Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
If you want to become an interesting person, get interested in people you come in contact with.
Many experts believe that to "win" other people over to your side, you have to get on theirs first. How you make them feel about themselves is more important to them than your personal charisma and self-confidence. But, the interest in other people must be genuine. Faking or superficial interest doesn't cut it. When we focus on other people, something else happens. During that time, we stop criticizing, judging, or evaluating ourselves and our shyness and personal inhibitions no longer control us.
The problem of shyness is on the increase. As a society we are increasingly disconnecting from one another. Though, we are "chatting" ever more on the Internet and with phones, computers and fax machines, our face-to-face interaction is declining. People are hurrying to get to the next thing, allowing little time for warming up to a relaxed conversation. Rudeness and incivility is on the rise, which raises anxiety about how we will be received by others. You have to come up with a 6-second sound byte, demonstrate extraordinary exuberance or do something spectacular and outrageous to attract people's attention. No wonder, shyness has gone up by 20% in the last 15 years.
Currently, 2 out of 5 people regard themselves as shy. Drug companies see this as a market with vast potential. Antidepressants and anxiety medications are being touted as the answer to the prayers of those who are "allergic to people." But, shyness is really not a medical problem. It is unwise to hand out pills for problems that people can treat on their own by changing their thought patterns and social behaviors.
The socially inhibited can increase their interaction with others by observing and following the example of people who are good at holding conversation. They should avoid following the example of people who are "the life of the party." It may discourage them from trying. They should just watch the people who are good at initiating conversation and maintaining it. Psychologist Bernardo Carducci identifies eight habits or typical behaviors of the socially adept. Socially adept people typically do the following:
1. They invest time in others. They sharpen their social skills and increase their popularity by spending a lot of time with others. They often go out with others, invite them to their home, go to theirs and participate in various social activities. If you don't invest the time, you don't get the results.
2. They expect others to be fair and friendly towards them. They don't worry that about "proving" how witty and interesting they are. They believe that others will be gracious and forgiving of their minor faults and "goof ups." They think positive about others and hence come across as positive persons to others.
3. They direct their attention outward rather than onto themselves. They scan the social scene to guide their actions. They observe others and listen actively, which gives them plenty of leads regarding what will be interesting and appealing to them.
4. They know when to step in and step out of a conversation. To join in, they look for a lull in a conversation and ask appropriate questions or elaborate on what someone has already said. They make comments that are connected to what is being said, as opposed to an amateur who throws in a statement that tends to disrupt the conversation. They know when to stop so someone else can get a chance to chime in.
5. They glide over a "miss" and expect to "hit" next time. For example, when the socially adept try to join in on a conversation and find that they are being ignored or unwelcome, they don't regard it as a rejection or a personal failure. Like accomplished batsmen, they assume that with so many strikes, there will be some misses along with many hits.
6. They take hold of their negative emotions such as anger, disappointments and fears. When they experience negative feelings, they quickly shift their attention to the more positive aspects of the situation. They earn the admiration of others for demonstrating control over their emotions.
7. They resolve disagreements tactfully. In the words of Carducci in Psychology Today, "Instead of fighting fire with fire, socially confident people stop conflict from escalating; they apologize, propose a joint activity, make a peace offering of some kind, or negotiate." They control their emotions, listen, communicate, persuade, and yield to accommodate the need of the other party.
8. They humor people. They want everyone around them to have a good time. They keep a few jokes and stories handy for various occasions.
These 8 habits of the socially adept derive from one core habit; staying focused and interested in people with whom one interacts.
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