The Move – The “Back Into Society” Game

Reflecting on my last post, it is clear I’ve got my work cut out…but that my people are with me on this (thanks, folks!). As a natural introvert stuck in bad habits I shouldn’t expect miracles or an overnight transformation of my personality.

Yet I maintain that I should have high standards, and I should plan to succeed. Y’see, the thing I’ve observed when starting new jobs & activities or undergoing a change of scenario is that patterns of behaviour form and stick very rapidly indeed.

From the moment I first set eyes on a new person I’m cementing a pattern of socializing. If all I do on our first encounter is nod and remain silent…I’ve set myself up to repeat ‘brief nod + silence’ for all encounters to come. However if upon our first encounter I grow a pair and devote a minimum of 5 minutes to introductory small talk – in all likelihood I’m going to be able to manage another 5 mins of chat when I next see you. If I persist with the program of talking then after a while it’ll feel easy.

Pulling examples of friendships and working relationships from the back of my head, they all form at different rates. There are some friends I barely breathed a word to in the beginning…but now I natter away to. There are others I hit off with from the word go and have never had a problem maintaining a conversation with them. Can I think of any discernable differences in “quality” of friendship between peeps from those two categories? No, actually. (Although, it must be said: there are more in the former group than the latter) There are other people I started to befriend or get to know…then for whatever reason I stopped making an effort to communicate and the relationship passed into silence.

In the workplace I have the same sort of issues. Now, if it takes me 6-9 months in a new place to make friends, then that’s OK. I factor that into the assessment of my overall integration/happiness. If other people want to judge me on my friend-making abilities then they can go right ahead.

If it takes me 6-9 months in a new place to bond with my co-workers, then that is clearly not OK. When supervisors & colleagues judge me on my abilities to interact with co-workers, then that does matter. I do not necessarily like the fact that another standard exists for professional interactions…but since I’m not willing to commit to a life of solo freelancing, I’m going to have to suck it up.

Don’t panic, my situation isn’t hopeless.

I have a plan.

A point I am a stickler for making is that introversion does not equal shyness. The two are quite closely linked: I do have a streak of shyness. However there is a difference between (a) not necessarily wanting to talk and valuing personal space, and (b) wanting to talk but not being able, then retreating into your own personal space.

Back in the dark, heady days of my undergraduate life, I acquired a reputation within one of my social circles as being something of a Dare champion. Turns out I don’t get embarrassed easily, plus I will do something ridiculous out of the stubborn desire to do what others shy at.

Anyway, dares and new challenges are strong points of mine. So how about it? A set of “dares” for me to complete when I move to the USA as a way of breaking the ice and getting me into the habit of good habits.

Right, so in the first two weeks after my arrival into the country, I must:

  1. Compliment the hair/clothes/accessories of a random individual I see out and about.
  2. Find out the name, country of origin & travel purpose of everybody I’m sharing a dorm with in the Hostel.
  3. Wink at a cute boy.
  4. Strike up a conversation with someone beside me in the Starbucks queue (or equivalent location).
  5. Suggest that person-I-don’t-know-that-well and myself “Go grab a coffee”.
  6. When somebody asks me “How was your weekend?” or “Got any plans for the rest of today?” I have to give them an answer more detailed than “[Shrug] Nothing interesting, really.”

Does anyone else have some dares or challenges for me to attempt in the first few weeks Stateside? Results and outcomes will be posted after the time limit.

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8 thoughts on “The Move – The “Back Into Society” Game

  1. There are a few self-declared introverts in my cohort, and I’m glad they let me know that they just needed their personal space (so as not to take offense if they retreated). I appreciated knowing up front about their boundaries, and I’ve tried to respect that.

    • Communicating my needs in terms of personal space is still a bit of a challenge for me (Is it going to come across as rude? What if I end up completely isolated?), though I know it would have helped me out on previous occasions.
      I’m slowly getting the hang of balancing personal & public spaces, so I’m sure things will work out fine.

      • I don’t think it would come off as rude… once they let me know, I appreciated the effort they made to participate in outings or even host their own parties, but I also didn’t take offense if they decided not to participate. Of course, this all depends on your colleagues, but I’d bet that knowing is better than not. Safe travels to the US!

  2. I’ve got one! If you can’t find anyone to join you for the PNBR, then go by yourself, but while milling around the gathering area before the ride, scan the crowds for groups that seem welcoming and with whom you could imagine yourself joining, and then walk up to one, introduce yourself, explain that none of your usual posse could attend this year but you’d still like to be part of one, and ask if you can join theirs. Bonus points if you end up hanging out with them after the ride!

    Although, technically, I guess that’s more than two weeks after your return.

    I’ll try to think of some other dares, though. I like this game!

    • I don’t see that being particularly enjoyable for me. It’s a bit of a step-up between chatting about the weather in Starbucks and ingratiating yourself into a social circle…

  3. Pingback: Grad School – The New Life (Pt 1) | St Andrews Lynx's Blog

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