“What will I talk about?!”
“These lunches are so awkward!”
“I hate being around people! I never know what to say!”
If you can relate to any of these, well you’re probably not a ‘people’s person’ at all! Many of us struggle with being around people and our social conditioning doesn’t help. There is always the fear of offending others or being rejected by others, without forgetting the fear of being humiliated. And as if it’s not enough, some of us have always been shy. It’s our innate nature, yet society isn’t very conducive for shy people.
Believe it or not, I used to be extremely shy and self-conscious. In fact, I was so quiet and shy that my teacher got extremely worried for me several times. Beat that! However, my interactions with people started going through some changes a few years ago, when I read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to win friends and influence people. Eventually it is only Divine Grace which helps us evolve, but I guess I’ll give the Dale guy some credit, because I found two of his tips useful.
Do you experience extremely awkwardness, shyness or helplessness around people? Well, don’t worry, there’s hope. From a silent, shy observer, I have become quite a talker (which may be worrying sometimes) and I have picked up some learnings along the way. So, without any further ado, here are a few tips which could help you jump the boat from being an awkward introvert to a comfortable introvert.
1. Ask for their name (and use it!)
Apparently, nothing sounds sweeter to a person than their own name. So, whenever you are making an effort to befriend someone, always ask for their name and use it to address them. You’d also gain some bonus points if you pronounce it well and remember their name every single time you meet them. I also noticed that whenever we take someone’s name, we do feel closer to them, instantly or gradually.
2. Break the ice with a joke
If you are quiet, you may be stuck in an awkward silence. There are two ways to go about it:
- You could say something funny. It can be anything at all. I usually find it quite liberating to be the centre of my own jokes, then at least no one gets offended. E.g. Being short, I can easily make fun of my own height. If we find our own jokes funny, we feel less awkward.
- You could talk about anything going on in the world at the moment. Could be something in the news, or just in the office, or even to do with celebrities. Not everyone can be spiritual or talk about samadhi, ya know! Wait a minute. Can Samadhi even be talked about? #Fail
3. Focus on the other person’s interests
If it is a pre-planned meeting or a job interview, find out what the other person’s interest and talk about that. Usually we can get a clue about the other person from their talks, and if we show genuine interest in the other person, it will become a two-way conversation. For that though, it may help to do some general reading. Food is usually a topic which everyone likes, so you’re safe there! And if all else fails, talk about the weather.
4. Ask common questions
This tip must be applied with caution. I admit I have overdone this one and carried out interviews of people. And I am not an employer, nor have I ever been. Jokes aside, if a dreaded awkward silence dawns upon the conversation, it helps to have some general questions ready. These can be anything e.g. Have you ever been to see the Northern lights? Or something as simple as, “How do you plan your meals? I never know what to cook!”
Of course, try to make them truthful statements. The more general the question, the better. Other than that, have fun with it!
5. Let them choose you
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as introverts is to choose who we want to hang out with. This especially applies at school, college or University, although this isn’t uncommon behaviour in any work or social setting. We often seek to be around those who seem popular and loud while at the same time completely ignoring those simple and humble individuals who wish to befriend us. You see, as quiet people, we may think that we’ll change into a different version of ourselves by hanging out with extroverts. But from my experience, it is a recipe for disaster. At Uni, for an entire year I tried to choose who I wanted to hang out with instead of befriending those who accepted me as I am. And in fact, it was probably one of the best lessons I learnt when it comes to being in a group of friends whereby we are comfortable.
Having the wisdom to know when to choose and when to be chosen, helps us sail through life.
Ultimately, the idea is not to change from someone who loves being alone into an extrovert. Instead the goal is to be most comfortable with ourselves, whether we are in the company of others or not. When we are genuinely interested in others, we become comfortable with ourselves too and nothing is taken too seriously.
As Swami says here:
Children or the childlike people can laugh at simple gestures, they can giggle at jokes with no meaning. Similarly, if you become childlike, living in the world becomes a whole lot easier, it gets more interesting.
So, let’s play in the world and have some fun. But if all of the above fails, take up running as a hobby and get the hell out of there! Netflix awaits. Just kidding:)