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Old 02-19-2013, 02:34 PM   #1
MissMichigan
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Becoming More Social?

Just looking for general advice, "this is what I did" type of stuff.

I'm not a very social person. I really, truly want to be but it's very hard for me. I can text or write for days, but when it comes to actually talking to someone, I just can't do it. It's almost a panic type thing. I'm so worried i'll say something stupid or that people won't like me once I really open up and show them who I really am. Until recently, I've just accepted it as part of who I am and dealt with it. I'd accepted that I would always be the quiet girl in the corner watching everyone talk and have fun, not participating.

But then last week, my DB told me it needs to stop. Apparently, people are always asking him what's wrong with me, why don't I talk, why don't I like them, etc. It embarrasses him, and he's getting fed up. He's told me if I can't learn to talk to people and be more social, he's going to have to end things. I am very much in love with him, and having this conversation was a wake up call for me. I know this part of me needs to change, and now I have extreme motivation to make it. (And before anyone starts bashing him or saying I should just leave him if he can't accept me, etc, I WANT this to change, I HATE this about myself. This isn't just being shy or quiet, it's major. He knows I'll be happier if I can work through this, and he wants that happiness for both of us. He said he hated to tell me it was that big of a problem, because he loves me so much, and think i'm "the most awesome person he's ever known, and just wants everyone else to know that too")

SO...what do I do? How can I overcome 20+ years of being painfully shy and cripplingly anti-social? How do I get over the fear of interacting with people? How do I stop caring what other people think of me enough to be myself no matter what? I've been trying to take baby steps the last few days, things like talking to a cashier, being more involved when we went to his friends house (who said he noticed me being more social and was impressed), and making a plan to hang out with two of our friends on my own. I know this won't happen overnight, but I'm just hoping someone on here can tell me they've been there, and were able to get over it. Any advice, help, pointers, or direction to a good blog/article/book, would be greatly appreciated. TIA.
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Old 02-19-2013, 02:39 PM   #2
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Old 02-19-2013, 02:43 PM   #3
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Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with you. But if you think you would enjoy being more social, I suggest starting with situations where you already have the "advantage". - Talk to someone who is even newer at a particular place than you are. Talk to small children, who aren't apt to judge a grown-up. Talk to, and listen to, elderly people, who are probably looking for companionship. Practicing in these kind of safe situations should give you more confidence. Best of luck!
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Old 02-19-2013, 02:47 PM   #4
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First of all:

I really, really sympathize. I've been this way all my life too. My husband has always been my best friend, before that boyfriends. Socializing is hard, probably because we have a real autism spectrum streak in my family.

There was a time in my 20s/30s where I had to be very social. I taught social partner dancing to couples, large groups. We even started a social dance club, and I had to be friendly to everyone. A few things I found helpful will sound a bit strange to people that are naturally outgoing.

First, I'd usually have a glass or wine or two before we went out. Then, I would just pretend to be someone else. I knew a woman that just exuded warmth and friendliness, and drew people like crazy. So, I pretended I was her. Yes, it's called "acting". I still said lots of inappropriate things pretty sure, but I did ok.

It will probably never come naturally to you, but some of the behaviors can become more habitual. Remembering people's names is a good start, and remember that people like to talk about themselves. You just have to get them going.

My DD is quite a bit like me, and her boyfriend is just about nonverbal with people he doesn't know, including us. So in that relationship, she's the outgoing one! Good practice, I think.
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Old 02-19-2013, 02:48 PM   #5
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Is there something you are passionate about, know a lot about, or want to learn? It is easier to talk to someone when you have something in common to talk about as an ice breaker. Maybe try a class for something you want to learn about. Sewing as an example. You could sit next to someone in class and ask them if they have ever taken a class before, do they already know the basics, how did they find out about the class, icebreakers like that. If it goes no where, oh well. It is embarrassing, but it is good practice.

Once you have some practice, try talking to DBf's friends. Most likely DBf has told them you are shy and the good ones will make an effort to make it less awkward for you. They will notice you are trying.

I'm painfully shy too and am comfortable being the wallflower. It took time and some awkward moments, but I've learned to be social. The awkward moments don't kill you, they teach you something. You can do it!
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissMichigan View Post
I'm so worried i'll say something stupid or that people won't like me once I really open up and show them who I really am.

Apparently, people are always asking him what's wrong with me, why don't I talk, why don't I like them, etc.

My dd15 is also quite shy. The two contradictory quotes above combine to make a point that I've been trying to tell her for years. It's funny, but the fact is that when you are shy, you often come across to others as aloof, cold, uncaring, and definately not interested in them or wanting to have anything to do with them.

