I struggled with what to call the post. It’s not like a “stranger danger!” kind of thing. But more like… how to make conversation with people you don’t know. But that was a mouthful.
Most people who know me would say that there’s no way that I’m shy, but the truth is… I am so shy around people I don’t know. I can’t tell you how awkward I feel on the inside and how I used to avoid any and all situations involving meeting new people. I had a best friend who did all the friend-making for me growing up (we were basically a package deal). It was so bad that I actually used to fear ordering dinner at a restaurant with a waiter. (Truth be told, I actually still get nervous talking to waiters!)
While I thought I would be fine never having to meet strangers for the rest of my life, I (obviously) had to get over it. I’ve learned a lot about talking to people I don’t know and put it to good use a handful of times. College, in particular, was a great place for me to flex that muscle and build up the personal tools to handle and the situations. But it was blogging that actually made a huge difference. I have to say that I do get a little nervous right before meeting someone, it’s one of my favorite parts about blogging: meeting people! It’s not an easy thing to do to overcome that stranger-anxiety, but it’s something I think even the most introverted should work on.
Whether you’re going out on a date, sitting down with an interviewer, or simply meeting a new potential friend, you can tailor these tips to what you need.
I don’t think there’s one magic pill or solution, but here are the things that work for me:
ONE // Pump yourself up
Shake off that anxiety (as best you can) and get rid of the adrenaline. Adrenaline can be good, but we all know that too much can cause some not-so-great symptoms. If I’m meeting someone new (like a blog reader or a social media manager of a brand) in the city, I walk as much as I can before that. I’ll either walk the whole way or get off the subway a stop or two early. While on my way no matter if I’m walking or not, I always repeat some positive affirmations over in my head. A lot of my fear comes from worrying about saying the wrong thing or embarrassing myself or mispronouncing words, so I focus on saying positive things in my head about those specific fears. Music can help too, but I find myself getting distracted too much instead of simply preparing!
TWO // Plan three things you can for sure talk about
Worried you won’t have something to talk about? My mom says I’m like a duck… seemingly calm on the surface, but underneath I’m going crazy. I always think there are going to breaks in the conversation and that I’ll be the most awkward. Oy. I’ve never actually had a conversation turn weirdly awkward, but I like having “back pocket” and “safe” conversation points ready to go. They can be as simple as something funny Teddy recently did or a project that I recently wrapped up. In addition to the three things on your end, also prepare three questions to ask the person. Conversation points and conversation starters 100% ready to go!
(Also, just a note… When I first started doing this, I thought conversations would feel scripted… but I hardly ever have to resort to only those points and questions. I just feel more confident and prepared going in and then loosen up!)
THREE // Squeeze your toes
Similar to the first point, the adrenaline can cause shaking/sweating/stuttering during a conversation. I struggle with squeezing my hands awkwardly when I’m nervous or, even worse, digging my nails in my legs. Blah! A mentor taught me a trick that she uses when giving speeches and it works wonders in high-anxiety conversations… Squeeze your toes. So weird, but I swear it works. All the tension leaves the rest of your body and the other person will have no idea. Sneaky, sneaky.
FOUR // Laugh it off
When in doubt, admit that you’re a bit flustered and laugh it off. I definitely wouldn’t start with this, but if you do find yourself stumbling on your words or shaking a bit, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting it. Even better, admitting it and then laughing it off. Surprisingly, I’ve found that when this happens, the other person can really relate and may in fact be just as nervous!
FIVE // Don’t back out
Do. Not. Back. Out. How many times do I want to fire off the email canceling or rescheduling into the extremely distant future? Every time. (Seriously.) But I force myself to go and I’m 99% of the time extremely happy that I went. A lot of times my fears and anxiety can overshadow everything that can possibly be gained at the end of the day. Because I always want to back out, I’ve made it a personal rule to not… unless there’s a legitimate reason, and being afraid is NOT legitimate!
If you told me six years ago that I would have 10 to 15 meetings with strangers a week or host events to meet people (voluntarily), I would have doubled over laughing. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to me. There are tons of other factors that can come into place (a “power outfit,” for example, can give you an extra boost of confidence!), but these are my favorite five tips. I hope they can help a fellow introvert out!
Do you get nervous talking to new people? What tips do you utilize?