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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!