As soon as the request was made by my boss to chat in a private office, I could feel the rush of adrenaline inside me, and I wondered what sort of awkward and unpleasant conversation was next. As it happened, the conversation was a private one, involving a shift of job responsibilities in the department, but it was not in any way a bad conversation, even if it will likely mean that in the not very distant future I will need to work a good bit earlier, which means shifting my sleep schedule somewhat decisively earlier, which has some good sides and some bad sides. Yet even after hearing the news, and knowing the full purpose of the meeting, which helped explain a bit of what has been going on the past few days, I could still feel the blood coursing through my veins for some time after it was done. It is times like these, and they happen more often than I would like , when I wonder if I am simply too timid and too easily startled to live a long and peaceful life in a world that seems determined to make me continually anxious and often alarmed.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had an extreme startle reflex, and have had to spend a great deal of effort appearing impassive while feeling deeply panicky. It is not a particularly difficult matter to know why I startle particularly easily, nor am I anything but candid about my struggles with the debilitating effects of PTSD, but it is far from a straightforward matter to know how to cope successfully with being so easily startled, especially since there are many people around me who appear to have no earthly idea how to best go about not startling me. I would not think it too difficult to figure out a better way to communicate than to suddenly pop up behind me and ask to talk somewhere in private. Both of those actions–expressing a desire to talk in private and popping up behind me, are nearly guaranteed to trigger a ferocious startle reflex that is no less ferocious for being subtly disguised with a sort of resting obstinate face and a determination not to show what is felt.
It is likely that my reaction to being invited to chat in private has strongly influenced my own style of communication, in the fact that I prefer to communicate at least semi-publicly, to reduce the stress that others may have in communicating with me, and in communicating a lot in writing, even though the body language is usually missing in text that would make it more clear exactly how my words are to be taken, since many people seem to delight in misinterpreting my communication. It could hardly be expected otherwise, that someone who finds it terribly uncomfortable to be pulled aside for private conversations would relish potentially putting others through that kind of stress. I have generally found, much to my sadness, that situations that many people enjoy are extremely anxious because the adrenaline rush that others enjoy is often for me associated with panic attacks and being frozen in horror. Obviously, that sort of strong reaction is not going to make it appealing to engage in that sort of communication with other people. It is to be expected that we would be motivated, to the extent that we think of others as beings like ourselves, to communicate in ways that reduce stress and to avoid communication in ways that make us stressed out when they are directed at us.
One of the most consistent problems with communication, and I am sure it is a problem with my own, is that most of us communicate in ways and timing and about matters that are meant to encourage our own peace of mind. On the one hand, this is to be expected as we are most aware of our own needs and state of heart and mind when we are communicating. Yet if communication is to be mutually pleasant, then it has to address the sensitivities and preferences and needs of all people involved. Sometimes before we have a talk, we should have a talk before the talk, where the ground rules of communication are set, and where people are able to express their preferences for or against certain forms and ways of communication, and where certain topics are either put in or off of the table as suitable subjects for conversation. Laying ground rules and choosing rules that reflect genuine preferences, and sticking to them is a good way to keep communication enjoyable and proper, and the absence of mutually agreed and explicit boundaries and the absence of mechanisms for people to express their opinions on communications and to have those opinions valued and respected creates frequent difficulties in communication within our world. It is a shame that we have such a hard time respecting others and feeling respected and honored for ourselves, and that our communications should be the cause of such anxiety and distress.
 See, for example: