This post was from a 30-day social experiment I did as a way to try and improve my social skills. Also check out the project hub page, post-project recap, five biggest takeaways, frequently asked questions, and the popular reddit post.
About four months ago, I moved to a new city.
While I have met a fair amount of people simply by pursuing the things I am interested in and through Meetup.com, I can’t help but wonder. . .what would happen to my social life if I made a deliberate and consistent effort to meet even more people?
Over the past few years, I’ve become borderline obsessed with how I can improve my social skills. On a couple of breakthrough nights out, I’ve been able to work myself up to what pick up artists call being ‘in state’, which is a feeling of complete independence from the outcomes of your interactions, as well as complete non-reactiveness to your environment (in the sense that you don’t let your surroundings determine your mood).
Basically, you feel bulletproof, are ‘in the zone’, and have complete control of every interaction you enter. Every comment thrown at you elicits an unconscious yet witty and fun comment back, and you are ‘just being’. It’s also one of the best highs I have ever experienced.
So in addition to just generally meeting more awesome people, I would like to see if I can reach this state more often, faster, and better overcome negative stimuli in both my environment and in my head. And finally, I want to blast away the remaining social anxiety I have, especially that which rears its ugly head when I stay in my comfort zone for days or weeks at a time and don’t force myself to talk anyone except those I am most comfortable around.
That’s why, for the next 30 days, I am going to go out every single day and initiate three interactions with people I don’t know.
While I have already become relatively decent at making cold small talk with random people that cross my path in everyday life, I am curious what would happen to both my ability in this regard and to my social life if I applied this skill set consistently, every single day, for an entire month.
1) I must go out every day in June 2013 and attempt to initiate three conversations with people I have never met. These people can be at bars, coffee shops, on the street, in the grocery, wherever.
2) For an attempt to count, I must speak at least once after my initial greeting or ‘opener’ after the other person responds.
3) Cashiers, bartenders or other ‘required’ interactions do not count.
4) I cannot open a conversation simply by telling the person about the experiment.
5) Every interaction must be logged.
6) This project can’t impede with any of my regularly scheduled activities (writing, CrossFit, swing dancing, etc.)
And except for weekends and the occasional weeknight, I also aim to do the majority of this without the use of alcohol.
Changes I predict to see or hope to observe in myself:
1) Increased ability to initiate conversations even more effortlessly, without having to psyche myself up first. In fact, by Day 30 I expect this to be to an almost unconscious act.
2) Be able to slip into ‘state’ even when I am tired or not ‘feeling it’. I am sure there will be many days where going out and talking to people is the very last thing I want to do.
3) Make at least five friends who I would be comfortable enough texting on a whim to go and grab a drink.
4) Grow even thicker skin regarding the opinions of others towards me.
5) Vanquish the remaining threads of approach anxiety that I have.
6) Become so comfortable around ‘strangers’ that I unwittingly make a few people uncomfortable.
7) Decrease the number ‘fucks given’ when an interaction bombs.
8) Get better at remembering names.
9) Improve at moving conversations past the ‘trivial small talk’ stage into much more meaningful interactions, quicker.
What happens if I fail?
If I fail, $100 of mine will be donated to the American Crossroads (it was a toss-up between this and a few other ‘anti-charities’, including those on the other side of the aisle) through sticK.com, an amazing site that helps you reach your goals by creating incentive-driven commitment contracts. A good friend and co-worker will be serving as ‘referee’, and will be compiling my log into a spreadsheet, which I will share when all is said and done.
The worst-case scenario is I’m out $100 in exchange for a weird story to tell someday, but maybe I’ll even learn a thing or two about how and how not to make friends. The best-case scenario is that my social skills evolve beyond recognition and I meet a bunch of awesome people just by talking to whomever I happen to cross paths with that day. Let’s begin!
Want to try 90 Strangers In 30 Days for yourself?