In this episode, we’re unpacking LONELINESS. Some observations and thoughts I’ve collected about loneliness over the last few years, some strategies to face loneliness, and ways to feel your feelings with grace and space.
This month is in support of FEEDING AMERICA. Help food banks respond to COVID-19 by donating to Feeding America now. Feeding America and its network of food banks are continuing to provide food to people in need during these times of uncertainty. If you have any means to help, please do! Every bit counts. To get involved or donate, visitfeedingamerica.org.
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Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way.
It can feel like the companionship cards are stacked against us – but we actually have more in our favor than not. We’ve grown into ourselves. We know what we love and what we don’t. And as we get older, we become less into appeasing others and more into honoring ourselves. We can be “friendly acquaintances” or “work buddies” with people in our various social spheres with zero pressure to develop a deep and lasting bond, like when we’re younger and in school or living in dormitories.
But life changes a lot as an adult, and friendships morph. You don’t need to live far away to feel like you have a long-distance friendship. People move across town, across the country, or across the world. They start new jobs, or grow new families, or take up new hobbies that fill up their soul. Work gets tough and obligations pile up.
Building a life for yourself as an adult is a complicated, ever-evolving process. And sometimes, it gets lonely. That doesn’t mean you’re alone, though: lonely’s just love with nowhere to go.
I gave myself a “friend-tervention” about a year ago when I realized that after planning and executing an amazing wedding, taking on a job that took up the majority of my time and energy, and hunting for a new apartment in the city, I’d been a pretty crappy friend for…well, for too long for me to be comfortable with. Plus, hello, I moved across the country almost three years ago! Time zones weren’t helping at all. I was super lonely, and felt disconnected to my nearest and dearest. And so I recommitted to upping my friendship game, to the people who lived far, but who lived close too.
Part of this meant making decisions to recommit to my sense of community in general – in business AND in life. When I joined Aaptiv, I became able to workout with anyone, anywhere. I could cheer up the people I loved when we were far away – and uplift people I didn’t even know yet. I let go of the classes that made me feel stretched thin and like I wasn’t able to give my all. And I increased the frequency of WANTcast episodes I released per month, and increased the amount of solo episodes I recorded so I could talk directly “to” listeners more and have a conversation “one-on-one.”
I ALSO started looking for ways to meet up with local friends that fit for both of us. Scheduling work dates with our laptops, figuring out when our schedules overlapped, grabbing a coffee with them on their lunch break. And I started to devise strategies around showing up, literally or emotionally, for the people I cared about most WITHOUT sacrificing myself in the meantime. Because to show up for your people, you really do need to show up for yourself first.
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way:
1 – Schedule calls into your cal.
My calendar is my lifeline. If something’s in my calendar, you bet it’s gonna happen. If it’s not, good luck to me remembering it. That goes for work, social plans – and sometimes, if the week is really nuts, even phone calls.
Texts to your nearest and dearest are great, but there’s something that can’t be beat about voice-to-voice connection, whether it’s a phone call or Skype sesh. Scheduling out time to “just say hi” or catch up might feel forced or contrived, but if the alternative is that “just saying hi” keeps getting put off…then this might be a strategy that helps you stick to your shared-words.
There are two ways you can do this: Schedule your calls along WITH your friend. If you use a digital calendar, like Google Cal, make a calendar event, and invite your pal so they’ve got it down, too. But if that feels too forced, then just schedule time in your OWN calendar to call someone, anyone, each week. I have three different reminders in my calendar spread throughout the week – when I KNOW I’ll have time to talk – that say Phone Call To Someone I Love. That way, even if I end up leaving a voicemail, I know I’ve taken the first step in connecting.
Of course you can call as many people you want to call, whenever you want to call them. But having it in the calendar is a reminder to take the time to do it, even when life feels overwhelming.
2 – Send them something they want, need, will make their life easier, or will make them smile.
Care packages aren’t just for sick days or sleep-away camp. They’re also for saying I Miss You, Good Luck, or, well, I Care. They can be emotional – like a copy of “Braving The Wilderness,” a book all about finding your place in the world, that I recently Amazon Prime’d to a friend struggling to identify their place in the world – or practical – like the fancy umbrella an anonymous person recently sent my way to help brave this wacky NYC weather (ps….who are you? I love it!).
