People say conversation is a lost art; how often I have wished it were. -Edward R. Murrow
The first official week of my adventures in stepping outside the “comfort zone” has come and gone. As with most things in life, things did not go entirely as planned. In a perfect world, I would have had multiple epic conversations with unique individuals to report, but alas I do not. However, a small victory was achieved. A brief, albeit slightly awkward conversation was started with a receptionist (or rather pseudo receptionist) in my office building. Now starting a conversation with “what’s your name” was probably not my best idea, but a step forward is a step forward. In addition, the conversation did teach me there a few challenges to engaging in conversation I had not considered.
Simply initiating conversation only gets you so far. You can have the best opening line in the world, but if you don’t have a proper follow up things can get real weird, real fast. Fortunately, in the aforementioned situation, I had a very specific goal in mind, so this was less of a problem. However, if you are planning on talking to someone you know nothing about, just because you take the first step of reaching out to them does not mean the conversation will go well. In fact, many times your excellent opening may be followed by a lot of awkward stumbling around before you find that magic topic. In some cases, you may not even get that far. Does this mean we should never engage? No, but it does mean one must always be prepared for the inevitable “Scott Pilgrim Party Fail”.
Conversation can be draining. This not to say conversation is the scourge of the universe and should be avoided at all costs. For some people however, especially the more introverted one’s, talking to someone uses up energy. This is intensified when it is someone unfamiliar, upping the amount of effort required to participate in what would appear to be a simple task. Something made only more difficult when engaging with extroverted counterparts, who, rather than be worn down by socializing are invigorated by it. It is important to keep this is mind when embarking on one’s personal mission of social expansion, lest one hit’s the wall of social engagement burnout.
Cold approaches are incredibly awkward. While I have always known randomly approaching someone was not something I enjoyed, it has become more apparent why that is. Going up to someone out of the blue and trying to have a substantive dialogue is not a natural state for me. Maybe its my introverted nature. Or my tendency to freeze up when put in an uncomfortable situation. Whatever the case may be I find myself out of place when trying to sustain active focus on a person I do not know well. Always looking for someone to show me a door that will lead me out of the Matrix I find myself entangled in. Fortunately, most of the time this feeling passes after a couple of encounters. The trick is getting that far.
In summary,while I did not become a social butterfly overnight, I was able to take a couple of small steps in the right direction. While plenty of new challenges arose, lessons were learned that will (with a little bit of luck and time) enable me to continue stepping further away from the safety net currently holding me back. Or at the very least, enable me to establish what risks are truly worth taking. Tune in next week for another exciting adventure of “Jered’s Grand Risk Experiment.”