Someone found this blog over the weekend by doing a search for how to make shy people come and talk to you. I thought it would make a great subject for today’s post as I’m shy in real life until I’ve gotten to know someone pretty well.
Take your pet for a walk. I often find it difficult to start conversations with strangers or acquaintances, but that hesitancy disappears when there’s an animal in the mix. I virtually never touch them due how terribly allergic I am to cats and dogs, but I sure do enjoy seeing a happy, healthy little creature out and about with their human. Telling someone that their pet is gorgeous, smart, or well trained is a great ice breaker.
Compliment them. Speaking of compliments, people often welcome them as well. I generally praise what someone has created – a book; a song; a clever joke; a beautifully decorated cupcake – instead of stuff they only have some control over such as their appearance. There’s less of a chance of them taking that compliment the wrong way. Also, everyone has at least one talent if you search long enough.
Ask open ended questions. For example, what are you looking forward to this summer? That kind of question can be interpreted as specifically or generally as someone wants. They could talk about that blockbuster they can’t wait to see or they could mention something far more personal if they chose. I usually like talking about stuff that isn’t your typical small talk, but I also appreciate having the option of keeping things lighthearted and non-specific if I choose.
Talk about what you love. I’m never going to be the kind of person who enjoys watching sporting events or drinking beer, but I still get a kick out of hearing why other people find that stuff so entertaining. You can learn a lot about someone by listening to them talk about their passions and interests.
Be kind. I find it much easier to open up and chat with kind people. We might not talk about a lot the first time they talk to me, but the second and third conversations can be much longer and more interesting if I walk away with a good first impression of them. I really dislike it when people try to pull me out of my shell the first time they meet me. If they let our interactions evolve naturally instead, they’ll get much more out of me in the future. From what I’ve observed of other shy people, I suspect that a lot of them are the same way.
Now I want to hear what’s worked for you! Let me know in the comments.
This is a 20 minute talk about how people find meaning in their own suffering without relying on supernatural or religious explanations for it. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, try skipping through the first half. The last 5-10 minutes is where this talk gets really good.
Andrew Solomon acknowledges that you can do this while still being really angry about what happened. You don’t have to say something is at all ok in order to find meaning in it.
Here is where I disagree with Andrew. I understand why he focuses so much on the circumstances that have spurred people into doing amazing things, but the former is much less important than the latter. This is a minor quibble with an otherwise invigorating talk, though, and I suspect that he’d agree with me if we were sitting down to dinner. It’s hard to compress this kind of worldview into such a short amount of time.
A family of mice once lived in a drafty old farmhouse.
“They’re going to set a trap and we’re all going to die!” the oldest mouse squeaked every time someone forgot the rules: no squeaking, don’t leave droppings on the dishes, and never capture the cat’s attention. No one remembered what a trap was any longer, only that it was something terrible people did when they noticed mice.
As the family grew it became more difficult to follow the rules.
“We’ll be safe in this house if we teach the young mice that cheese is forbidden,” the oldest mouse insisted every time the humans shuffled into the kitchen. They’d lived in this farmhouse for decades and had begun to have trouble moving around.
A young mouse asked, “What makes you think there’s any danger? The humans don’t even seem to know we exists.”
“Not yet,” said the oldest mouse. “But the cat can smell us. Why do you think we avoid his territory?”
The young mouse wasn’t sure she believed it was that dangerous and decided to explore the rest of the house. The cat in question was old and docile.
“You’re all going to die!” insisted the oldest mouse as the rest of her nestlings slowly moved out of the kitchen and closer to the radiators. The humans had grown accustomed to leaving dirty plates on the floor and so the wanderers had food and a warm place to sleep during the long winter. Soon she was the only mouse left in the kitchen.
Every week or two the younger mice came to visit. She always made sure they knew how dangerous their lives had become since moving away. Some of her visitors smiled politely and nibbled the stale crackers she provided, others tried to gently reason with her. No one could change her mind, though, and she died at the first flush of spring without any of her warnings coming to pass.
Another reader question today: What one thing would you change if you had to do it over again?
She was an odd duck.
Before and after class she muttered to herself. Her straight, uncombed, bright yellow hair stood on end as if she’d just received a static shock and her clothing, while fairly clean, was mismatched and several sizes too big.
Sometimes she’d follow along with the conversation. At other times she slipped in and out of our plans for the weekend, summer or life after community college like a koi jumping out of an aquarium and then wondering what happened to all of the water. Her favourite topic was her pets. They understood her in ways people didn’t and she spent all of her free time with them. I have a vague memory of her mentioning out loud once after class how different her bond with her pets was from her fragile connections with other human beings.
She never understood why other people found her abrupt tone, odd mannerisms and non-standard use of the English language so bizarre.
I never said or did anything unkind to her. After a few aborted conversations I barely spoke to her at all.
I wish I had.
I wish I still remembered her name.
I wish she could have gotten some help. Her isolation (and loneliness?) was a skinny, brown puppy huddled in the corner waiting to be named.
Today I’m participating in a synchroblog on small kindnesses to help Fiona Robyn celebrate the release of her new book.
I was 11 years old the first time it happened.
Pain blots away the past and future. There was only one moment that had ever existed and it was wrapped up in an intestine-curling, breath-stealing, sweat-beading illness that swooped into my life without warning.
Eventually an elimination diet helped me realize that my body was having serious issues with milk products. The less I ate dairy products the better I felt but rural Ohio in the 1990s was not an easy place to have food allergies.
There were few milk alternatives back then and even fewer people who understood that people with food allergies aren’t being picky.
Enter Mrs. C., my computer science and word processing teacher. At the end of the year she was also a chaperone for a field trip I went on with a dozen classmates. On the way home she treated us to ice cream. There was nothing on the menu I could eat so I quietly didn’t order anything.
She noticed right away and asked me why I wasn’t eating. I told her about my allergy and she grew quiet.
The field trip was on a Friday. That following Monday she called me to her desk at the end of class and gave me some colourful sticky notepads. She said she was sorry I couldn’t have ice cream but that I deserved some kind of treat.
I was so touched that she’d thought of me and gone out of her way to be inclusive.
Even all these years later her kindness makes me smile.
With his permission today I’m blogging a response to a semi-recent tweet from @mike_friesen : Somedays, I wonder how I can rediscover the beauty seen through the eyes of a child without the naivete. I want wonder and awe with wisdom. [sic] This is what I’d recommend: 1. Stop watching commercials. There’s something about advertising… Read More
This was originally published on December 13, 2010. I’ve been sick the last few days but should have a new post written for Thursday, September 27. – Lydia From a recent poster at our apartment building about a food drive that the office staff hosts every December: “not all families and their children are as… Read More
Recently a friend and I had a conversation about the difference between treating others with respect and liking them as people. My friend was worried about disliking someone they knew for what I consider to be quite valid reasons. I reassured my friend that it’s ok not to like everyone you meet. After all, friendship… Read More
I don’t care about your politics. I don’t care about your religious beliefs. I don’t care if you do file your taxes before the deadline, separate your trash from recyclables or return your library books on time. Wait, scratch that. I do care if you return your library books on time if I’m sitting patiently… Read More
About a month ago I began writing book reviews under a pseudonym for another website. It’s been an amazing experience so far. I love combing through the review database and finding short stories and books to read. It’s exhilarating to discover new authors and even a new genre – I’m just now realizing how much I love… Read More