Yes, this post is sponsored by Small Packages. Because it’s a company I’d champion and celebrate anyway. I LOVE their mission of making connection easier, and I love that they just want women to connect with those they love most. If you’re like me and you’re a bit, uh, over-achiever-y in the gift department, they knock it out of the park: you can select a box that’s themed around a life event like celebrating a birthday or buying a home, or around a sentiment like “I miss you” or “I screwed up.” And unlike some other boxes that might seem sterile or run of the mill, they go for quality over quantity – the products they choose are DOPE (literally have never seen a box this good – check out the picture above!) and they’ll even handwrite a card for your friend, from you to her (with zero character limit for people like me who prefer to write novels over notes).
Last week, I surprised my dear friend Jen with the “Missing You” box because a) The box reminded me of our favorite activities together, and b) Duh, I missed her.
I’m not sure how Jen and I became as close as we are, but the “Us”-ness of us just sort of appeared one day. She was only a few months into living in Los Angeles, and I was just a few months into teaching at Equinox. She arrived in my class and I had an automatic girl crush on the second-row powerhouse who looked like Wonder Woman and joked like Tina Fey. Multiple times a month, we’d meet up at a tiny strip mall in between our apartments for what we called Hooves And Paws: a manicure-pedicure date preceded or proceeded by fancy coffee beverages and the realest of real talks. When I saw the “Missing You” box, including a book of deep-dive conversations, a sleep mask that gave me H+P relaxation vibes, AND some really really good coffee…I knew it was the one.
Jen’s had a pretty wild year-plus, from business highs and lows to a death in the family to almost being on fire, literally. I am so proud of how she’s moved forward fearlessly through it all with grit, grace, and a crapton of humor. She’s got some big things going on right now that I can’t support in-person – so sending her something that reminded me (and her) of spending quality time together made her day, and it made mine too.
(Btw…if you want to send a Small Packages box to a friend, use code WANT at checkout for 10% off your order. Boom. Done.)
3 – Set boundaries, make priorities, and honor them.
Even when I worked in an office 9-6pm, I still was running SOMETHING in addition. Whether it was a freelance writing gig, acting auditions, or eventually WANT, I used to feel really guilt putting my work aside for social time…so guilty, that I almost always did it.
I ended staying up way past the wee-hours, cramming in the work I didn’t get to that evening, or scrambling on Monday when I didn’t use a little of my weekend to prep and get centered. I was way too exhausted and spread way too thin. I was so afraid of saying NO – for my work, for my health, for my sanity – that I started to realize my yesses didn’t mean much. Because I was always sacrificing something. I was exhausted, and wasn’t fully present. I wasn’t placing value on my time, or my friend’s time. Nothing was the priority. And that wasn’t fair to anyone. My friends deserved to really GET ME when they got me.
I now know how to say NO, and it’s saved me AND my friendships. I no longer dance around my priorities, and no longer feel guilty if I turn down an invite. The flip of that? When I say YES, I am ALL. IN. No work, no half-of-me….all of me, right here, right now. My friends respect my work, my health, and my sanity – and I respect theirs. I’ve even had friends tell me that because I’ve said I need to take a mental health day to myself, they feel comfortable saying that to other people now, too.
4 – Meet them where they’re at.
I saved my favorite for last. So often we expect each other to be exactly the same person we were when we first met. But as our lives change, WE change too.
Jacki Carr put it so succinctly in Episode 063: it’s important to reintroduce yourself to your friends as you grow and evolve – and get to know them in their evolution, too. Your friend who is a new mom probably is going to have some new priorities in her life now, and your friend who moved across the country is probably learning things about themselves they would’ve never predicted five years ago. Your friend might be in a period of self-discovery, or in a period of career expansion, or they might just be a different person now than when you first met them. And every single one of those scenarios is something to be celebrated and get curious about. What’s incredible is that when you commit to meeting your friends, whether near or far, where they’re at – you sidestep feelings like jealousy, resentment, and __. You get to stay curious, stay surprised, and keep “friend-dating” them even after you’ve reached soul-mate status. Meet your friends where they’re at in life – and they’ll meet you where you’re at, too.
WANT Yourself: How do you stay close to friends when life gets in the way? What are some ways you keep your relationships strong, even when distance or circumstances might not be on your side?
Leave a comment below telling us – you might be helping out a friend in need who’s reading.
This post is sponsored by Small Packages, next-level care packages for the people you love the most.
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My first big meltdown when I moved to New York City two years ago wasn’t upon touchdown or our first night in an empty apartment. It wasn’t because someone was rude to me, or I lost my way, or I missed a subway stop or four.
