As people of planet Earth who share an absolute necessity to relate and connect with one another, we see ourselves at an interesting checkpoint in our history. We are, as a whole, less at ease socially than ever before, even with the connective power of the Internet and the relatively advanced state of society in general.
Surveys are showing (at least in parts of the world with better access to technology) people having fewer close friends on average than ever before. Smart phones, information availability, entertainment, social media and other forms of technology are having an effect on our ability to interact effectively with real people in the real world. If you work independently as a freelancer, these issues can be even more real.
It is becoming easier and easier to avoid taking what I call ‘social courage’.
On the other hand, the benefits of social skills are unquestionable, not least in feeling a greater sense of connection with our fellow human (which is vital for happiness) but for pushing ahead in life and career. Some of the most noticeable strides taken forward in life, rely on social leverage and talking to people.
Many of you will have no trouble in social settings, but there is virtually no one who wouldn’t stand to improve. So I’ve put together a list of things that all require a certain level of this courage. The beautiful thing about taking courage is the fact that you will receive an equal measure of confidence for taking that courage, in return. As in, you do an act of courage, and the energy taken, will translate directly into confidence through improved self-image. It’s how we work.
Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.
Taking courage in small steps, will generate confidence in you in small bits, and this can apply to anything that is new or potentially frightening to you. You will get more confident. But you need to actually take action. Forget therapy, reading about it, talking about it and worrying. Just choose what to do and go and physically do it.
The following are some ways, including some unconventional ways, to begin building social confidence, so that you can gradually feel more and more at ease, socially. You will feel the difference.
I’ve listed these in an order of roughly increasingly difficulty, but that is just my opinion, so it is up to you how you use this. Pick and choose. Start easy, from what generates some fear in you, and lean into it. Take small steps. You will benefit more by repeating ‘tasks’ until they no longer create a lot of anxiety for you. Do a task fifty times if you feel you need to.
Slowly desensitise yourself to what makes you uncomfortable in this way (namely, worrying about what others think) and you might just thank me at the end.
Here are some things to work on:
- Ask someone for the time / directions
- Give money to a busker or beggar
- Ask someone to watch your stuff at a public place
- Start a course in something new
- Call someone you’ve never spoken to before
- Start a brief conversation with a cashier/similar
- Ask a stranger for change from a money note
- Record a video of you speaking that will go public, such as youtube
- Call your bank and ask them to lower credit card rates
- Ask for food that is not on the menu at a restaurant
- Do pressups or jumping jacks in a public space (this is to desensitise over self-consciousness. You do it; you realise the world doesn’t end; you gain confidence, and you move on.)
- Compliment someone in public
- Take improvisation classes
- Sell something you own to someone in the street
- Dress radically different for a day
- Ask for a discount before you buy something
- Take dancing classes
- Offer to help someone you don’t know to carry their groceries
- Organise an event or meetup
- Offer to give advice to a stranger
- Ask someone new you are attracted to out for a coffee
- Start a conversation with someone in public
- Offer to get interviewed on a blog, either podcast or video interview
- Interview someone on a podcast or video
- Offer to give a talk on a subject you know about
- Do stand up comedy
If you can knock off several of these, especially more than once, you will instantly see the effects.
Beyond this list, you can get creative and think of your own things to do that are uncomfortable. This takes bravery, but the rewards are huge. The important thing is to do stuff that could potentially lead to discomfort or even rejection. Being comfortable with rejection is the real driving force behind all this. Knowing that rejection is ok, is liberating in itself. Know this!
There’s one other thing that many of you know but that I wanted to include here, in terms of how you interact with people. Bring out the best in others. Go out looking to build confidence in other people, and suddenly all your own insecurities will fade. It’s not all about you.
Get out there and own your life, step by step.