An Inconvenient Truth: It’s Impossible To Be ‘Irresistible’ to People If You Feel Anxious, Apathetic, or Bored Around Them
Just the other day, I was poking around in Reddit and found a really interesting comment that someone made:
“I’m a serious, analytical person, and spent most of my life awkward and anxious. The anxiety’s gone, but I’m still a loner. At work, I’ve been getting better at conversation recently, but it’s still basically just a chore that I endure to get along with people. Others initiate, so I do the polite thing and act friendly in response. This mostly consists of smiling, signaling attentiveness, being agreeable, avoiding verbal/nonverbal negativity, feigning curiosity(i.e. asking relevant follow-up questions), thinking of relevant observations/knowledge/opinions to share. It works well enough at staying on everyone’s good side. I just wonder if it can be made more than tolerable.”
What’s your first impression reading this?
Mine was that I felt kinda bad for the guy. It seems like he’s trying, right? Part of it to me was even sad–his approach is so cold and methodical I wonder if he’s ever had a hug in his life.
But then I was reading the comments of people who tried to help, and guess what this guy said then?
“I just don’t see the value in talking to people”.
And then proceeded to not listen to anything anyone was telling him.
Here’s the thing…
I have a healthy enough opinion of myself where I think I’m pretty good at helping people make significant changes in their lives, particularly when it comes to mastering how to deal with people.
But if you come into the game ALREADY not seeing the value in talking to others…feeling like people bore you….and not caring enough about them to be curious or ask them questions, you’re almost at game over. Almost.
And the reason why I say ‘almost’ is because for some of you, I know that you deal with anxiety to some degree–whether it’s general or social. I know that for my introverted clients, they really are 10x more choosey about who to devote time and energy to so yes, some people aren’t interesting enough for them to talk to. The best part? These are things I can help with.
First, let’s talk about ANXIETY. (For whatever reason, when I see the word ‘anxiety’, I think of a spider.)
Anxiety. It sucks. I used to suffer from it to a debilitating extent because I used to be a hardcore perfectionist. I would go over social situations in my mind over and over and over again, analyzing every little thing I did wrong. I did this in every area of my life, too. And I would overcompensate by being overly cheerful, charming, and playing up my personality [read: people pleasing]–no one would ever guess in a million years what was actually going on with me.
Until one day, I found a book in my basement about perfectionism. I tore through it, and recognized so much of myself in it, but finally learned with the help of that book and then someone who I worked with 1:1 to manage it. I hardly ever deal with it now because I learned how to deal with it in a healthy way. (Note: Not make it disappear or delete it from my life, but manage it. Please be wary of people who tell you that you can just eliminate anxiety like magic)
So what was my secret?
I call it the LET GO→ NOTICE→ DIVE technique.
And here’s how you do it:
- LET GO. ‘Let go’ here means recognizing that you feel the anxiety that you have, whenever it crops up, and however it presents itself. It might feel really painful in your heart, like someone is squeezing it. You might feel it in your shoulders, or in the pit of your stomach. (I always ask clients where they FEEL emotions, so they can control it, instead of feeling like a monster is taking over)
As you recognize the anxiety, a part of ‘letting go’ is not judging yourself for it. So instead of freaking out that it’s happening, or trying to ‘fix it’, or trying to push it away, you let it be there, just like you let water sit in a cup. There is nothing to do with it except let it be there.
- NOTICE. ‘Notice’ is about becoming curious about why you’re feeling anxious. What’s triggering it? What happened? In the moment–especially if you’re in a social situation–it’s hard to do this analysis mid-conversation. So if that’s the case, simply say to yourself (I’m not kidding): “I’d love to talk to you about why you feel this way later”.
The reason? ‘Feelings’ are a lot like children. If a child calls out for you, or starts poking you and you ignore her, she is going to poke you and prod you more. You can’t always attend to children right then and there, but they are begging to be noticed. So if you’re alone, you can do more examination of why you felt anxious, and if you’re around people, you tell your ‘child’: “Hey, I see you. I promise we’ll talk later.” And then, actually follow through and think about it later.
- DIVE. ‘Dive’ is all about sitting with extremely uncomfortable emotions. Is it easy? No. It fucking sucks. Let’s just be honest. But I do know from experience that it is 10x worse to try and fight these feelings. Pain demands to be felt. Your feelings–no matter how scary–demand to be understood. When you ‘dive’ you truly practice letting go and sitting with the anxious feelings EVEN IF you understand why, and you’ve gone through your analysis. If they’re still there, sit with them. You wouldn’t tell a child to stop being angry at a random time just because you want to feel better. Don’t do it to yourself.
This process isn’t the omnipresent ‘right’ answer, but it certainly is a process that works for me. Every DAY I’m dealing with something uncomfortable–a hard business decision, dealing with a conflict with people who are close to me, approaching potential clients and people I don’t know. Interestingly enough, I have my own weird version of social anxiety now because everyone is watching me when I’m with them to see if I ‘measure up’. I laugh and feel like I get how celebrities feel now–it’s a strange kind of social pressure.
But this brings me to helping those of you who feel apathetic or bored around people.
Because most of the time I get asked: “How did you learn all of this? How did you get so good? How do you know how to connect with people?”
After all the techniques and scripts that I teach my clients, the ONE thing I tell people to do who feel this way is this:
Become curious about YOURSELF.
And before you scrunch up your nose, throw a tomato at me, and accuse me of giving you a ‘Just be confident!’ platitude, let me show you what I mean.
Being curious about yourself is essential to feeling NATURALLY curious and excited about other people because if YOU think you’re boring and ‘meh’–why on EARTH would you think someone else is worth getting to know, or even be excited about talking to them in the first place?
Sure, you might be at first seduced by someone’s power and prestige and want to be around them, but if you never at least explore even 1 simple little thought you have–like why DO you like Cheerios so much? Why?–then you’ll never be able to understand someone else’s emotions and be able to go deep with them.
How do I know? Because I’ve been there. I was so consumed with what was going on with ME, being in MY own head, that I completely ‘missed’ what was going on with other people. And even though I overcompensated by turning on the charm, remember that charm doesn’t always equal ‘GOOD’.
‘Charm’ can be annoying if the person is ALWAYS that way. Where’s the realness? The raw-ness of that person?
‘Charm’ can be annoying if that person makes you feel great, but always lingers on surface-level topics and conversation.
And ‘Charm’ can wear off fast if you don’t have a solid foundation. (How do I know? I experienced it) One of the key principles I teach is that you do not always have to be charismatic–that is exhausting. First, charm the hell out of yourself before you go and try to do it to other people.
SO–What are you going to do this week?
I’ll tell you.
- Practice the ‘Let Go→ Notice→ Dive” technique the next time you feel anxious or really uncomfortable this week.
- Use the ‘Notice’ part to become curious about yourself. Even if you do it for 1 minute! Why do you feel the way you feel? What happened?
- Reply to this email and tell me about what happens.
And if there’s anything to take away from today is to remember that you having anxiety, feeling anxious in certain situations, is all part of being a human. Anyone who tells you that they don’t feel certain emotions is lying because it’s hard to admit it in the first place. Doing this is brave, and I can’t wait to hear about how it works for you.