This Is How Introverts & Immigrants Can Start Conversations with Anyone
Yes, introverts can be awkward sometimes. Well, we can be awkward often. OK, we are awkward all the time! Yet, this can be changed.
Being an introvert is just the "basic code” we came into this world with. We are great for many things, like analyzing or having attention to detail, but we are not that good with social interaction.
If you are an introvert you know what I’m talking about.
We do great in social settings where there is something to do (games, activities, etc.), but when the social interaction is based solely on a conversation... we struggle.
This doesn’t mean we don’t know how to make friends or talk to other people, we just have a hard time getting through the initial stages of a social interaction. We struggle until we find the “weird thing” we have in common with someone else. The worst part is that we don’t come with the necessary skills for excelling at finding what we have in common with others.
For this reason, most often you can find us at get-togethers playing video games, board games, or at a bar during trivia night. When we are engaged in an activity we will be active and energetic, and we almost seem like we are not actually introverts.
So where is the disconnect?
The main challenge is that we don’t understand what the problem is. How can we solve a problem that we are not aware of?
We have friends, we can have conversations with them, and we are able to develop relationships. But we depend on time and activities for that to happen.
Most likely, you were able to make some friends in high school just because you saw them several times per week. Having a lot of time together allowed you to find the weird thing.
Also, you might have been able to make friends with some of the people that were involved in the same activities you were involved in. That was the trick for me.
I used to play basketball, played games such as WarCraft, Diablo, or board games like Risk, Monopoly, and even ventured into role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Because of being involved in all of these activities I was able to build meaningful relationships. Yet, I was dependent on activities to build those relationships.
But throw me at a party where I knew no one, or maybe just a few people, and you would find me checking my phone, playing games with the kids at the party, or depending on an extroverted friend to start the connections and then I would sometimes jump into the conversation.
To make things worse, as introverts, we don’t like small talk. Actually, we HATE small talk.
We feel there is no purpose or reason for it. Since we are always inside of our heads, we like to go deep into topics and we don’t like to stay on the surface. But without small talk, it is very difficult to get into deeper topics.
It seems like we are doomed to not be able to connect easily right?
As if all of this wasn’t enough, we also get drained when being around people. Some of us even get a bit nervous when we are close to big groups of people. I always avoid big crowds and get uncomfortable when people stand close to me when I’m in line. Our definition of personal space is very different than the one others have.
The cherry on top of the cake is that as adults, the probability of spending as much time as we did with others during our childhood and teenage years are minimal. Life gets in the way of us getting involved in activities and as introverts, we are not compelled to get involved in activities with other human beings where those relationships might start.
So what can we do?
By now you have probably accepted that we will be forever alone... but there is hope! I’m here to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel my dear caffeinated introverts!
Embrace The Struggle
I had no other option but to learn how to get comfortable with uncomfortable. By 22 I had to leave my country, and later on, I had to move again to a country with a completely different culture and language.
There was no opportunity to rely on time, and activities, to help me build meaningful relationships.
While I lived in Panama it was a bit easier. The language and culture are very similar to my motherland, Venezuela. But moving to Houston was a big change.
If we want to challenge the status quo and advance our careers by building meaningful relationships, we cannot rely on time and luck. We have to put it on ourselves to make it happen. That is exactly what I did when I started my MBA program. Doing so is one of the main reasons I was able to go from almost college dropout to graduating at the top of my MBA class, as the Outstanding MBA student.
Because I know how difficult it is for us introverts and immigrants to embrace the struggle of building those relationships (in a short time), I now want to share my process with you.
I didn’t understand how to naturally flow within a conversation, but I can follow processes. My brain works very much like the one of an engineer. I think in terms of “If This Then That”.
If people say hello I then must say hello.
If people ask about my day I then say something about my day.
Also, my scientific-like brain understands the concept of trial and error. So I can try many different things seeing it as an experiment where I’m trying to find the right answer.
If people say hello and I don’t say hello -> People look at me like I'm crazy
If people ask about my day and I then say a 5-10 minute story about it -> People will disconnect from the conversation and look like they want to run away
But then I would keep trying until I would get better responses. Also, given that I'm an obsessive nerd, I studied all the books and resources I could find on the topic.
All of this resulted in a proven process that has allowed me to build an international professional and personal network.
Start With Hello
We can’t start thinking about building meaningful relationships if we aren’t even starting basic conversations. Yes, small talk will not create deep relationships. But small talk leads to deep talk, and that is where the magic happens.
There are many things that go into the art and science of starting a conversation with anyone, but I want to keep it as simple as possible.
The first thing is to understand that in most settings, eye contact is an invitation to at least say hello. So, in order for that to happen, you have to actually be in a position where people can make eye contact with you. If you don’t look at people in the eye how will eye contact happen?
This sounds like a dumb question, but for us introverts, it can be a challenge to maintain or even make eye contact. This is what you can do about it:
- Activity #1: When you are in an event, or social setting, strive to find out what's the eye color of the people that you run into.
This will allow you to be in a position where people can make eye contact with you, and having that goal will keep you focused without thinking that it is awkward to look at people in the eye.
- Activity #2: Get comfortable with saying “Hello”. It seems too easy to be true, but that is all you need to start a conversation. To do so, whenever you are paying for something at a cashier, always say “Hello” to the person working there. If they have a name tag say “Hello [name]”. That’s it.
These are the only two things you need to do to start conversations with people you don’t know.
I know what you are thinking. I can feel your brain going to the next step of “If This Then That”. You want to know the next step in the process because you are afraid of the awkwardness. You’ve been in many situations where the uncomfortable silence is unbearable and you want to avoid it.
The fear of uncertainty is paralyzing you.
You are right. We should know the next step in this process, and that step is the one that will allow you to maintain any conversation.
But first, you should practice the first two activities. Go out this next couple of days and practice Activity #1 and Activity #2. If after that you feel you are ready for the next step then I want to invite you to check our NetworKings Boot Camp.
You can book us for an event by clicking here.
Stop Thinking & Start Doing!
If you are still here it means that you get that the struggle of being an introvert is real but you want to do something about it. You now believe that we are not doomed to be forever alone... but you are probably inside your head right now... thinking about what you should do next.
I'm here to be radically honest with you with this #NotSoFriendlyReminder: If you don't take action NOTHING WILL CHANGE!
I get that you want to have an understanding of the whole process, and details about the steps you should be taking. I get that the mere thought of having to talk with strangers makes you anxious because you are worried about looking (and feeling) dumb.
Yet, keep in mind that "the master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried". One of the first steps I took was to buy this book. For many years, I heard about Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends & Influence People book but I refused to read it because the title seemed sleazy and manipulative.
I thought that I already had friends so I didn't need to "win" any new ones, and I also didn't want to "influence" people because that sounds shady. I was wrong!
The book is actually about how to build meaningful relationships and gave me many of the principles and tools that I now share with others through this blog and on the Networkings Boot Camp.
If you want different results you NEED to take different actions. Here are the IMMEDIATE steps I would recommend you to take:
- Buy the book, start reading it, and implement its recommendations
- Follow us on Instagram and Facebook (by clicking the link below) so that you can receive updates when we post new blogs on this topic
- Contact us if you would like jump on a call to discuss the possibility of a personalized session of the Networkings Boot Camp
Let’s challenge the status quo by supporting each other!
Introverts that stay together… well, we don’t really like being too close but let’s embrace the struggle so that we can achieve success on our own terms!