes from the pandemic-era spike in asynchronous communication, says Dr. Kashdan, referring to texts and emails that give you ample time to craft a witty or considerate response. Now that we’re all a bit rusty on synchronous communication—which is, against this, “the improv and the dance of interacting with somebody in actual time”—it’s simpler to say or do one thing in an IRL trade that isn’t fairly… splendid. The consequence? A possible face-palm second and a higher chance of post-event processing as you try and weigh the magnitude or penalties of your misstep.
What are the potential penalties of overanalyzing a social state of affairs after the very fact?
“The issue with post-event processing is that it typically makes social conditions seem extra unfavorable than they actually have been,” says Dr. Wong. Simply take the instance of reviewing an interplay along with your boss the place you requested a query a couple of new venture, they usually yawned. “By replaying that picture of your boss yawning, you would possibly draw the conclusion that they thought your query was dumb,” he says. “In actuality, although, they could have simply yawned as a result of they have been up late the night time earlier than…the issue is, it typically isn’t clear in social conditions if one thing flawed truly occurred.”
However in the event you scan any given state of affairs for defects (that’s, by overanalyzing it), you’re virtually positive to show up one thing out of the potential nothing. That may solely serve to make you are feeling extra nervous, upset, or anxious about what occurred, doubtlessly main you to keep away from sure social conditions sooner or later. “Put up-event processing can maintain you ‘caught in your head’ and cease you from doing the stuff you need to be doing and noticing necessary parts of your environment,” says Dr. Wong.
7 pointers for retaining post-event processing at bay, in keeping with psychologists
1. Give your self permission to be socially rusty from the soar
The mindset with which you enter a social interplay can completely shift the way you understand it as soon as it’s over. So, giving your self permission not to behave completely from the outset can assist reduce your thoughts’s evaluation of what doubtlessly went flawed and provide you with room to concentrate on the nice issues. “Do not forget that we’re all in the identical boat as we reacquaint ourselves with actual interactions as soon as once more,” Dr. Wong says.
2. Acknowledge the true (and possibly low) stakes of most interactions
Adjusting how a lot significance or significance you’re assigning to an interplay beforehand can decrease the type of social anxiousness that results in post-event processing. Specifically, it’s necessary to keep in mind that “each interplay shouldn’t be a stress take a look at of whether or not you’re going to be accepted or rejected by the individual on the opposite facet of it,” says Dr. Kashdan.
“The mind commonly treats interactions as in the event that they’re make-or-break by way of figuring out sure binary selections: Am I humorous? Sure or no. Am I sensible? Sure or no. However, singular interactions don’t normally have this sort of weight,” he says. Whereas it’s true that issues like first impressions and necessary work displays can have outsize impacts, he caveats, normally, the stakes are literally decrease than we set them.
3. Goal to ponder, reasonably than brood
Maybe you discover some consolation in reviewing social conditions after they’ve occurred—however you need to accomplish that in a productive approach that doesn’t result in overt self-criticism. On this case, Dr. Kashdan suggests taking a “pondering” method reasonably than a “brooding” one by embracing your interior philosophy main.
“As a substitute of considering, ‘What errors did I make?’ or ‘What’s flawed with me?’ or ‘What are all of the unfavorable penalties of this?’ you’re exploring the state of affairs virtually like a 3rd occasion. As in, ‘Huh, that was fascinating. I’m shocked that it went that approach. And I ponder what may need led to that,’” he says. “The thought is that you simply’re coming into a extra reflective mode, reasonably than an evaluative one.” And this sort of self-reflection can spare you from the dangerous thought spiral that’s typical of traditional rumination.
4. Scan your ideas for potential biases
As a result of post-event processing can so simply warp your view of a social state of affairs, it’s necessary to take a step again everytime you sense this conduct beginning, in an effort to establish any biases in your considering, says Dr. Gavric. She suggests asking your self three questions:
- Are you ignoring any necessary features of the social state of affairs?
- Are you making assumptions about what different individuals are considering?
- Are you leaping to conclusions about what this implies in your future or the connection at hand?
“Answering these questions and attempting to have a look at the state of affairs objectively can assist,” she says.
5. Set a time restrict for (a little bit of) post-event processing to happen
Maybe the largest hazard with post-event processing is that it turns into a seemingly countless thought tunnel into which you’ll be able to fall deeper and deeper, with unfavorable self-evaluation compounding on itself. One positive approach to circumvent this situation is to easily give your self a five- or 10-minute time restrict for evaluating an occasion after it’s over, maybe throughout your downtime after work, says Dr. Wong: “This may scale back the general quantity of post-event processing you are doing and provide you with a way of management over when it happens.”
6. Interact in a useful distraction after high-stakes social occasions
Should you discover that any quantity of reviewing an interplay as soon as it’s over tends to go away you in a worse temper, you possibly can interrupt that thought course of with a distraction unrelated to the occasion—which has been proven to engender extra constructive post-event ideas in of us with social anxiousness. That may simply imply speaking to a buddy with whom you’re tremendous comfy, or doing a solo exercise like studying or listening to music, says Dr. Wong.
7. Share your post-event ideas with trusted buddies
It’s straightforward to really feel such as you’re the solely one who tends to overanalyze your efficiency in a social setting or make awkward social blunders. However the fact is, “these are actually widespread experiences and never one thing to be ashamed of,” says Dr. Kashdan. The truth is, he provides, it’s our tendency to keep away from talking about this stuff that makes them really feel unnecessarily problematic.
As a substitute, he suggests utilizing your individual psychological chatter as a “springboard for creating extra intimacy with folks in your life.” In different phrases? Get weak with somebody you actually belief, and describe no matter seemingly “bizarre” ideas would possibly creep into your thoughts throughout or after social conditions. Should you can have these conversations in a “pondering or lighthearted approach, chances are you’ll be shocked by how they will deliver you nearer to folks,” he says. “Sharing these social experiences with others is what permits for and creates shared humanity.”
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