I’m not a very outgoing person. I typically wait until people introduce themselves, or recognize that I’m there before speaking to them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting and talking with people, but I feel as if I’m burdening them.
It’s also unnerving and vulnerable for me to put myself out there and risk rejection. I fill my head with “what if this person doesn’t want to meet me?”, “Am I significant enough to be talking with this person?”, “Are they going to respond positively to what I have to say?”, “Do they even want to talk about what I have to say?”
Instead, I just wait to see if they indicate that they want to talk.
Recently, I had an improv audition and ended up not being selected. I was bummed, so I sought out some notes on how I could improve. My feedback from my performance was that I had vague scene initiations. I didn’t start the scene with a clear specific line that would give the other person a sense of who or where we are.
The thing is, by starting with a vague initiation, I’m putting the pressure on the other person to figure out what I’m talking about, how I feel, and who we are to each other. That’s a lot. Especially if I’m not used to improvising with them.
I realized the same thing applies when meeting or speaking with people.
My shyness and lack of confidence puts pressure on the other person to say something or stand there in awkward silence. Being a good scene partner and conversationalist means making the other person feel at ease and comfortable.
So why not do something to take the pressure off the other person? Give that other person a chance to feel relaxed. Choose to begin with something specific.
“Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations.” – Deborah Tannen
Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what we begin talking about since conversations change and evolve based on the interests of the people involved. We just need to start.
Deciding to begin a conversation for me is a difficult hurdle to get over. Knowing that I am helping the other person out by initiating, allows me to focus on that benefit instead of all of the negative self-talk. What if the other person also deals with social anxiety or is shy? Imagine how they might feel if you started talking with them.
Yes, I was disappointed I wasn’t selected after my audition, but I learned something. I realize that I don’t start conversations. Even though I consider myself to be a shy person, knowing that I can take the strain off of the other person can push me to introduce myself or strike up a conversation. I only need to make the choice to begin.