I date pretty frequently these days. A friend of mine once remarked on the difference between myself and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend barely went out on any dates at all, you see; he was a serious relationship guy. Where as I have been on, well, a lot of dates. A lot of those first ones… but I digress.
It got me to thinking: It wasn't always that way, I used to be very shy, painfully so, actually. What got me to change and how did I get to where I'm at now? It's something I've been thinking a lot about because I made a conscious effort that I was going to go out and meet people, I changed how I did things.
Part of the Problem
I think the issue back then was that I just had a fear of talking to people. I really did. I only kept to my nearest friends and opened up to them and family. I didn't realize how pervasive this problem was until I got my first job doing customer service. One of my friends at the time was making fun of me when he heard the news about the job. He would say, “Dude. You don't even like people, how are you going to deal with strangers every day?” At the time I was annoyed by his observation, but I knew he was right. I was completely paralyzed the first time a customer came up! I literally had to be nudged by my trainer to initiate conversation. There was a problem.
It took me a while to work on those irrational fears that I had, but the more I was around random strangers and observed how they interacted I was able to become more comfortable with my surroundings, and most importantly myself.
This plays into dating of course. I didn't actually have a real date with someone until I was 19. It was very awkward and I said very little. The date didn't go all too well, I would offer that going to a movie was heaven sent because I didn't have to say anything for a long while, which is good if you're shy.
Cracking the Shell
I began to become more comfortable with others when I convinced myself that there was nothing to fear by talking to a random person, a stranger. My advice is: don't let that voice get in your way; that imagination or perception that begins churning out negative thoughts. I had to tell myself that I was being irrational and ridiculous and to plainly stop that thought pattern. The more I did this the easier socializing with other people became, this was particularly true with females as I developed my fledgling flirting skills.
It's a process that takes time, but if you work at it, you can break out of your shell. Another thing that work did for me was to teach me to say “hello” to everyone, something still tend to do. I may not say “hello” to everyone, but if you make eye contact with me I'll say hello or acknowledge your glance. This helps a lot, I feel. When you smile and acknowledge people or say hello it is a sign of being social, friendly and open. You can also focus on looking people in the eye; instead of their shoes, but don't stare and then allow your attention to wander elsewhere or to someone else. These are qualities that draw others in.
Once you're okay with saying “Hello” and making greeting gestures to strangers then you're ready for the next step: Starting simple conversations with people. You know what I did? I started off with people that were working. Such as waiters or waitresses or cashiers; people paid to be attentive and kind to you. Make a positive remark about someone's attire, such as a person's tie. You could say, “Oh, I like your tie, where'd you buy it.” Or ask someone what they're reading or what music they're listening to and what they think about it; what would they recommend.
Spread Those Wings, Fool!
Once you feel you're comfortable with the small talk game with working folk, take your small talk game to random strangers. It could be at a book store, the grocery store or any place, really. Just ask a question or offer a greeting.
I think once a person has become confident and comfortable talking to random strangers and the intent is to find their significant other; it's time to get out and meet people.
That said; here are a few spots to go and meet people:
– The grocery store. Yes, it's cliché, but also unassuming. It's so easy to talk food with people. You can simply comment on a particular choice a person's made. One time this girl asked me about “soyrizo” and if it was any good. We had a nice conversation actually.
– Take up an activity. I enrolled in a running group to that trained for 5 and 10Ks. It was a great work out and a great way to meet new people. A couple of girls in the class were pretty nice to talk to and I ended up going out on a few dates with one of them.
– Signup for a class: This can be fun as you are likely to meet similarly minded people in a class. I went to a salsa class with my friend, Marissa, once. It was so much fun and, again, a great way to meet people. I didn't find anyone that I dated that night, but I did get to meet a few women that were pretty cool. And that's what it's about, meeting new people.
– Attend a Yelp event: These are also fun. The great thing about it is that you can just stroll into one of these events by yourself and meet a lot of like minded people and have a great time. Just go to the yelp website and search up events in your area. You'll be surprised at how much there is going on. It also helps if you signup and go for elite status. You get freebies that way.