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Step out of Your Shell: Practical Tips to Become a Better Conversationalist

Posted in Balanced Lifestyle | September 14, 2009 |

  

This post was written by Anastasiya. Follow me on Twitter or StumbleUpon and keep your life balanced!

conversation tipsImage by Carlo Nicora

Some people are born with a thick shell around them. This shell protects them from the outside world, from bitter remarks of other people and from disappointment and failure. These people are shy by nature and going out in the public is a really difficult for them. A lot of these shy people are also introverts (not all introverts are shy though, just a remark) and connecting with the outside world is not easy for them. I am definitely an introvert and I am a bit shy too. This is the exact reason why I always had trouble communicating with strangers. Unless those strangers were interested in me I could not find common topics to talk about or common interests. You know those awkward moments when you come to a party and the host introduces you to one of their friends and then leaves. You and your new “acquaintance” try not to look in each other’s eyes because you do not know what to say. Both of you are just waiting for the right moment to run away. I’ve had hundreds of such moments in my life and I have finally decided to fight them and to step out of my shell.

When I was a teenager and wanted to become a better conversationalist I read a book by Dale Carnegie “How to win Friends and Influence People.” I believe that this is the best book on this subject and everybody who has trouble communicating with new people must read it. However, this book was written about a century ago (I really can’t believe it. It sounds so weird and so old. Brrrrrr!) and today our world offers much more to people who are stuck inside their shell. I am talking about the Internet. I think the Internet is the best thing to help make you a better conversationalist and make you a braver and bolder person in general.

About two years ago I got hooked on blogs and the whole online community and that is when I finally found a way to get out of my shell and to become a better conversationalist. I believe that anybody who has the same fears as I had (you do not know what to say and when to say, you are not sure if you are right or not, you are afraid of being laughed at, you are not sure if your opinion actually matters to other people or not) can finally break free and feel at ease in any situation with strangers.

  1. Start following blogs. If you are not sure what to talk about you can “borrow” other people’s opinions and use them in your real conversations. Blogs can give you insight and deliberate opinions on any subject that you might find interesting. You can learn things that you’ve never known about, you can hear news that nobody else is talking about and you can read opinions that have never been written about.
  2. Comment on blogs. I think this is one of the most useful exercises for anybody who wants to be a better conversationalist. Choose a topic that you know nothing about, read a post and try to write an interesting and smart comment (things like “Great article, Keep it up!” do not count). You might have to find a few other resources along the way to make you a little bit knowledgeable on the topic. You can take as much time as you want to chisel your comment (time is something we do not have in real conversation). Over time you will become faster and more confident in posting comments. This is when you will become better in real conversation too.
  3. Use email instead of a regular phone. People who are scared of talking to strangers are often terrified of the phone. I must confess, I still have a phone-phobia and I would rather clean a toilet than make a phone call to a person I do not know. Using email is so much easier in my opinion and it saves me so much trouble and time!
  4. Join a forum. It’s close to commenting on blogs but on a forum you can actually start a discussion that you are interested in and try to keep it flowing. You can start something controversial and that way learn to deal with criticism and negative opinions. You can try to engage people in an interesting conversation. You can also reply to other people’s threads and become an active member of the forum community. You can take as much time as you want to come up with a topic or with a response. It has helped me to become more open and more socially active.
  5. Use Twitter wisely. Twitter is probably the best social media site for people who want to get out of their shell. Nobody can see whether you are online or not that is why you do not have the pressure to post something every time you log into your account. You will learn to find something interesting in what you are doing or what you are reading. You will learn to use your knowledge to the benefit of other people, your followers. You can have hundreds and thousands of friends without feeling too exposed. You will also improve your speaking skills by being brief and concise.
    The fact that I am an introvert helps me not to be obsessed with Twitter. Some people just want to be exposed to the entire world that is why they are on Twitter 24/7 (I am not even sure whether they sleep or not). They tweet about their breakfasts, lunches and dinners, about every grocery trip and every cup of tea or coffee that they drink, some of them even say when they go to the bathroom. If you are like me then you are lucky because you can only benefit from twitter without getting addicted to it.
  6. Join online training programs, webinars, conferences, online parties. You can do almost anything online today. No matter what you are interested in you can find a community of same-minded people online who would be happy to talk to you. A lot of times these communities have their own online parties, webinars or they join some training program. As a mom of twins I am a part of TwitterMoms and TwinHappy and these are fun communities for moms and even dads. You can find a lot of social networks and even create your own at Ning.com. Follow your interests and expand them online!
  7. Discover social media. You can stay up-to-date on everything you are interested in by joining social media sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious and Facebook of course. Establish your online presence and learn to communicate with people online, share your thoughts and your opinion. The worst thing that can happen to you is that people won’t pay any attention to you which is not a big deal in my opinion.
  8. Start your own blog. Once you are comfortable with the first 7 steps and you want to try something else you can create your own blog. I know that blogging is not for everyone but it’s a great tool of self-improvement. You will learn to find topics that people are interested in and you will feel the excitement of sharing your knowledge with the rest of the world (even if at first the rest of the world is only your cat). Blogging is a daring adventure for everyone who is afraid of talking to people. Blogging is the ultimate tool to break that shell that hides you from the outside world.

