My close friends may disagree with me, but I consider myself to be a bit of a shy person. I tend to be quiet around new people; watching how they interact with others, listening to what they say and how they respond to the people around them, watching their body language – excellent for getting a ‘feel’ for someone new. This trait is great for listening to my gut instinct about new people (which is right 99% of the time), however it doesn’t really go hand in hand with actually becoming friendly with new people.
While I’m hanging back observing, getting my bearings on how to take a new person or situation, it can then be hard to break into the current conversation going on around me. Because I’ve stayed quiet up until that point, for some reason some (bigger personalities, louder and/or opinionated) people seem to think this means I don’t have anything to say at all, or if I do, then it cant be very worthwhile and therefore it’s ok to simply talk over me, or just direct the conversation to those beside me exclusively. Sometimes I just feel awkward and can’t seem to find the right words, or timing, to break into the conversation. Consequently this can lead me to pull back even more, because really, what’s the point when I can’t get a word in edgeways?
So meeting new people can be a little daunting for me. In small groups of two or three it’s ok, but larger groups (and sometimes even one-on-one) can be a bit scary – these situations I really need to push myself out of my comfort zone; make an conscious effort to not just sit there observing, but actually interact and talk to people.
In contrast, once the ice is broken and I have a basic measure of someone’s personality, chatting, socialising, laughing and joking with them comes much easier and naturally. And of course when I’m with people whom I know well and trust, I can talk the leg of an iron pot until the cows come home!
Keeping all of this in mind, I do actually like meeting new people. This is why on my personal List which I mentioned in my first post What do I really want, I added ‘Meet new people’.
For me this meant I had to make a conscious effort to be open to new activities which would bring me into contact with new people (after work drinks with other teams, speed dating, going out for drinks with friends to a new bar, go see a live band), and then follow through, (try to) relax, and actually talk to people instead of holding back – chatting to people who may approach me at said bar instead of freezing them out, openly welcoming new team members at work, getting to know my friends’ new partners, getting to know my new flatmate, actually responding to my various neighbours in the street when they greet me instead of just doing the ‘smile & nod’…
While I think this project will be a continuous work in progress, I have successfully met some new people! Some I’ll never see again after our brief conversations, some may become friendly acquaintances, and some may even become friends down the track – who knows? Now that I’m consciously opening myself up to meeting new people, I’m finding there are many people who actually want to chat to me too – and I’m enjoying it!
I’ve learnt it’s completely ok to have a brief chat and laugh with someone, then move on – those brief conversations at the pub or in bars are (mainly) good natured, innocent, and just add to a fun night out and a laugh (not that I go out all that often!). It’s really nice to let go of some of my reserved habits which I’m very self conscious of and am afraid make me sometimes come of as cold, or aloof, which in reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s pleasing to learn something new through the knowledge of a stranger, to discover things, or be challenged to think a new way; see something in a new light. And it’s equally pleasing to have those same people then genuinely want to know about me – where I work, what do I study, where have I travelled to, how do I feel and think about things, what type of herbs and vegies do I grow and how do I keep them alive when theirs seem to always die…? Its really quite satisfying how much fun you can have when you open your mind up to new people! Each new person I meet renews my confidence in myself a little bit more. I feel uplifted and happy. And I think the more I open-minded I am, the more people seem to be attracted to striking up a conversation with me.
I’ll always be a shy person at heart, but it’s nice to allow some new people in behind my reserved barrier; to see the fun, cheeky side of my personality which I usually reserve only for my nearest and dearest.