Nope. It was in the gym locker room.
I remember that first week so clearly: the champagne buzz I felt from the newness, the novelty of being able to get anything.you.want.at.all. delivered to your apartment instead of having to lug it home in bags that cut off circulation in your fingertips. The way you could be walking, skipping, singing, sobbing down the street and people accepted you like whatever you were doing was a part of the flow. The waking up early just because we were so excited to experience the morning. I remember so clearly. It was love at first footstep.
And then I lost it. I mean, I knew it was coming at some point – I definitely cried my second night, mostly out of sheer exhaustion – but I didn’t expect that my anticipated feelings of shock, overwhelm, and longing would show their sad faces in the women’s locker room on Greenwich Avenue after I made a corny joke to a stranger thrice my age and she genuinely giggled back.
My gym had been my safe haven in LA, and LA had been my safe haven in my life. Having grown up visiting the City That Never Sleeps on a regular basis but living in the City That Sleeps In Then Goes On A Hike my entire life, I was very familiar with New York but not enveloped in her. It wasn’t just my immediate neighborhood that I felt protected by in LA; it was EVERYTHING. The street signs, the off-ramps. The familiar faces and the predictable reactions. The sunrises, the sunsets, and the days the ocean-fog took over the whole sky so you couldn’t tell when one finished and one began. I knew LA from birth. She WAS me.
I tried my best to recognize this when I lived there, but just like so many things, there is always some little important bit of a-ha that happens when you no longer have that thing you loved. For me, that a-ha came in a locker room when I realized how alone and unfamiliar I felt within my surroundings. How, while I valued anonymity, I also valued (and took for granted) my ability to CHOOSE it.
Humans are pack animals; we’re tribal. We’re not meant to wander the hills alone until we find a mate and then go back off again to raise and let go of our kin. Our brains are hard-wired for connection, and even the most introverted of us need to feel a sense of togetherness to truly thrive. It’s been proven by sciency people who are book-smarter than I am: loneliness leads to depression and is a huge indicator of how long you will live.
I’ve been watching and reading a lot of Brené Brown lately (you should be, too!), especially the interviews and articles surrounding her newest book, Braving The Wilderness. The book is all about belonging, and (no, this isn’t a spoiler) how “fitting in” is actually the exact OPPOSITE of belonging.
When I moved here, I wasn’t looking to fit in – I wasn’t interested in molding myself to fit the shape of someone or something else – but I was struck by how shaken my sense of belonging had become. And moreover, how much I tied my sense of belonging to other people RECEIVING me.
That’s why the older woman laughing at my lame-o offhand comment got me so choked up. That’s why I started to panic as I became new eyes on centuries-old surroundings. I felt unfamiliar. I felt routine-less. And the smallest things like seeing the same parking lot attendant I only thank-you’d and have-a-nice-day’d and gym members I never even spoke to and just silently awkward-nodded to while we grabbed adjacent dumbbells were things I didn’t expect to crave. I thought I was autonomous in LA and above all that neediness, but boy did I have myself fooled. I was dependent on other people to validate my experience.
The last couple years have brought more change to me than I thought possible: two apartments, two neighborhoods, a new job, multiple events, brand new soul-friends, marriage. And as I contemplate where I go from here, as I head closer and closer toward my thirty-second year, which I have ALWAYS felt in my gut holds something major for me (micro- or macro- major, who knows at this point), I think about how my sense of belonging has changed too – or maybe how it hasn’t. I am on the precipice of something big, but for the first time in a while I’m hesitant to take a much-needed step to fall and build my wings on the way down.
Brené says that we belong everywhere when we belong to ourselves. So if I belong everywhere, then why is it that I’m so tied to THIS sense of place? Maybe it’s for the same reason people stay in relationships that are fine but not GREAT, or stay in jobs that earn enough to live but don’t add enough to LIFE. Because I “know” this sense of belonging is secure IF I just do all the right things, and check off all the to-do boxes, and it’s a very external and define-able belonging. Predictability and ease. Mother-effers.
When I moved here, I felt placeless. I remember telling my friend Sarra that I felt freaked out by the amount of places I could go where I knew no one and no thing (Soak it in while you can, she said). I belonged to no one and no thing. I was trying to see where I fit, and tried on a lot for size. I don’t think I really knew how to belong to myself yet. That’s the cool thing about New York, though: it FORCES your identity out of you. The people who try to fight the force are the ones who have it hardest in life, but especially life in this city. But once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity – which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it – everything is magic.