Try framing it this way: If you speak up, you MAY say something stupid (people are very forgiving however) and people MAY not like you. If you don't speak up, you're pretty much guaranteed that people will not like you. Which is worse?
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:06 PM   #7
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Funny but I've gotten to where I don't really want to talk on the phone since I've started texting. Now its like, I don't really care to talk by phone. It might change if I had a GF I was really into or something. Close guy friends I may call to chat about a specific topic, but I'm never on the phone very long these days at all.
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:16 PM   #8
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I suggest checking your area for a Toastmasters group. They work with people to help them with speaking, generally more focused on public speaking, but if they can help you get comfortable enough with that arena, the skills and confidence you pick up will translate.

Your DB is probably a keeper. You yourself admit that you find this a problem in your life, not just in regards to your relationship with him. It's awesome that he told you directly what he needs to remain in the relationship, rather than wait until you marry and have a child or two and the marriage falls apart because he just can't take the fallout anymore. Work on this with all you've got, it's not going to get easier as you get older.

Good luck to you.
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:46 PM   #9
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OP, I don't have any tips on being more social and talking more other than not worrying what others think.

Your DBF enjoys talking to you, I'm sure, so why wouldn't his friends enjoy it too? Try not to care what others think, I'm sure they say plenty of dumb things and no one thinks anything of it. We tend to be a lot more strict with ourselves than we are with others.

I understand how you feel though, I also don't talk much unless it's someone I'm either very close to OR have a lot in common with. But, when I'm with DBF and his friends, I do listen to their conversations, make eye contact, smile and try to say something when I have something to add to the conversation. They do sometimes joke that I don't talk, or that I'm "talking too much", but I just smile politely.

Maybe try smiling and paying more attention for starters (if you don't already do that). I know quite a few people who don't say much at all, and are even quieter than me (and even more shy) but since they smile and listen, they give the impression that they are nice people.

I think it's more important to be pleasant and be nice when someone talks to you, smile, that sort of thing, than it is to talk a lot.
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cabanafrau View Post
I suggest checking your area for a Toastmasters group. They work with people to help them with speaking, generally more focused on public speaking, but if they can help you get comfortable enough with that arena, the skills and confidence you pick up will translate.

Your DB is probably a keeper. You yourself admit that you find this a problem in your life, not just in regards to your relationship with him. It's awesome that he told you directly what he needs to remain in the relationship, rather than wait until you marry and have a child or two and the marriage falls apart because he just can't take the fallout anymore. Work on this with all you've got, it's not going to get easier as you get older.

Good luck to you.
Toastmaster is a great suggestion. One of my friends told me about going once and said she learned a lot that has been beneficial for years.

You could consider therapy or group therapy to help overcome the fear of speaking.

I tend to be on the quiet side until I get to know people but every once in a while I feel like I need to break out of it a bit and practice talking to people. So I'll force myself to make small talk with people. I'll make a point of keeping up with current events (nothing personal like politics) but sports, popular TV shows, even the weather. Offering a compliment to someone is a great ice breaker - it can lead to a short conversation about where they got that item. Just little bits here and there. It gets easier.

Good luck!
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Old 02-19-2013, 04:10 PM   #11
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Don't worry too much about it and just slowly try to have random conversations with cashiers or a sales person. Have you considered getting a retail job? Even just a few hours a week to kinda force yourself into a social environment. If you like clothing, work at a department store. If you like pets, try a Petco.
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissMichigan View Post
Just looking for general advice, "this is what I did" type of stuff.

I'm not a very social person. I really, truly want to be but it's very hard for me. I can text or write for days, but when it comes to actually talking to someone, I just can't do it. It's almost a panic type thing. I'm so worried i'll say something stupid or that people won't like me once I really open up and show them who I really am. Until recently, I've just accepted it as part of who I am and dealt with it. I'd accepted that I would always be the quiet girl in the corner watching everyone talk and have fun, not participating.

But then last week, my DB told me it needs to stop. Apparently, people are always asking him what's wrong with me, why don't I talk, why don't I like them, etc. It embarrasses him, and he's getting fed up. He's told me if I can't learn to talk to people and be more social, he's going to have to end things. I am very much in love with him, and having this conversation was a wake up call for me. I know this part of me needs to change, and now I have extreme motivation to make it. (And before anyone starts bashing him or saying I should just leave him if he can't accept me, etc, I WANT this to change, I HATE this about myself. This isn't just being shy or quiet, it's major. He knows I'll be happier if I can work through this, and he wants that happiness for both of us. He said he hated to tell me it was that big of a problem, because he loves me so much, and think i'm "the most awesome person he's ever known, and just wants everyone else to know that too")

SO...what do I do? How can I overcome 20+ years of being painfully shy and cripplingly anti-social? How do I get over the fear of interacting with people? How do I stop caring what other people think of me enough to be myself no matter what? I've been trying to take baby steps the last few days, things like talking to a cashier, being more involved when we went to his friends house (who said he noticed me being more social and was impressed), and making a plan to hang out with two of our friends on my own. I know this won't happen overnight, but I'm just hoping someone on here can tell me they've been there, and were able to get over it. Any advice, help, pointers, or direction to a good blog/article/book, would be greatly appreciated. TIA.
I used to be quite the wallflower in school, so I know where you're coming from, at least a little. Never wanted to speak up because I figured I'd say something and then get teased about it for the rest of the year. (This never happened, by the way ... people wrote in my yearbook that they thought I was funny ... who knew?)

