I was the first one to arrive at the meetup. I took a breath of relief as I sat in one of the empty seats. I took out my phone and entertained myself by browsing Facebook and Instagram. After 5 minutes of being alone, another woman arrived and took a seat. We exchanged greetings and I went back to my social media browsing.
I wanted to talk to her but I felt awkward and uncomfortable.
On Facebook and Instagram, I have rich conversations about religion, politics, and social issues with complete strangers but I was having a difficult time conversing with one in person. I made the choice to attend the meetup so I could interact with new people and potentially gain meaningful relationships. My actions at the time didn’t correspond with my mission.
As I sat in my seat, I began to think of the conversation that my boyfriend had with one of his coworkers. One day as they were conversing, she candidly told him, “You young people are so smart yet so dumb.” When he told me this, I was intrigued by her statement. I wanted to know why she said it. He told me that they were discussing her rise to community leadership. She told him, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Being a baby boomer, Ms. Johnson didn’t have the resources that we millennials have today. She used the art of conversation as the foundation for the network that she has now. She was determined to make a better life for herself and children after she separated from her husband. She started by building relationships with various organizations in the community and volunteering with them in numerous capacities. Her tenacity and support led her to obtain a job at one of the organizations that she was assisting. Because she was industrious, community leaders began to take notice of her which helped to increase her network of colleagues that now includes lawyers, judges, principals, and politicians.
I thought about Ms. Johnson’s story and decided to use the art of conversation in order to increase my network. I decided to overcome my feelings of fear and step outside my comfort zone. I put my phone in my bag and began to talk to the woman. As more people arrived, I felt more comfortable conversing with complete strangers. I would have never connected with people who are equally as passionate as me to change the world if I had continued to browse social media on my phone.
Don’t get me wrong, social media platforms are wonderful ways to connect with others. However, we millennials rely too heavily on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage and interact with others. It’s easy to converse with others on social media. We just log on and we are able to connect with millions of people with the click of a button. Most of us have succumbed to the millennial curse of being technologically engaged yet socially awkward. We have limited physically human interaction and have become more comfortable talking through a screen than conversing in person. While it’s easy to connect with people online, maintaining those connects takes effort offline. We are ignoring the practice of basic social skills, thus hindering our ability to network and build relationships with people in person.
Are you socially awkward? Do you want to begin the process of engaging in face-to-face conversations that will help you build meaningful relationships?
Here are a few pointers that have helped me become more comfortable when communicating in person:
1. Engage in meaningful conversations with friends and loved ones.
The fastest and easiest way to break out of our comfort zone is to converse with our friends and loved ones in person. Many times, when we are out them, we are on our phone checking emails, texting, or engrossed in social media. Put the cell phones away and actively engage in conversation.
2. Give a compliment to a stranger.
You don’t have to have a full blown conversation with a person to speak to someone you don’t know. Start with a compliment. Everyone loves compliments and you never know, you might make a friend by just being friendly.
3. Join a group of people that have common interests as you.
Whether it is rock climbing, cooking, Crossfit, or writing, there are thousands of groups that you can join to meet new people. The common interest will be the foundation to converse with others. The easiest way you can find a group is to go on Meetup.com.
These pointers are just a few ways that I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and use the social skills needed to meet new people and build a network. The only way we do this is to actively engage in face-to-face conversations with others.