I don’t think everyone is able to belong – or rather, find a sense of belonging – in NYC. You’ve got to be a little wild, a little crazy, and very comfortable getting uncomfortable, to even catch the first glimmers of it. That process and this city will kick your ass before you realize that your recovery is a part of your becoming. It will spook you, but your challenge is to never let it SCARE you. You’ve got to be next-level brave to become and belong – everywhere, but especially in this city that could care less whether you walk around anonymously and disconnected or full and enmeshed.
And now, I’ve found my way, and I’ve found my spaces. I have a “place.” Of course, I know that’s just a feeling and an illusion. And I wonder: is my newfound sense of place, coupled with my acute memory of what it’s like to NOT have one, keeping me in a new loop that doesn’t serve me? I think so; maybe. I’ve been here before, so I can recognize when I am here again.
The great thing, though, is that I know that I am my own and no one else’s, and that an external sense of place is fab but an internal one is fabber. If I know I’ll be okay no matter what, and I know I will be mine no matter what, then maybe, just maybe, I can start to take those steps that lead me to places I don’t know yet.
Two years ago I woke up for the first time as an NYC resident. I know it’s only been two years but I honestly can’t imagine waking up anywhere else.
Brené Brown says that true belonging only comes when you belong to yourself and yourself only, everywhere and nowhere.
Living here, I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong.
“I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.” ― Ed Koch
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MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).
Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.
And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.
As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.
I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.
This, I told myself, was not normal.
And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.
And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.
It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.
Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.
How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…
Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.
It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.
Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.
You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.
Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.
And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.
We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.
Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.
WANT Yourself: Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.
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Possibly the longest episode title ever – and it doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Taking a wee pause from The Recovery Myth miniseries right now to do some Thinking Out Loud. This episode, something new for me, has no script, outline, or even single subject matter. It’s a mishmosh of some of the biggest things on my brain and the deepest dives I’ve been doing lately.
Inspired by THIS Instagram post, I realized that sometimes the best coversations are long, rambling, multifaceted, and hit everyone in different ways.
In this episode we get down ‘n dirty about:
-Wedding planning and how what people say it’s like is actually NOT the case for me
-Figuring out your limitations so you don’t crash and burn
-A Cheryl Strayed Q+A that changed the way I view the way I work
-My theory about the social media landscape shift
-Some real talk on the real wellness industry
-Tiny tweaks, tricks, and tips to create structure and reclaim your day
Like this episode? Leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!
Faking it is the worst. No, matter whether you’re feigning confidence in an interview or fighting off your impulse to hide from adult responsibilities or in the passionate midst of a NSFW sitch, “faking it” feels uncomfortable, guilt-riddled, and, well, fake.
Multiply this by a bajillion if you’re an introvert – and a bajillion more if you’ve just said yes to yet another social invite on the cal.
As an introvert, going to an event or getting yourself into a social situation “just because” is usually a set up for disaster, guilt, and low self-confidence.
So how do you avoid a meltdown…without avoiding a social life at the same time?
On one hand, you’re an introvert through and through…along with about half the population. You gain energy from within yourself instead of from interaction with others in the outside world. You need time to make decisions and mentally rehearse what you want to say, instead of making decisions quickly and thinking out loud.
Most importantly? You have a private self that is only revealed to your inner circle, the people you trust – which can make it hard to want to be social when you don’t know many people.
The people who don’t understand might peg you as aloof or shy.However, you know that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments – your thoughts and ideas, the way you react to a piece of music or a string of words, that is stimulating enough. You do your best work in your head, with deep reflection. You are truly your own best friend.
On the other hand, just because you’re a bona-fide introvert doesn’t mean you want to shun socializing. And you know, introvert, that being your personality type doesn’t mean you’re necessarily quiet or shy.
As an introvert, you truly enjoy being around others and benefit most from deep connections. Small talk doesn’t really interest you, and the quantity of connections aren’t so much as important to you as the quality. You get high off of those instances that just seem to click – and even though you are at your best when given time alone, sometimes you feel your trait is shutting you off from a whole world that awaits.
We live in a culture that pays the most attention to extroversion: one that tells us that the signs of a thriving personal life are having a large social circle, bustling days filled with activity, and jam-packed nights filled with soirees.
