Doof: [Noun] A place with endless opportunities to get to know others and be known yourself. A scene hallmarked by an abundance of unconditional positive regard for fellow doofers.
You’ve made it to the festival. Your costume is on point, the tunes are great, there are positive vibes everywhere. Yet, somehow the thought of striking up a convo with a stranger fills you with intense anxiety and just generally a sense of impending doom.
Doofs are meant to be safe spaces for us to forge new friendships, but what do you do if social interactions don’t come easily to you? How do you overcome the internal dialogue that tells you that you’re awkward, no matter what you do?
According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, my four defining qualities are Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling and Perception. I’m an ENFP, and anyone who knows me will say that above all else, I am a people person.
BUT, for every interaction that comes naturally to me, there are four other interactions I consciously navigate using a set of mantras designed to help me relate to and evaluate other people.
In this article, I am sharing these self-talks, so that we can all have more friends!
1. “Everyone is really fucking weird.”
We all have this fear that if we act like ourselves in front of strangers, they will think we are weird and once they make this awful discover they will not like us.
I remind myself on a daily basis that literally everyone I’ll ever meet has something completely freaky going on.
For some of us, true love is letting their partner pop a pimple that’s been brewing for days and is now totally ready. WEIRD.
For others, going out in public in *gasp* clashing patterns, or, gender indifferent clothing comes naturally. WEIRD.
As for me, I have been known to talk about my bodily functions with people I have just met. WEIRD.
My reasons for moderately oversharing on a daily basis are simple:
- Relatability: Who knows, we might both have that weird skin flap on our big toes?!
- Affirmation: Even if the other person does end up thinking that I’m weird, I am doing them a service by helping them feel normal (which they obviously crave)!
- Evaluation: Being my true, weird self all the time helps me forge authentic friendships. I don’t want to be friends with someone who shuns weirdness anyway.
C.S Lewis says it best:
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
2. “There’s something interesting about everyone I meet.”
Often when I meet new people, I make it my mission to discover one thing about them that I find intriguing.
As my grandmother says, “If you want friends you’ve got to bloody take an interest in people!”
In a conversation, it’s not always easy to drill down to the stuff that titillates me, but whether we get there or not, the discovery process itself often makes people like me.
Why? Because everyone loves talking about themselves!
You’d be surprised at how much personal information people will willingly give you – provided you don’t give off an interrogation vibe – and the more you know, the more you have to work with when it comes to deciding if someone is friend material or not.
In fact, if you use this mantra to make friends, once you lay the groundwork with a few questions, you can stop worrying about what you are going to say next.
Just being a good listener is one of the greatest acts of service you can offer people!
“The more you talk about them, the more important they will feel. The more you listen to them, the more important you will make them feel.” – Roy T Bennet
3. “Why are they telling me this?”
Now, you’re not going to click with everyone, and that is totally OK. Rather than viewing dud connections as a personal failure, look at them as an opportunity to increase your understanding of humanity.
Make all your interactions a personal win by simply pausing in any conversation to ask yourself, “Why is this person telling me this?”
Are they trying to impress me? Intimidate me? Educate me? Help me?
Stepping back to assess another person’s motives will tell you how they feel about you, and how you feel about them, and will help you know what to do next.
The more you do it, the better you get, and before long you’ll be able to use this mantra to learn when to go deeper and when to cut off conversations early.
If nothing else, asking yourself this question will help you develop empathy.
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” – Daniel Goleman
4. “Conversational hijackers are rude.”
Occasionally, you’ll decide you don’t want to be a part of a conversation long before the person doing all of the talking decides to shut their pie hole.
This scenario is problematic because, on the one hand, you don’t want to be rude and interrupt someone you’ve just met or look too disinterested.
But, on the other hand, you would prefer to be released from the conversation so you can talk to other people with whom you can forge a mutually enriching connection.
Well, we have good news for you.
Ending a conversation is far less rude than hijacking one by:
- Going on and on about topics only the speaker cares about
- Talking over anyone who tries to interrupt or redirect the conversation and;
- Never stopping to get any feedback from listeners
People who do these things care more about their need to be heard than anyone else’s needs or wants, so there is no point offering them any conversational goodwill.
In fact, acting like your interested enables their selfishness, and reinforces their hijacking ways!
If you get trapped in a conversation with a hijacker, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself, or even to tell them outright that you’re not that interested in what they’re saying.
How else will they know!?
“There should be more sincerity and heart in human relations, more silence and simplicity in our interactions. Be rude when you’re angry, laugh when something is funny, and answer when you’re asked.” – Anton Chekov