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8 Steps to being more social

Just because I get anxious around people it doesn't mean that I can magically get by without connecting with others, though I often wish I could. Human beings are social animals, and although I feel like a freak a lot, I think I am human. I think you  might be too!

I've been way more social than usual lately and it feels good. My psychiatrist always asks what social things I've been up to and it's kind of annoying, but now I see why he focuses on it. Being around other people helps me get out of my head and feel engaged with life. Time goes by faster around others and making plans gives me more to look forward to.

I doubt this social period in my life will last, but maybe if I'm super smart about it I can give myself some sort of recipe to look back on the next time I'm feeling isolated. So Like most of my blog writing, this post is for me as much as it is for you.


1.  Make the First Move
I complained to my sister the other day that getting together with friends can be like pulling teeth. She said that maybe each one of us is waiting for the other person to make the first move, pick up the phone, or set a date to do something. Don't assume that people don't want to see you just because they don't call you. Do assume that people want to hear from you because they do! Everyone wants to be invited to do stuff.  If picking up the phone feels too scary, read on until you get to Step 5!

2.  Schedule Things in a Row
This new social period started for me a few weeks ago when my sister moved in with me before getting her own place. After having someone with me for even three days, I started to get used to not being alone all the time. Suddenly it was easy to hang out with someone without all the fuss of calling and planning and traveling to see each other. So ask a friend to stay over for a few nights or try to plan a few outings in a row so that being social becomes routine.

3.  Set a Weekly Date
It's often hard to schedule get-togethers with people last-minute, so making a weekly activity can ensure social time ahead of time. I've been crafting with a few friends every week now, and since we're all creative but get stuck when it comes to motivation, we're killing two birds with one stone. Make a date to look forward to and knock something off your productivity list at the same time. Then even when people are super busy, they'll keep this date standing because it helps them get stuff done.  Or do the opposite and set a date to do anything but work! Start a season of a favourite show on DVD and watch it together weekly until it ends. Enrolling in a new weekly class or group has the same benefit.

4.  Go Where People Are
Going to populated places to feel less lonely has been one of my tricks for years. I usually go to Starbucks and get my own table, so I have my own safe space. I bring my journal for something to do and I sip coffee and revel in an independent activity while surrounded by noise and busy lives.  I've even done it at the mall - and I HATE the mall - sitting in the far corner of the food court. Doing safe-feeling activities while stepping out of your comfort zone is a sneaky way to being closer to the world. Plus I read this neat article about a week ago that made me even more sure of my coffee-shop habits: Why Crowded Coffee Shops Fire Up Your Creativity.

5.  Keep the Conversation Going
With Twitter, Facebook, and just plain texting, we all seem to be plugged in all the time. So use it as another way to go where people are in the virtual world. Write on people's walls, tweet hello, or text just to see what's up. Even when I'm in hermit mode and never want to leave my apartment again, I can still communicate with friends without changing out of my pajamas. Playing games against friends on your phone or computer makes you feel like you're hanging out, even when you're both busy doing something else. There is nothing too small when it comes to staying in contact. Real life face time is the best, but when that's not possible, stay connected.

6.  Stay Informed
I try to read the newspaper daily and listen to the radio to stay connected to those around me. Even just reading latest issues of magazines at the book store keeps me up to date. Then when you talk to people, you have something current to discuss. Watching TV works, as does reading blogs online. Fresh information in any form gives you fresh things to talk about, even if you don't have many exciting things happening in your life.

7.  Be Friendly
It wasn't until I started doing craft shows that I realized how bored people can get being at a counter or store all day. So now when I go to coffee shops or grocery stores I try to talk to the cashier. These days, a lot of companies teach their employees how to be friendlier, so it's part of their job to smile and be nice. Use it! Smile, say thank you, and if the cashier tells you to have a nice day, be sure to say "You too!" The more people you talk to, the more you want to talk to people. If you get nervous, just ask questions about the other person. People love to talk about themselves.

8.  Say Yes!
Almost every single time I'm invited to do something with a friend I feel really hesitant to commit. But once I do go out, I am always glad that I did. Have you seen that movie Yes Man? I'm not a Jim Carrey fan but I own that movie to keep me motivated. The main character goes to a presentation on the power of saying Yes and then when he starts saying Yes to things in life instead of No, he starts meeting people, staying busy, and living his life. He becomes happy. In short, it changes things.
If this list seems overwhelming, break it up into smaller pieces. Make a goal to talk to one person today while you're out doing errands. Try to write on one friend's Facebook wall, maybe someone you haven't talked to in a while. Even taking a walk down a street you don't visit often will expose you to new faces. Give it a try!