In reality, we actually live in a culture that is FILLED with scenarios made for introverts, from one-on-one interactions to solo commutes to independent choices.
Pop culture caters to extroverts, so you may believe you’re the odd (wo)man out. But introverts are the ones who instinctively know how to navigate the deepest of waters in any social scenario. You’ll gain the most value from your social activities if you not only recognize your strengths, but find a purpose behind why you’re going. Because you, dear Introvert, have so much to add to the world, and every social situation can benefit from your insight and worldview. Introverts instinctively know how to navigate the deepest of waters in any social scenario. Click To Tweet
Here are 7 ways to stay social while still being true to who you are at your core – no faking required:
1.) Enjoy the silence. As an introvert, bustling parties and crowded rooms can be overwhelming – making you shy away from those situations altogether. There will be times, though, you cannot avoid being in the middle of the action or simply don’t want to opt out of every invitation.
Intersperse moments of silence throughout your day, and bookend the event with silence as well. Knowing that you’ll be able to decompress in peace is vital and prevents panic from setting in when you feel like you can’t get away from the literal and metaphorical noise.
2.) Redefine “networking” as “friend-netting.” Don’t worry – I shudder at the thought of “networking,” too. And when you’ve got work functions to attend or mixers you’ve said yes to, it’s easy to feel like a fish out of water.
Instead of focusing on the quantity of people you meet or conversations you have, relish in those one or two meaningful conversations or connections. Instead of networking, find the one or two people that you can devote your focus and attention to. My fiance calls this “friend-netting.” The chances are very slim you’re the only introvert at the party – even if it feels like it at times. Use your killer instinct to find your fellow introverts and maybe even bond over your shared trait.
3.) Ask active questions. One of your strengths is what a wonderful listener you are – and most people love to talk about themselves (not a bad thing – we all love to talk about things we feel we have expertise in, and who is a better expert of ourselves than…ourselves?). Avoid small talk by asking open-ended questions to people you meet, listening carefully, offering up a little piece of information about yourself to form a connection, then ask another question based off the last answer.
For example, instead of asking where someone is from or if they’re been to this person’s party before or if they like the weather or whatever (all of which usually only involve a single word answer), ask how long they’ve lived in your town, how they first met the host, or what they usually do for or love about whatever season you’re in.
4.) Know your yesses – and your nos. What are the qualities you enjoy in an event? What are the things that drain you? Maybe you become anxious and tired at night, but enjoy daytime or afternoon events. Maybe you’re a night owl but any social scenario that takes place before noon makes you cranky. Maybe you don’t bat an eye at parties hosted at someone’s home, but clubs and bars give you goosebumps in a bad way. Know your preferred times of day, locations, days of the week, and other details so that you can make an informed decision about whether to attend or not. If the nos outweigh the yesses by more than two thirds (or even one half), opt out and pat yourself on the back for knowing yourself so well.
5.) Go with a like-minded friend. As an introvert, it’s in your nature to shy away when you sense a highly extroverted personality taking the spotlight. What’s frustrating is not the person herself, it’s that you end up feeling like you’ve put your own personality on hold in order to accommodate someone else – which is usually never an extrovert’s intention to begin with.
Going with a like-minded friend not only evens out the playing field when you’re in group conversations, it ensures you’ll have at least one person to bond with in merriment. Hey, you can even go with a trusted extrovert who gets you and can help take the pressure off being “on.”
6.) Do the coordination yourself. Whether it’s offering up the location of your lunch spot or diving deep and hosting your own soiree, taking charge of the coordination is a secret tool of introverts. If you’re coordinating, it not only gives you a say in choosing an environment/guest list that suits your comfort level (say, a unique hole-in-the-wall coffee shop instead of a loud trendy restaurant). It gives you a sense of purpose…which is key for an introvert’s social fulfillment.
7.) Cut yourself some slack. As author Elaine Aron says in her book The Highly Sensitive Person (someone who is extremely easily affected by their surroundings and emotions – another personality type you very well might possess as an introvert. I do!), everyone is a bit awkward at their non-specialty.
If you find yourself in the middle of small talk or a conversation you’re flubbing up…if you’re slowly gravitating toward the corner and hugging the punch table…ease up on your self-judgement. Your speciality isn’t small talk or big groups, it’s deep conversations and making a small group or one-on-one interaction feel like it’s the biggest, most important interaction there is. And that’s a gift you should never overlook.
Worst case scenario? You get to people watch. And every introvert knows that is a goldmine.