With the advent of St. Valentine’s Day upon us, I thought it would be a great time, as we continue our journey on the way to becoming truly effective communicators, to take a look at the act of making connections. In this week’s podcast (episode 5), we discuss making connections from the standpoint of someone who is shy.
Since, ideally, this blog and the podcast are meant as a compliment to each other, I thought it would be advantageous to look at the act of making connections from the opposite angle – that of someone who is confident and outgoing; of someone who does not struggle with reaching out to someone new.
So, What Does It Mean to Be Outgoing?
Many people confuse being outgoing with being extroverted (likewise with being shy and being introverted), so let’s clear that up now.
First of all, introversion and extroversion deal with the source from which we recharge and expend our energy. Introverted people gravitate toward solitary sources like going for a walk by themselves or preferring to work alone, whereas extroverted people tend towards group activities from which to recharge and to whom to expend their physical and emotional energy. There are plenty of introverted people who are outgoing and love to meet new people while, likewise, many extroverted people deal with shyness.
Shyness comes more from a concern of rejection in some form or from a distrust of the situation (both of which can originate from a multitude of sources). In the words of Andre Dubus, III
The simple fact is that other people either don’t care in general, or are too wrapped up in their own fears of how people are judging them to care about what you’re doing.
Outgoing people, on the other hand, don’t have the concerns of what people will think of them to any degree that would create difficulties for them in reaching out to people and making connections. The perception that outgoing people are automatically extroverted most likely comes from the fact that people who have extroverted tendencies find comfort and solace in the company of other people. They relax and can recharge in community. Meeting new people expands their community, therefore their source of safety, comfort, and ability to re-energize.
Even Outgoing Folks Have Connection Issues
One of the problems that can arise with extroverted people is that they find it difficult, if not impossible, to be alone, to spend time by themselves.
As I learned early in life, the best friend I will ever have is myself. This friendship with and appreciation for the woman I have become comes from spending time getting to know whom I am on so many levels. In order to accomplish this, you have to be able to spend time alone and be fearless in dealing with the good, the bad, and the hideous. You have to open yourself up to the full range of emotions and a whole lot of crying at times.
This complete vulnerability without the safety zone of other people around is an uncomfortable place for an extrovert to be, yet without taking the step to become your own best friend, it is quite easy to run into issues making healthy connections because we won’t know our true worth (rather than the worth that others have given us). Similarly, we won’t know what we like, what we don’t like, what we will accept or not accept, and what our limits are.
At this point, I always think of Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride where she finally had to take time by herself to figure out who she really was – without her string of boyfriends telling her who she had to be for them.
We All Have to Work Hard at Making Our Connections Healthy
The take-away here is that, regardless of whether we are introverted or extroverted, shy or outgoing, we all have things to overcome in making connections – with ourselves and others. Overcoming stuff is hard work and takes persistence (and a whole lot of patience).
Like everything that is worthwhile though, the effort we put in on a consistent basis (whether we feel like it or not) is what helps us reap extraordinary rewards in the long run. Like any fitness regimen or training program, the degree to which we invest ourselves through consistent, focused practice determines how well we perform; how healthy we are; how we feel about ourselves.
Making Great Connections Should Never be About You
Regardless of where we turn to recharge or how we feel best giving back to the world, the effectiveness of the connections we make depends on our focus. The key to creating great connections with others is to focus on them; to care about them genuinely.
Think about the people around whom you feel most comfortable. They’re the ones who make you feel good about being who you are, where your life is right now, what you’re goals are. Even if the rest of the world puts you down, makes you feel badly about your life or your goals, the people who create the best connections with others are the ones who put their focus on making the person in front of them feel comfortable.
Even if the Great Connection-Makers are shy or reluctant to mingle and make friends for any number of reasons, they put their fears aside by purposely shifting focus from how they might be hurt (from being focused on themselves) to how they might help someone have a really great experience. This is something I learned a little later than I care to admit, but every single time I focus on making the other person feel comfortable and ease the tension and nervousness inherent in the situation, I find that I end up meeting some really neat people and have a much better time than I expected.
Honesty is Critical In Making Healthy Connections
Finally, the art of making connections, healthy connections, depends on our level of honesty throughout the connection process. Again, like any regimen designed to improve our health, we have to work at it. The good thing is that the more we let go and just dive into the deep end of the Honesty Pool, and even though we may feel as though we are floundering for a bit or that we just want to be rescued, we will soon find that we stop thrashing about and start swimming. After swimming in the Honesty Pool for a bit, we find that we are really enjoying this experience and would rather stay in this pool; we don’t need to be rescued anymore.
Now, when I talk about being honest, I’m not talking about telling someone you hate their clothes or find their laugh obnoxious. Being honest when making connections has to do with not making things up about yourself or your life in order to make yourself feel or appear to be more important or needed or in a better life situation just to avoid being judged.
Being honest has to do with honestly assessing your mood, how you feel about the situation and people around you, asking yourself why you feel this way, and most importantly how you intend on dealing with these feelings.
For example: If you’ve had a lousy day at work and have to attend a retirement party with the very people who have made your day what it was, be honest about the fact that you’re not in the mood to be dealing with So And So because of XYZ. Be honest about the fact that you’re tired and don’t feel like meeting the client whose account you now have to take over because it belonged to the person who’s retiring (and you have a mess to clean up). Be honest about the fact that you just want to be home right now. Then, decide what you’re going to do about it.
During this coming week, in order to begin to develop our awareness of what our connection-making style is and under which circumstances, how our confidence or insecurities present themselves in various circumstances, why we show up the way we do, and what we can do to correct what needs correcting.
- Take stock of your confidence level in general, as well as in what ways and in what circumstances your confidence level increases or decreases in your life.
- Dig deep to uncover the real reason you are more (or less) confident in the various situations, as well as why you think your confidence shows up the way it does (what are you trying to protect or project and why is that the best way to handle it?)
- Brainstorm ways that you can use this new knowledge of yourself to make your environment safe enough to reach out on a genuine level at the times that really count for you. Not everyone is worthy of our trust and genuine connection. But for those who are, we owe it to ourselves to make those connections honest ones.
- The next time you’re about to make a new connection, just try to focus on the other person and making them feel at ease and interesting. You never know if they’re feeling apprehensive and uncomfortable or reacting out of similar emotions as you are. You’re act of making them comfortable in the situation will help both of you in the moment and in the long-run.
Taking stock of the who, what, when, where, and why of our behavior in making connections with others, we have the power to make tremendous positive changes in our lives. Taking the time to review and realign our lives need not be a monumental task.
As we are learning on our journey together, day by day we take another step towards our goal. If we average one step each day, we will have taken 365 steps this year towards healthier, happier relationships and towards a better, happier life.
Please share your insights with the community by leaving a comment below or send a message through the contact page. Don’t forget, sharing is caring so share this with everyone you know who will benefit.