This post was part of a 30-day social experiment I did to try and improve my social skills.Also check out the project hub page, rules and introduction post, post-project recap, and the popular reddit post.
What have we learned, Charlie Brown?
1. Pursue Your Passions
One thing massively reinforced was the value of pursuing the things I am most interested in. As you can see on the data sheet, the overwhelming majority of the people I met came simply through doing what I enjoy, be it CrossFit, swing dancing, or hanging out in coffee shops. Not surprisingly, of all the people I met, the ones I vibed with best were those that I had a mutual interest with from the beginning.
Many in my generation seem to be under the impression that friends will just apparate like they did in grade school and college. Sorry, but it’s a different ball game now. I may be a broken record at this point, but building friendships takes consistent effort. It takes work. But that work can be made easier by going out and doing whatever it is you love most, or going out and trying a new hobby. I imagine volunteering and religious groups are also great ways to meet like-minded people.
If not for CrossFit, this project would have been extremely difficult.
2. Hot and Un-bothered
One limiting belief I used to have towards starting conversations in public was that I would be bothering people. Sure, there are times when this could be the case, but it is quickly learned when someone is genuinely busy and probably not in the mood to chit-chat versus someone that is aimlessly killing time on their phone.
How I like to think about it is this- if I were in that person’s situation, and someone cheerful and confident started talking to me, would I be annoyed, or not mind at all?
I didn’t keep any kind of data on this, but 99% of the people I talked to were extremely polite back- people in general are nicer than we give them credit for. And the two or three people (out of 118) that ignored me or just said ‘Yeah’ and walked away? Chances are they weren’t worth my time trying to get to know them anyway, they themselves weren’t very confident people, or who knows, maybe they were having the worst day of their life. Or maybe they just didn’t have anything to say. No harm, no foul.
The amount of people that were even remotely ‘weirded out’ by me I could probably count on one hand, and although I can come on strong (perhaps overcompensating slightly from my shy days) this happened even less than I would have predicted.
3. Quick on the Draw
Also reinforced, but still extremely important, turned out to be the power of not hesitating when starting conversations. No matter how anti-social, socially awkward, whatever, someone paints themselves to be, they will never come off that way if they start a conversation- no, even just acknowledge someone- within the first three seconds that they are near them. This is a sign of assertiveness, of confidence, of power in a person.
Waiting not only rifles every excuse a person can think of not to say anything through their head, it also aggrandizes those beliefs that they aren’t a confident person, are socially awkward, and all the other nonsense people tell themselves.
The trick is acting so fast that the mind doesn’t have time to tell the body all the reasons it shouldn’t be doing this.
4. The Lonely Socialites
The biggest surprise to me was not anything that I learned through any of the interactions, but instead from my existing friends. Coincidentally through conversation with a few of my peers- not even always about the experiment- I learned that an extremely high percentage of them wished they were more social.
A few old friends also texted or messaged me out of the blue saying that they could completely relate to my message and what I was trying to do.
Not only does this make a beginning blogger feel amazing, it actually gave me a few startup business ideas, if not just a concept for another book. It was a refreshing feeling to discover that becoming more social and personable was not something that only I was interested in, but was a struggle many people, especially in my age group, can relate to.
Most of these people, to me, seem like very socially-active individuals, too- they just wait for someone else to make the first move. Be that someone else.
5. Everyone and Their Brother
Ultimately, the most important thing, again, is to talk to everyone. I can’t state the importance of this enough.
Talking to everyone will make you happier, make you smarter, make you more confident, get you more friends, get you more dates, get you a better job, and make you see that the people of this world are inherently good.
And because really, it only takes one person to change your life.