Reporting and interviewing with social anxiety

By Michael Willson

Having social anxiety can be very difficult. It makes you nervous around strangers and it often leaves you feeling out of the loop. It can also make important life skills, such as job interviews, incredibly challenging. As someone with social anxiety, I understand how hard this can be, but I think it is important to overcome it. The best way to take on social anxiety is to become involved with something that requires you to interact with people. For me, it is journalism.
When I started writing for the Chronicle my freshman year, I wanted to be an opinions writer. I had no interest or desire in reporting and conducting interviews. When I took the workshop class last spring, I found myself outside of my comfort zone, writing for the sports section. I am not going to lie, I was terrified. Meeting with people I did not know and interviewing them was the last thing I wanted to do. My first few interviews, although they went well, were a little awkward. I stuttered when asking questions and felt uneasy when making eye contact. But as time went on, I found myself more comfortable conducting interviews. I have developed a routine for how I conduct my interviews from introducing myself to shaking the interviewee’s hand. I no longer feel nervous when approaching strangers and making eye contact.
Journalism has also given me the opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t have before writing for the Chronicle. I have interviewed most of the sports teams’ coaches and a number of the deans. One of my favorite interviews was with Billy Greer. I remember after the interview he said in his dignified, southern accent, “Now since you recorded me, I expect everything to be correct.” Needless to say, I felt a good bit of pressure to make sure all of my quotes were word-to-word correct.
Before becoming a journalist, I often felt out of the loop of what was going on. All of that changed when I started reporting. Not only do I obtain information about what is going on around campus, but I am able to share it with the rest of the student body. This is a very rewarding feeling.
The interviews I have conducted as a journalist have given me the skills that I will need in life. For example, I use to be horrified that my social anxiety would affect me in a job interview, but after being a journalist, I feel much more comfortable.
Now I am not trying to brainwash you into becoming a journalist. The purpose of my column is to encourage those with social anxiety to step out of your comfort zone. The best way to overcome it is to take it head on. Find a club, job or hobby which requires you to interact with people. This could be an intramural team, a community service program or the Student Government Association (SGA).
I know this might sound a little daunting, but believe me, the more social you become, the less anxious you feel.