Anyway, I ended up volunteering for the school's theatre. I was an usher and sold concessions. I met someone there who was volunteering for the local Shakespeare Theater too, so I went there one night and ended up becoming a volunteer. I met a lot of people -- other volunteers, actors, patrons, techs, etc -- and it got easier and easier to introduce myself and talk to people. I also watched some of the actors and board members when they'd "schmooze" during intermission and after shows. Watching how they approached people and how they dealt with strangers was a huge help.

It doesn't have to be a theater, but just find something you enjoy and volunteer. You'll meet like-minded people who will ask you questions and want to engage you in conversation. And none of them will have any pre-conception or know you're shy or anything. It's like starting with a clean slate.

Then, once you're comfortable with those people, it'll be that much easier for you to talk to other people.

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Old 02-19-2013, 05:23 PM   #13
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I was also going to suggest toastmasters. I haven't been involved, but have heard good things over the years.

I think you are well on your way and sound like you are doing the right things! I think this is a wonderful goal to set for yourself.

Really any group where discussion is involved would be good - Bible study, book group, etc.

My DH is naturally introverted, but really does quite well socializing in groups. It was a surprise to me when I discovered that he often makes plans before he goes. (I found his notes!) He thinks about things he can ask people, topics of conversation he can raise, etc. based on what he knows about them. Consequently, everyone loves him! I have people tell me all the time how much they enjoyed talking to him. He tends to find one person to have a conversation with rather than joining a group conversation - exactly the opposite of what I do.

The thing that may surprise you is that many of us extroverted people are kind of "shy" too. I can be life of the party in groups of people I know, but have difficulty mingling with strangers at a party. I also sing publicly, but get terrible stage fright that only people who know me well are aware of.
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:48 PM   #14
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I am very much the same way. Meeting new people, making small talk, etc. is very stressful for me, very emotionally/mentally taxing, and not something I enjoy at all. I'm happier as an observer, the one in the corner enjoying people watching or chatting with DH or a close friend. To be honest, it isn't something that bothers me about myself but it does bother me that people think I'm cold/disinterested/snobbish because I'm so quiet and I know I'm not doing DH or my kids any favors by coming off that way. We live in a small town where people are generally very friendly/chatty and I stick out. So I do try to push myself out of my comfortable habits to some degree, and I've had to get used to it since my girls started private school because they expect pretty extensive parental involvement and volunteerism.

I still haven't quite conquered the "being myself" bit. I act. I smile and pretend I'm good at making polite chit-chat. Bit by bit it does get easier to talk to people, but I still feel like I'm very guarded and constantly worried about saying the wrong thing. That's partly situational, because I don't "fit" in the social situations my life puts me in right now (through school and in our small town in general), and partly because I'm just not that comfortable opening up even in small ways. I don't think I'll ever really be social but I've gotten much better at going along and not standing out quite so much, and that's really all I was aiming for.
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:58 PM   #15
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I used to be very non-social and would cower in a corner back in High School. A teacher once told me that I was being selfish, that I was keeping myself to to myself and not sharing. Although now I don't totally agree with her, I can say it is a lot more fun to be outgoing and I can tell you this: IT GETS EASIER.

I had to break out of my shell and now I am the most outgoing person I know. My mother tells people I can make friends in an empty room. How is that for a compliment?

Start slowly. I wouldn't start with a cashier, because you're going to think, what if I see her again? Start with strangers, people you will never see again.

Example: at a coffee shop or donut shop just say hello to the person in front or behind you in line. Say something like, "oh, I haven't had the (insert donut they have in their hand here), do you find them too sweet? I can't decide." When they say, that is their favorite, thank them. And that is it, order your donut and move on. Just being able to talk to a stranger WILL make you better at conversation and will get you more social.

Try to talk to three strangers a day and see how it goes. Then move on to people you might see again, like the cashiers and ticket-takers, or anyone you might run into daily.

Start slow.

Then, when you are at the next social event with your darling boyfriend, you will feel awkward and shy, but less so, I promise you. Talk to the one or two people you know. Say, hey, I tried this donut the other day, it was FAR too sweet but I loved it, have you had the new cruellers at Don's Donuts? Ask questions so that others talk to you, that is the trick.
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