Being an introvert and slightly timid is not easy. Sometimes I’ll want something at a restaurant and my waiter will pass by. I’ll say “Excuse me” to him, but I won’t say it very loud. Usually he doesn’t hear me and I just get him on the next pass. The hallway stranger walk-bys are always interesting. Do I say hi? Do I not say anything? Do I give the awkward head nod? I don’t know about anyone else, but these situations are nerve wracking for me. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I love this blog so much. I couldn’t speak these posts to anyone, but gathering my thoughts and putting them on paper (or the internet) is a much easier pill to swallow.
Today I decided to break that mold. In a future post, I’m going to discuss bucket lists (things you want to do during the course of your life). In addition to my own list, I also wanted to get the opinions of others, especially those who may be in much different walks of life. Yes, asking friends would be easier, but I didn’t want to take the easy way out this time.
The plan was to go to a public setting (in my case, a nearby shopping mall), go up to total strangers, tell them I wanted to ask them a simple question, and then get their answer. In my head, that seemed simple enough. After work, I left for the mall, bought myself a cold beverage, and looked around for people. Instantly, I’m nervous. This isn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Even the 10-year old children look intimidating to me now.
Finally, I spot a younger gentleman with an easy-going demeanor who looks like he’ll play along. Summoning up the courage, I ask him if I could have a minute of his time to ask him a question for an article that I’m writing. Immediately, I can tell he’s put off, but he reluctantly says okay. I ask him if he knows what a bucket list is and he says he does, at which point I ask him to name one thing on his bucket list. At this point, the conversation already seems awkward, and even more awkward when he says, “I dunno, too many to count.” Trying to get something deeper out of him, I ask for him to just name one. He responds with, “I dunno, I can’t think of any right now.” Aaaaaaaannd, the game is over! I thank him for his time and he walks one way and I walk the other way feeling extremely dejected. It wasn’t easy for me to put myself out there, but I did, and I promptly had a figurative hand stuck in my face. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to summon the courage to try again. That courage never came, and I was outta there.
Driving home, I realized that had I been in his situation, the result may not have been so different. I brought that awkward situation on myself. I’m not kicking myself for it, but the fact is that there were subtle parts of this situation that I completely took for granted which ultimately led to my failure. Here we go with: How to Avoid the Introvert’s Nightmare.
Mistake #1: Going to the mall. I’d venture to guess that only a small percentage of the population goes to the mall for pleasure. If you’re there, you have a goal in mind for what you want to get. Most people get in, buy what they need, and take off. They don’t want to be bothered by others.
Mistake #2: Going after work. Living in a large suburb of a big city means there is traffic all over the place. If you are at the mall at 4:30 in the afternoon in the middle of rush hour traffic, you’re going to be in a pretty bad mood to begin with. Some people just aren’t happy after work, so it doesn’t make sense to try and explore their creative sides. I need people in a good an open frame of mind when I’m asking these questions. Maybe I need to hit up a coffee shop or a bar during happy hour.
Mistake #3: I am not a journalist, and did not ask the question in a good way. I believe I said that I’m writing an article for a blog and I wanted to ask a simple question. That’s right, it’s amateur hour at the local mall today. If people don’t know what they’re responding to, they are going to be wary from the get-go. I need a better way to phrase my question such as, “I am doing an article about fun and inspiring things that people do with their time and was wondering if you could answer one question for me about that.” Bingo. Simple and direct in a way that doesn’t make it seem like I’m trying to sell them something.
Sometimes people are afraid to put themselves out there because they fear rejection or embarrassment, and are even further put off if that rejection happens. The important thing is to make sure that you don’t give up completely, and this goes for many other aspects of life as well. Work, relationships, going to the gym; there have been times where I think most people can say they’ve been afraid to fail or feel embarrassed at certain points, but don’t let that put you off from accomplishing the amazing things that you are capable of doing.
As for me and my dilemma, I may be down, but I’m far from out. I fully intend to go back out and conduct my short interviews with strangers, but maybe this time I’ll be smart enough to avoid the introvert’s nightmare.