Mingle, interact, go out. Get used to meet new people. Make this a habit and you’ll soon get used to do new things too. The goal is not to be the best networker in the world, but to be connected to as many energy sources as you can get.
The moment you stop wanting to meet new people, your world will start to shrink. Don’t let that happen. Don’t let your world become smaller and smaller just because of your little shyness. Sometimes all you need to start a new relationship is a smile.
Start attending to events, start conversations at the supermarket, talk about the weather with the parking boy. Don’t feel rejected, unless you really want other people to genuinely reject you for good.
Every people you meet carries a hidden gift. Work together to find it.
How To Socialize Meaningfully
They say the biggest fear of all people is public speaking. That fear comes even before fear of death.
But I will go even further than that and I will say the biggest fear of our modern life is the fear of interaction, in all forms.
There are a lot of reasons for that, ranging from our accelerated cultural development, up to the demographic explosion. From an anthropologic perspective (yeah, I know, “anthropologic” is a very heavy word, but I didn’t find any other suitable word right now) we evolved at an incredible speed. What was the norm 3-4 generations ago is now completely obsolete. We interact in such a dynamic and diversified way that it’s almost impossible to keep up with it. Even between one generation, between parents and their children, the differences of perception are huge. Add to this the demographic explosion, the unstoppable growth in numbers of people in the last few centuries, and you’ll have a sketch of the bigger picture.
Yes, socializing is very, very difficult.
And the 3 main problems with this are:
- lack of time
- lack of information
Let’s take them one at a time.
1. Lack Of Time
We tend to think we don’t have time to genuinely connect with somebody else. The time pressure is real. Just to function normally in this world we have to do dozens of things in a normal day and we have to them fast. We rush to the job, then to eat, then to pick the kids or meet with friends. We put clothes on us, we wash our bodies, we exercise, we read, we do a gazillion of tiny things each and every day. And each and every thing takes away a little coin from our time wallet. We literally spend time doing things.
And because we do this so often, we tend to think about time as a limited resource. In a way, time is a limited resource, but not in the way we think it is. Time is simply not renewable. We can’t take yesterday second and reuse it. It’s gone. We can’t live it again.
But we can do something else. We can use this current second in a much smarter way. We can choose what type of stuff we want to “buy” with that second.
And here comes the solution to the problem. The moment we understand that interaction with other people is one of the most rewarding things we can do, our time investment strategy will shift dramatically. Instead of spending time in activities with a smaller return of investment (or ROI, in business lingo) we will start spending it in human interaction.
That human interaction comes in many forms. Like I said in the beginning of the article, we can just say something nice to somebody, or attend to a networking event. The trick is to make it consistently, day in and day out. To make a habit out of it.
The trick is to be truly convinced that spending time socializing (in whatever form we find comfortable at that moment) will be more rewarding than sitting in front of the TV, dumbly watching news or who knows what stupid reality show.
2. Lack Of Information
We simply can’t have enough information about any person we meet with. That’s an important blocking factor in human interaction.
We refrain from getting in touch simply because we don’t know if we can be helpful at all. Or we don’t know what type of interaction the other person likes. Or we don’t know what to say. Or we don’t know what is appropriate to say.
Lack of information about our potential interaction partner is real.
But here too we can work things out.
All we need is a little reframing. Instead of perceiving this lack of information as something to fight against, we can look at it as something to be understood. We can transform it into curiosity. We can make this lack of information the main reason for interaction.
Instead of refraining by fear of being inappropriate, we can just go ahead and find out how we can be appropriate. And we can do that simply by asking. The moment we’re doing that, we’re already interacting.
And the simplest, most effective opener for this type of interaction is this question: “is there any way I can help you?”
I guarantee that this question will always, always give you at least one reason to continue the interaction.
If we can find the time and if we can overcome the lack of knowledge, we should be able to socialize in a sustainable way. Alas, this is not happening. Why? Because beyond time and lack of knowledge lies fear.
And the fear I’m talking about is a very specific kind of fear: fear of rejection. Fear of feeling inadequate. Fear of making a fool of ourselves. Fear of being mocked. Fear of not fitting in.
We’ve all been there. I know I’ve been there a lot of times, especially when I was younger.
The only way I was able to go over this fear was to acknowledge it and take the risk. Yes, I may be rejected and I take this risk. Sometimes I was pushed away (either because I didn’t know what to say – lack of knowledge – or because the other person was simply not interested) but sometimes I wasn’t. Sometimes the other person opened too an we started the exchange.
They say courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the ability to accept fear and do whatever you have to do while still feeling the fear.
I totally understand that your personal experience with social interaction may be completely different than mine. Maybe for you it wasn’t time, nor lack of information or fear, that blocked you.
But I thought it would be useful to share my personal perspective on that.
Because that’s the real reward when you interact genuinely with other people.
You get to know their stories. And, sometimes, you get to be inspired by their stories.