I have a secret to share with you. I'm a natural introvert. I love curling up with a good book, writing, going for long hikes, and doing yoga. I can do a lot of these things by myself. And while I love alone time, I also love connecting with people and believe building relationships is a key component to happiness. But I'm crazy shy and get really nervous when I meet new folks. I tend to stumble over my words, forget things that should be easy to remember, and laugh in very high pitches.
Now just because I'm a natural introvert, doesn't mean I hide out in my apartment all the time. I'm constantly looking for ways to challenge myself. For instance, last week I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Guillebeau for coffee. Chris is one of my favorite writers and also inspired me to start living an unconventional life. So to actually meet Chris in-person was a big deal.
As I biked across town to meet-up with Chris, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my body and land on the sidewalk. I kept telling myself:
"Seriously, chill out. Chris is a fellow human. And I don't think he has any magical superpowers that he is going to smite me with, just because I'm nervous."
It was awesome talking with Chris about entrepreneurship, his epic book tour, The World Domination Summit, and the launch of Smalltopia. I love working at home and connecting with my online community. However, it's always fun to connect with people face-to-face. All the positive self talk seemed to help stem my anxiety and I think my chat with Chris went really well. :)
If you have trouble breaking out of your shell, try some of these strategies:
1. Do what you're afraid of.
I constantly look for ways to challenge myself by meeting new people and taking on new projects that I'm afraid of. I've noticed an interesting pattern when I'm scared of starting say, Project X, that project usually turns out to be crazy successful. I'm not sure why this is the case, but it's been true for me. I've also found that when I'm scared of meeting new people, I end up walking away with a new friend.
2. Met new friends by volunteering.
Volunteering is an amazing way to connect with like minded individuals, break out of your shell, and build community at the same time.
3. Connect with friends for coffee, a bike ride, or a picnic in the park.
For my fellow introverts out there, I think it's essential to connect and keep reconnecting with acquaintances, friends, and even family. Don't let yourself get wrapped up in a bubble. Connect with your friends and actively practice using your social skills.
4. Leave your smart phone at home.
Smart phones are handy tools. However, if you're meeting a new person, volunteering, or meeting up with an old friend, leave your phone at home. If you can't leave the your phone at home, put it on "silent."
Phones can be used as a crutch to avoid intense conversations. Checking your smart phone every two minutes is not only rude, but you'll miss out on good conversations and the chance to make a meaningful connection with a fellow human. Be present 100% or not at all.
5. Ask lots of questions about a person's history, opinion, and future goals.
Asking a lot of questions is a great way to get to know other people. And it's an excellent strategy to harness nervous energy. I've found that by asking a lot of questions, I get to know people better and the focus is taken off of me.
What if you run out of questions to ask? Relax. The world isn't going to end. It's natural for conversations to end at some point. And if you've just met a new friend for coffee, you don't have to talk to each other the whole time. You can just hang out, drink coffee, and do some work.