It’s Hard to Talk to Strangers (but That Doesn’t Mean You Shouldn’t)

People are always really surprised at my ability to approach complete strangers and talk to them. “I’d never have done that,” they tell me. My standard response is that in a situation where a group of people go and do something for the first time, like the start of school or the first of a series of sports classes, everyone is scared to talk to each other, yet everyone wishes someone did. So I do. “But that’s easy for you to say,” they’ll tell me, “you’re extraverted.” Well, my friends, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not easy for anyone.

Being extraverted (which, frankly, is a matter up for debate) doesn’t mean you’re not nervous to talk to people. I hardly slept the night before my first day at college. Not because I was scared about the entirely different approach, the classes or the teachers, but because I knew I would be all alone. I would know no one there. I would have to start from zero when it comes to making friends at school. What if they didn’t like me? What if I wouldn’t be able to push myself to talk to people? What if I do and they all just think I’m a creep who approaches strangers out of the blue? The fact that some might call me extraverted, does not mean I wasn’t silently dying inside.

In fact, it might even be the opposite: see, in the past two years I’ve build my social skills nearly from the ground, growing into what people call “extraversion”. Because of that, this is exactly what everyone has come to expect of me: to be the really talkative girl who easily makes friends, even when she doesn’t know anyone at first. This expectation consequently put even more pressure on my shoulders: I simply could not go home without being able to say I talked to someone. Not only because of what my friends and family expected of me, but also because of what I expected of me. I didn’t want to be the girl who went home without having talked to anyone.

And yes, the feeling I described in the previous paragraph is fairly negative. But it’s important to realise that it’s not because the feeling’s negative, the outcome will be, too. Sometimes, it’s okay to be nervous, and scared, and to feel pressured to do something – because sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do it. And when it comes to socialising, that’s the key: you need the little push to put yourself out there and talk to someone. You need to put yourself in that vulnerable position in order to move forward. And that’s exactly why I do it despite the nerves it brings along.

This all to say: no, it’s not because your friend is extraverted and talks to a lot of people, it means it’s easy for them. Socialising is a weird and complicated thing, but as much as that is true, it is also something very necessary. So next time you’re somewhere alone, and the nerves are eating you up, don’t just stand there. Use that feeling in your advantage, and let it push you to talk to someone. Who knows where it’ll take you.

  • L. Parole

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