I’m an introvert and very private person. Although, first impressions of me would say otherwise, because I present as a friendly and engaging person- which I also am. In truth though, meeting new people can initially be very awkward and un-comfortable for me. The mere thought of socializing with strangers, networking and taking part in small talk makes me cringe; twisting my stomach into knots and elevating my anxiety levels. My default defense is to often rely quite heavily on my very inquisitive nature (which at times can be both a blessing and a curse). But, once I get into the flow of openly engaging and being friendly, I begin to relax, enjoy myself and the natural course of the exchange.

So how do I go from awkward anxiety to social butterfly? Well, this is what I’ve learned about becoming comfortable with interacting with others as a professional and on a personal level:

Self disclosure: Being open with others opens doors and makes you relatable. Tell people about yourself; your likes, adventures and misadventures, too! Everyone likes a good story. You are much, much more than your name, job title and place of birth! Practice in the mirror (try to see what others see), with family, friends and coworkers. What do you find truly interesting about someone you’ve just met?

Take the initiative: You’ve heard it before: Be a self-starter! Don’t wait for the other person to engage you. If someone makes eye contact with you, smile back. Oftentimes that’s all it takes to start up a conversation. Extending kindnesses and being friendly first creates a warm, safe atmosphere instantly putting people at ease. True kindness and friendliness is a way better, safer, sustainable and more authentic social lubricant than alcohol any day!

Celebrate your weirdness: You’re unique and one of a kind! There is no one else out there like you- celebrate it! Embracing your different-ness puts you at ease from the concerns of being judged or disliked by others. (When you’re relaxed and comfortable, others are relaxed and comfortable around you. Making you that much more approachable). Added benefit? Your light will naturally shine through making you even more appealing and engaging to interact with- that magnetic attraction quotient. Phew! Takes some of the pressure off of you, right?

Start working on cultivating Tiny Habits that are easy to embed into your daily routine, and that will support this new shift in your behaviour. Begin smiling at strangers; ask the receptionist at your gym how they’re doing; make eye contact and say “hi” to the bus driver when you get on the bus for work; share a joke or observation with other shoppers while in the check-out line up instead of texting on your iPhone; host games nights with friends and friends-of-friends where self revealing games are played. Be sure to check in with yourself through your journal, too; reflect on the responses you receive and how good these interactions made you feel. A smile, hello or shared joke can change an entire day, for you and for someone else.

Practicing these useful hacks will make truly connecting with others, and yourself less painful, more effortless and meaningful. The more we take steps to connect with one another, share of ourselves without fear of shame, the more warmth emanates outward
and inward. Leaving less loneliness, isolation and social awkwardness in our interactions with one another.

Let me know how you’re connecting today. Remember, loneliness dissipates amidst the light of an open Heart. And, intimacy takes many forms both momentary and long lasting.

Let’s start living Lighter, Brighter and FULLER lives together!

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