I have a confession to make: I don't think I'm naturally super good with people. There have been times when I've been downright uncomfortable in a crowd of strangers, nearly sick to my stomach with the thought of making small talk. I've been known to back out of engagements if I knew I wouldn't know too many people there, duck my head if I were passing someone I wasn't familiar with in the hall, and generally being a huge stick-in-the-mud when it came to hanging out with people who I felt wouldn't "get" me.
Well, no more. I finally figured it out. Are you ready to have your mind friggin' BLOWN? By a hooker?
People aren't all that scary. In fact, most people are good people and they want to get to know you. And guess what else? We all have a lot more in common than we think.
Okay, so maybe not all that mind-blowing for most of you, but I gotta say, up until a couple of months ago, I really thought otherwise. I thought I only needed and wanted my little core group of friends to talk to forever and ever. And while I luuurrrvvve my core group of friends and they'll ALWAYS be my go-to awesome people, I discovered that I was socially stunted. Here's how:
1. I wanted to do new things outside my comfort zone, but was never willing to seek out people who wanted the same.
2. I wanted to know more about my city, but never thought to ask the people who love and know it best.
3. I wanted people to read my shit here on this blog, but I wasn't willing to give them any REASON to want to read my shit. (I mean, who wants to go to some stranger's house only to find she likes to tear around maniacally with all her clothes off? That's creepy and weird. But go to a FRIEND's house, and suddenly her nudity--while still strange--is at least somewhat understandable.)
In other words, no one would come to find me to take me out of my little, introverted shell. I had to offer my friendship first to have it in return.
Seriously...anyone else leaking grey matter onto the table right now? Because, yeah, it's still throwing me for a loop.
So I got serious about networking. And not networking in a sense like, "Oh, I hope all these people want to GIVE ME THEIR MONEY," but networking just to give, well, me. Here's how I did it (and how you can, too!):
1. Get Social (Media) When I realized I was an unfriendly lame-ass, I began being a slave to my Twitter suggested follows list, and focused mainly on local Columbus people. I looked to see who my friends were following, and I followed those people, too. And I didn't stop there...I began interacting with my newly followed Tweeps, asking them about good places in Columbus, joining in on conversations about favorite restaurants, TV shows, beers. And lo and behold...I was getting followed back AND invited into conversations.
2. Get Local. I joined a FANTASTIC local community called Cbusr. It's the best site I've ever used to simply meet other humans. No strings attached, no weird dating vibe, no stuffy professional overtone. Just, "That person seems really cool. I'd like to hang out with her." This community led me to going to my very first ever networking event completely ALONE. But before I went, I reached out to my new Twitter friends and asked, "Who would like to be my first friend at the meet-up tonight?" And lo, two brave and kind souls immediately chimed in.
3. Get Aggressive (er, in a nice way). Soon, it wasn't enough for me to just @reply or click "I'd Like to Meet" a million people everyday, so I began making moves to plan concrete, in person meeting times. This means my calendar is really, really full these days, but it also means I'm grabbing drinks, downing coffee and noshing on local food with some of the coolest people in town. And while it was hard at first for me to start and maintain conversation, it gets easier every time.
If I could EXPLAIN how out of character for me this all is, I would. But I think the biggest thing I've learned in the last few months is: we are not static. Change is good, welcome, and can be as easy as a Twitter DM saying, "Coffee?". I am no longer satisfied with loudly proclaiming, "This is just who I am," if it means that I never grow out of a bad habit or personal deficiency.
Anyway, to allayous out there, get connected. It really is easier than you think, and the payoff? Awesometimes.