This is part of my ongoing series of posts related to Secrets of Adulthood, inspired by Gretchin Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project”
Quite a few of my Secrets revolve around better people relations. That’s not so surprising considering community, hospitality, and connection are important things to me and most others. Moreover, it’s impossible to do any of those without other people. Yet, I’ve got a set of personality quirks that frequently impair my ability to connect with others. To combat these, there are three Secrets I know, but that are more aspirational than they are achieved.
The best thing you can do to be friendly is say “Hi.”
I’m a New Englander, personality-wise as well as locale; and though some tests have labeled me an extrovert, that doesn’t mean that while walking down the sidewalk I’m high-fiving others, grinning from ear to ear, and stopping to remark on the weather. In fact, most of the time when I walk into a place I like to observe what everyone else is doing and then follow suit. On the streets, I like to look to the ground and find I’m most confident in sunglasses unable to make eye contact. However, I’ve noticed that to get more out of every situation in life (more information, friends, and laughter) the first step is simply to say “Hi.” It’s an easy way to convey approachability and camaraderie. But oh, it’s so HARD! What I often want most is to avoid embaressing myself, or being trapped in what could potentially be an awkward conversation. However, I also don’t want to appear aloof. So, I know what I should do, and what will satisfy me in the long run, is simply to say Hi.
If you want to feel connected, Talk More.
Though there are plenty of situations when “Hi” and “Bye” are really all you need, there are others where I know I can do better. In this regard I once remarked to a friend “I wish I could go through life just a little bit drunk.” I’m far from an alcoholic, but it’s no mistake that they call alcohol liquid courage. There are plenty of tips I’ve read about making conversation, but when it comes right down to doing it, it isn’t really knowledge that helps, it’s just action. Whether you start with the weather, the latest sensational story, or divulge some personal information is of course, your own preference. I’ve noticed in my informal observations though, that people who are willing to confess a personal foible, or tell a funny personal anecdote are more likely to end up with friends.
Try to Invite a Friend
Finally, like many others I’m fiercely independent and want to do activities on my own timetable. I also believe strongly in my own schedules, and ability to determine what is the most “important” thing I need to be doing. Sure, I may be productive (at times) but the downside is I’m likely to ignore or devalue spontaneous interaction. It takes a good minute sometimes for me to remember that building community (and memories) pays off in the long run. I need to take time to invite a friend with me when I’m going somewhere, likely to do a craft, or just watch a TV program. This is pretty much that sage business advice “Never Eat Lunch Alone” dressed up for the rest of your life. And the truth is, more often than not I’m sure people skip lunch, work through lunch, or catch up on internet gossip during lunch. I’m the same way when it comes to going to events. I see them, I make plans to go, and then I either attend, or I chicken out. But, this whole process could (and is) greatly enhanced when I do things with others. First the anticipation is extended, second the experience makes more neural pathways in my brain strengthening the memory. (Okay, I made up that last part, but it might be true, right?)
These are three things I know make life better, but I’m still trying to do them every time. What are you thoughts on these Secrets?