I was recently described as a “social butterfly” by a new acquaintance.
They were – to my surprise – serious.
They didn’t realize that I’m really quite introverted, and can gladly spend days without seeing anyone. Social interaction with nearly anyone is really emotionally draining for me. (If it isn’t, that’s a really important sign for me, but beside the point of this post.) There’s the very good post “Taming the Mammoth” which is recommended reading if you find yourself having problems with this.
Additionally, there’s two concrete techniques that I learned to use.
The first – and perhaps the most important for anyone who’s played a RPG – is that I’m usually playing “Convention Steve”. (See Season 3 of The Guild for this technique in use at the end.) ConSteve isn’t someone different; he’s just me with the intensity and outgoingness turned up to 11.
You may have a character that you identify with who’s pretty close to how you are. Play them. Yes, you’re larping, but nobody needs to know. If someone reacts negatively, they aren’t judging you, they’re judging the character you’re playing.
It sounds stupid, yes. But it works, and works well.
If you’re not a gamer, or have problems conceptually with that first technique, there’s another I learned. I learned it either from The Four Hour Workweek or Crush It!, and I can’t remember which at the moment, so I’m going to summarize it.
Go to a public place (coffee shop, etc, with someone else if you like). Approach random person with a bit of paper and a writing utensil. If the person is in a group, all the better. Say the following as close to verbatim as possible.
“I’m in a class working on public speaking, and one of the exercises is to get more comfortable in social situations. For that, we have to go and ask random people for a phone number. If it’s okay, I’m going to hand you this paper and a pen, and ask you to write a phone number on it. It can be yours or a fake one – no matter what, I’m going to throw this away in that trash can right there. [point to trash can] The exercise is more about asking. Is that okay?”
You, of course, IMMEDIATELY throw away the bit of paper without looking at it.
The beauty is this: It’s LITERALLY a no-risk situation for you – you’re not going to see them again. They have minimal risk – it’s a public place, you ask permission, they can write a fake number, and they see you throw it away. But you also get practice DOING THE THING. It really does make it easier, after you learn that the world doesn’t immediately end.
Between these two techniques – and learning that mammoth brains lie! – it can help you navigate situations where before you’d end up vapor-locked.