I know that my online life has helped me to become a better person. The online community has taught me a lot, it helped me to be more confident and more open with other people. I am not afraid of talking to strangers anymore and I am even doing better with phone calls :-) Do you think you can benefit from it too?

Keep it balanced!

 

Smart Thoughts (8)

  1. An online guide to stepping out of your shell. I like it. Though I would like to clarify one point.
    I am also an introvert, this isn’t just a preference for people who are afraid. Introversion refers to how we recharge. We need time to ourselves to reflect, to let go, and to really continue to give people our best.
    Love the online tips by the way.

  2. Excellent Tips – I am going to tweet this and pass it on to friends who are not use to communicating in these ways. I hope they will start, but many people are old school.

    Also, Anastasiya what book would you recommend in place of Dale Carngie’s – How to win friends and influence people?

  3. Anastasiya says:

    @Justin
    I agree that introverts are people who look inside of themselves more than outside. However, it’s very typical for an introvert to be not interested in the society, to form this shell around him/her that won’t let anybody in. Sometimes this type of character forms fears and causes a lot of problems in communication.
    @Jai Kai
    Thanks for sharing this post, I really appreciate it. Regarding the book, I really can’t recommend you anything. There is a ton of books on this subject nowadays but most of them still use Carnegie’s principles. I haven’t met a book that would be more helpful than How to Win Friends and Influence People. If anybody else knows of any good books on this subject, please feel free to share in the comments.

  4. Patrick says:

    Anastasiya, it was a revelation for my own growth in personal communication, when I decided to drop the fear of not knowing what to say and instill some curiosity within me.

    I had the privilege to get to know many people on- and offline, and what helped me the most to get into deep conversations with total strangers within minutes (even in online-forums people often told me that they never had such an intense communication in their life), is the fact, that I am not asking myself and them the standard questions. All I am interested in, when I meet new people, is what FASCINATES THEM. What is their passion? People love to talk about their passion. At first they are not used to it, but they love it.

    Then I just listen for some minutes and ask myself, what is fascinating for me about what they told me.

    From then on, the rest of the communication is no problem anymore.
    Exchange your passions – and strangers can become good friends within hours.

  5. david hua says:

    Thanks, This is really great advice. However, I do worry that more and more people are losing the ability to communicate with each other BECAUSE we have become so reliant on communication through the internet, which is a million times easier. We have become to used to having the luxuries you speak of online, that it becomes a challenge to do so in person. Just a thought. Anyway, I’m hua, the director of blogger relations at Wellsphere.com, I have really enjoyed reading this blog and I would like to invite you to join our health blogger network which is now comprised of over 2,600 of the web’s best health writers and their content is read by over 6 million visitors a month at Wellsphere.com. For more information about joining, please visit http://www.wellsphere.com/health-blogger or email me at hua [at] wellsphere [dot] com.

    Best,
    Hua
    Director of Blogger Networks
    twitter.com/wellsphere

  6. Anastasiya this hit a chord with me as I am definitiely an introvert however the way you describe it has something to do with confidence. I would say being introverted can be both a confidence issue and also a lifestyle choice. I choose to be introverted however can get on well with anyone and have no issues talking to strangers etc. I think what you describe above is a confidence issue rather than a converstional issue.

    I really enjoyed this post and it made me think about how the net can help people in different ways.

  7. Kye says:

    Anastasiya, this is so simple and down to earth. Feels very real. I love it!

    Kye

  8. Anastasiya says:

    @Patrick
    I really like your advice Patrick. Asking non-standard questions is a great way to start talking to people and to make them interested in you. I know that sometimes it’s difficult to identify passions of another person but if you know the right questions to ask then everything gets much easier. Maybe you could write more about the right questions?
    @David
    I realize that for some people online communication becomes an addiction. However, online world is a two-edged sword: it can help some of us and it can be destructive for others. I think that online communication is something that we should use to complement not substitute for the real life communication. All of us need to use luxuries of our modern life wisely and with moderation. This is true not only for the Internet but also for other essential parts of our modern life like cars (some people already forgot what walking is), cell phones, fast food and many others.
    @Steven
    Being an introvert is often associated with being shy and not being able to communicate with the outside world though it’s not a rule. An introvert can be or not be a shy person, however every shy person is definitely an introvert. I have aimed this article at shy introverts who have trouble communicating with the outside world (that’s the way I was before) and I wanted to help these people with the tips that worked for me.