How I Became A Socially Awkward Teenager (And You Probably Did Too)
Featuring and Written By Guest Blogger, Camille Virginia
It was the most dreaded time of the day: lunch time.
That meant walking into a huge room full of hundreds of people, all of them judging me, and hoping there was still a spot left at a table so I wouldn’t look like a loser. I really hated middle school.
Since then, life has thrown curve balls a lot bigger than worrying what a bunch of 13-year olds thought about me. But at the time, facing that midday meal every day was almost enough to make me lose my appetite.
So how did I go from being afraid of the lunch room to becoming an offline dating coach who helps women meet men in the real world?
It's all in the baby steps - taking a conscious effort to push past your comfort zone in small ways at every opportunity. Because social skills are actually a muscle, the more you work them, the more toned they'll get - and the more attractive you'll be to other people.
Looking back on the journey of breaking out of my painfully introverted shell, I saw three distinct stages of conversation skills that I unknowingly mastered along the way, each building on the one before. And it all started with the lunch lady.
The art of small talk
The first stage came during that middle school lunch room - and tennis practice, and algebra class… Basically, every time I had to walk into a new environment by myself, I'd feel some level of anxiety.
Until I spotted a friend on the field, or the teacher finally began talking, I'd usually sit by myself feeling a pressure to join the random conversations of classmates happening all around me. But I didn’t know how to do it without being totally awkward.
So, I started practicing on people who were "safe": my tennis coach, teachers, the woman at the lunch room checkout counter. Growing up with older parents, I was more comfortable around adults than kids my own age anyway, so this was the perfect way to begin putting myself out there in a not so scary way.
I'd hang around my tennis coach before practice and chat with him about school projects. My math teacher always made it a point to ask me how tennis was going. The lunch lady and I started a running joke with each other one day after I accidentally tried to pay with Canadian money instead of US.
The results of these random interactions were small, but meaningful. Once I started building rapport and confidence with adults, I realized it was easier than I'd thought to chat people up about everyday topics. And, it was actually kind of fun.
If small talk with random strangers feels uncomfortable for you, start challenging that mindset by creating short conversations with the people who are "safe": the bartender, the doorman, the grocery bagger. Anyone you encounter in a service industry who's on the job.
Ask how your waiter's day is going and look him in the eye so he can tell you'd really like to know. Tell your pharmacist how excited you are about your camping trip to Wisconsin this weekend. Make it a point to say hi to every taxi driver as soon as you open the door, then flash a huge smile.
Every one of those people are being paid to provide you with a service and to interact with you. And when you talk to each of them like a fellow human being, as opposed to someone who exists only to serve others, you might just make their day.
The art of making friends
After conquering my conversation anxiety with adults, the next phase was mastering the art of making friends my own age. This played out in a big way when I went off to college in California.
At first, I clung to the most convenient group of people: my roommate and her friends. But being the only introvert in the group became exhausting. I knew I needed to find friends more like me who preferred in-depth conversations over hanging out in huge groups at basketball games.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post, coming in the next few days...
"How I Went From Socially Awkward Teenager to Professional Dating Coach"
Camille Virginia is an OFFline Dating Coach, giving single women who are burned out with online dating, tips to find their match in the real world! Get your FREE copy of "Four Ways to Get Him to Approach You" at www.MasterOfflineDating.com/RM
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