Meaningful Connections Help Us Thrive
“Umm….”. [Silence]. “So….”.
Getting stuck in the awkward small talk phase is horrible. It feels like your whole body is cringing.
Because of this, forming deep connections with people often feels out of reach.
However, these deep connections are what introverts crave. They help us thrive. You feel like you belong in the world. That you’re seen, supported, understood.
Once you know how to connect with anyone, life is abundant with possibility. Networking events feel less scary. Instead, they are an opportunity to meet interesting people. You feel seen by the supermarket cashier who knows you by name and greets you enthusiastically. The post officer stops to say hi as she goes about her route.
The world feels like a friendlier place.
I'm so excited to welcome our guest blogger, Daisy Simonis, to the Beyond Introversion community. Daisy manages a fantastic website for introverts and her 5 tips for connecting with others can be life-changing for any introvert! Gobble it up... -Steve Friedman
Here are 5 ways to connect with anyone, while staying true to your introversion:
1. Cultivate pronoia
Pronoia is the belief that the world is conspiring to bring good things into your life. It’s the complete opposite of paranoia.
Human minds tend to follow this path when forming beliefs:
Thoughts → Feelings → Actions → Result.
If you want a different result, you need to go to the start of the sequence.
Changing your thoughts around a situation changes the story you tell yourself. Instead of interpreting something as a problem, it could be exactly the learning curve you need. Or by not getting the result you wanted, it’s a warning sign that something is not quite right in your life.
You can cultivate pronoia for most social situations:
● Set yourself the challenge of discovering something new. Asking slightly quirky questions is a good way to do this. Instead of “what place do you recommend?”, flip it to “where would you not want to visit again?”.
● Tell yourself that this is a great opportunity to learn. It’s not every day you hear facts about sea urchins from your conversational partner. Take advantage of this.
● Assume from the start that you’ll connect with people. You immediately go into new situations feeling positive and hopeful.
We tend to find what we look for. Both with the negatives and the positives!
2. Take advantage of the action bias
The action bias describes our preference to favour action over inaction—even if we don’t know what result we get.
Once you’ve taken the first step, the first action, it feels easier to continue. You’re building up momentum.
Think about the last time you went to the gym or worked out. Once you put on your gym clothes and walked out the door, it probably felt logical to go. Otherwise, you would have wasted all that effort getting ready. It’s the “putting on gym clothes” and “walking out the door” actions that need the biggest bursts of energy.
This cycle of taking action works because you are leveraging the “winner effect.” This is the jolt of testosterone your body gets when you experience a win. It boosts your confidence. You feel like you can achieve anything.
Let’s say you’ve been asked to go to a networking event by your manager. You can consciously lean into the winner effect by building up small wins:
You booked your spot (if you needed to) = win!
You got on a bus or train or your car to go there = win!
You signed in with the host = win!
Now your brain is looking for the next win. Oh, that person standing alone? Walk up to them smiling = win!
3. Search for and call out “me too” moments
Humans are tribal creatures at heart. We trust and like people who are similar to us. We distrust those who are different.
Leverage this by highlighting anything your conversational partner shares that you’ve also had an experience of.
These “me too” moments show we are both from the same tribe.
We feel a sense of familiarity with the other person and warm up to them quickly. It also creates a sense of rapport naturally.
You can do this by:
● Asking for someone’s opinion about a situation, then focus on finding similarities between what you agree on and what they’re sharing.
● Once your conversational partner has shared something, ask “why?”. It encourages people to give you longer answers with more information.
● Assume that you are likable and that they are enjoying the conversation. If you find social situations daunting, we have a tendency to assume the worst: “they find me boring, I’m boring, I have nothing to share.” Instead, tell yourself that you connect to them as a human being, and focus all your attention on finding areas of similarity.
Once you’ve spotted a “me too” moment and called it out, immediately there is a greater connection.
4. Assume the other person is as anxious as you
We underestimate how anxious other people are.
The World Health Organisation found that almost 300 million of us experience anxiety. That’s a lot of people.
There’s a strong possibility that the person in front of you is feeling a bit nervous. Realising this increases our compassion towards them. We want to help them feel better.
We can do this by focusing all of our attention on the other person. Because you’re actively looking to learn more about them, you can’t help but start to connect in a meaningful way. Or, you discover that they’re not someone you want to connect with anyway, which gives you the freedom to move on.
By shifting the focus away from yourself, you feel less self-conscious and nervous. The conversation flows.
You’re able to be present in the moment and actively respond to what they’re saying. You begin to pick up on conversational gems and dive into them, such as the fleeting mention of their holiday to Portugal three years ago.
5. Be proactive
Jessica Pan in her wonderful book Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come spoke to a psychologist who makes an excellent point: nobody waves… but everyone waves back.
If you want to have meaningful connections in your life, actively seek them out. Expanding your horizons and stepping out of your comfort zone to meet people in new areas can lead to exciting opportunities.
Set yourself a time limit, say 3 months, and commit to connecting with a core group of people. This is the time to start those art classes you’ve thought about at 4 pm on a Sunday or to volunteer with a charity that’s helping homeless people.
Following what you’re interested in or passionate about is a great way to connect with like-minded people.
Once you’ve started to grow those fragile connections, nourish them by being the friend you always wanted to have. Remember birthdays and send cards. Schedule monthly reminders to message people. Spend an evening writing postcards to everyone you know
Soon it will feel natural initiating contact. You’ll be the person in charge of your social life.
We like people who we think like us. Dare to be friendly.
Humans are social creatures. Having meaningful connections in your life is fundamental to your happiness. Because introverts tend to take their time forming friendships, try not to put a lot of pressure on yourself. You are doing the best you can, and that’s perfectly okay. The connections will come exactly when they are meant to (and possibly when you least expect them too!).
About Daisy Simonis
Daisy Simonis is the founder of Empowered Introverts, an organisation that helps introverts supercharge their people skills (without changing who they are).
With a background of working in public relations, growing a start-up from $0 to $2.3 million, and organising a TEDx event (in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic), she writes about confidence, people skills, and becoming the best version of yourself.
What shade of introvert are you? Recent research has found there are 4 shades: social, anxious, thinking, and restrained. You can find out yours via this quiz.
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