I'm a shy person—here's how I learned to meet people
I’m shy, though not necessarily an introvert. I love spending time with good friends and can be extremely social when I feel comfortable in my environment, or at least surrounded by familiar faces; I have no problem approaching and talking to new people at a party if I have a friend or two in tow. But I have a ton of anxiety at the prospect of attending a social function where I won’t know anyone—even if it’s a function that I could potentially really enjoy. Us shy non-introverts are put in a tricky situation: we like spending time with other people and gain energy from it, but the actual act of getting ourselves out there can seem totally overwhelming.
But over the years, I’ve developed a couple practical tips to help beat this catch-22. Here’s what I learned.
If you can make it, say “yes”
If you get an invite to drinks with coworkers or an e-mail about a networking event, just say yes before you think. You’re more likely to actually go to an event if you have committed and have planned your schedule around it. While you might not end up actually going to every single thing you’ve agreed to, it’s definitely a great start to getting yourself out there more.
Don’t overthink it, just do it
Getting yourself out there can kind of be like working out—you can completely dread doing it or not be in the mood, but you’ll end up feeling really good once it’s done. So that being said, treat it like a workout. Don’t overthink it. Don’t hem and haw about it. Just do it. And much like exercise, you’ll start to find it gets easier with time. Once you’ve gone to a handful of social functions on your own and realized absolutely nothing bad will happen, it stops seeming like such a big deal (and you even might start looking forward to it).
Remember that lots of other people are in the same boat
I can guarantee that for almost every event you go to, there will be other shy people there also forcing themselves to go (and you’ll probably be able to spot them in the crowd and sense their relief when you go and strike up a conversation). It’s human nature to think we’re the only ones in the world who feel a certain way at any given time, but you can be sure a ton of the people there also really had to push themselves to go on their own.
Get out of your own head
Remember, you might be terrified about how awkward you’ll look just going up and introducing yourself to someone, but odds are that other person is not thinking that at all. It’s a party or an even! Nothing will seem more natural in the world to them than two people introducing themselves and having a conversation. And if they are shy, they’ll be relieved that someone did the work for them. When you start to realize that no one else is over-thinking it as much as you are, it takes a lot of the pressure off.
Make a game out of it
Tell yourself that if you go to the event and initiate a conversation with three new people, you get a reward. Maybe you’ll let yourself swing by that awesome new ice cream shop, or stop by your favorite store in the area. This is an easy mental trick to help push you out of your comfort zone—and there’s a good chance you’ll actually end up totally enjoying yourself, spending more time there than you thought you would, and completely forgetting about whatever it was you had promised yourself to get you out of the house in the first place.
Don’t fall into your phone
Cell phones can be the shy person’s best friend but the enemy to meeting new people. It can be so incredibly tempting to give into your shyness and slip into the sweet embrace of texting your friends or compulsively checking Facebook, but force yourself to put the phone away. You’re basically putting up a “Do Not Disturb Sign” on your forehead, which will just make it harder on yourself to actually meet people and get comfortable. Think of your phone as a crutch in these situations that is actually preventing you from growing.
So hopefully some of these tips will help get you more comfortable with the idea of flying solo when you have to. I’ve found them to be super helpful for mentally prepping for a ton of various social functions, and genuinely have found that the more I put myself out there, the easier and easier it has become. So from one shy person to another—go forth, don’t stress, and just try to enjoy yourself!
[Image via The Breakfast Club]