Talking to strangers. If you´re an introvert, you probably got a slight heart attack after imagining yourself talking to a stranger.
You wonder how other people manage to stay calm and have fun while interacting with each other. Are you weird? Should you just accept the fact that you´re shy and live a lonely life?
The good news is you don´t have to. The bad news is that you will be lonely if you choose to give up on yourself.
How can you improve your social abilities and be part of the group of people you see everyday interacting with strangers effortlessly?
What does being an introvert even mean?
First of all, let´s brake down what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert. If you google the definition of the term “introvert”, you will find something similar to the following:
“Introvert: A shy, reticent person. A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.”
The main difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts recover mentally and emotionally when they´re alone, extroverts on the other side, recover while socializing with other people. This doesn´t mean that extroverts can´t feel at ease while being alone, neither does it mean that introverts can´t be relaxed when socializing. It´s just that each of them have different comfort zones, different ways of “restoring their energy”.
Leave an introvert in a room with 5 strangers for a week and he will be exhausted. The same exact thing will happen if you lock an extrovert away and leave him all by himself.
You see? There is nothing bad about being introverted or extroverted. Both have their benefits and downsides. They are different, just as day and night.
Minimize your thoughts
One of the biggest obstacles for an introvert while socializing is that he/she tends to overthink everything and play out different outcomes (mostly negative) in their head before these actually occur.
The most common advice on how to overcome this thought process is to always assume positive outcomes. This approach is very helpful, yet it is very difficult to always expect positive outcomes, especially if you lived unpleasant past experiences related to socializing.
Is there a more effective way to stop overthinking everything?
The answer is alcohol. Not ingesting it (although it does help but only until you´re sober again, leaving you feeling even worse than before), but emulating the way it affects your brain. Even the most introverted individuals find themselves interacting with strangers and having fun after a few drinks.
Alcohol has many effects on your brain and body (most of them unhealthy), one of them being the following:
One of the reasons why you´re social and outgoing when you´re drunk is because of the inability to think clearly. You´re not even able to overthink situations, you just act.
Whenever you catch yourself overthinking a situation, stop and focus on your emotions. What do you feel like doing or saying?
Be a child. Children don´t suffer from social anxiety, they just do whatever they feel like doing. A 2 year-old toddler won´t be afraid of rejection when he wants to make friends. He just does as he pleases without fearing any consequences.
It´s later on in life that we develop fear of rejection and start overthinking everything because of bad past experiences or the way we were raised.
Our teachers tell us not to be loud and to think before we speak and our parents warned us not to talk to strangers. Of course they mean well, we shouldn´t be going entering the van of the stranger who offers us candy, but when it comes to social situations, many things we were taught as children simply don´t apply.
Be congruent with who you are. Not only will this save you the stress of having to put on an act every time you meet someone, people also appreciate and even envy true authenticity. There is no point in faking enthusiasm and high energy if you feel like shit.
One of the most common fears of introverted people is running out of things to say. You never run out of things to say when talking to your relatives. You just say what comes to your mind because you know they already accept you and you won´t be judged. Not knowing what to say occurs mostly while talking to strangers because you want to be liked and gain the other persons approval.
If you happen to find yourself in a situation in which your mind goes blank because of your nervousness, just let the other person know that you don´t know what to say. There is a big chance they will appreciate you pointing it out and feel a huge relief as they too didn´t know in which way to steer the conversation.
Express yourself. Do you live and die for Star Wars? Say it. Do you collect empty beer cans? Let the other person know. With around 7 billion people on the planet, you can be sure that there are people who share your passion, no matter how weird it may seem.
Look at this guy, he collects band aids and let´s the entire world know by proudly posting pictures of his collection on the internet. Check out the comments people leave, most of them find his hobby awesome and encourage him to keep on posting.
By being authentic you will ensure that the friends you make are the right fit for you. There is no point in making friends who won´t accept who you truly are.
Ever wondered why older people don´t seem to care anymore and just say or do what´s on their mind? These people lived long enough to realize that no matter what you do, there will always be somebody who dislikes you. You don´t want those people in your life anyway. Own who you are!
Why so serious?
No matter if you´re the president of the United States, Brad Pitt or the old lady at the grocery store, everybody just wants to have fun. If you follow the trail of why´s, meaning you ask yourself why you´re doing something, you will always end up with the same answer: Happiness and fun.
Even rejection can be fun if you lower the bar of what amuses you. Imagine seeing a girl approaching a guy and asking for his phone number. What would you think if the girl approached the guy, got rejected badly, but instead of being all upset about it, turned to you and said: “He´ll totally call me!”? I don´t know about you but I would totally want to hang out with her!
Stop trying to look cool and don´t take everything so seriously. Focus on having a good time and making your life epic. Some of the best stories are about situations that totally went south. Did you ever hear an awesome story where everything went according to plan? Booooring.
Don´t fall into the group of people who study and read about everything and never take action. Do you think Tiger Woods got good at golf by reading “How To Golf For Dummies”?
Reading a lot and seeing things form a new perspective is great but it is futile unless you go out and start implementing what you´ve learned.