You know that awkward moment when you’re about to meet someone for the first time when you wonder who will say the first word? Maybe it was the day you went to a barbecue at your husband’s (or wife’s) coworker’s home. You didn’t know a soul. You felt like a stranger in a strange land. Then, on the grassy horizon, you saw a man walking in your direction. He passed the bocce ball game, then the drink table. His distance closed until there he was, in your circle, greeting your husband. They delved into chatting like to old roommates. You stood there…and stood there. Then you wondered (not aloud, I hope) which rock is large enough to crawl under and hide for the duration of this (already endless) social engagement. Anxiety mounted. You grew impatient. If you slip out the back gate, will anyone notice?
Are You An Introvert, But Don’t Know It?
If the opening scene of this post rings a bell, you might be an introvert. (You can find out here.) Before you bolt toward the garden gate to drive your SUV chariot back to the safe surrounds of your castle (but what about your hubby?), allow me to offer one simple tip to break the ice so you can warm up to spending an evening with strangers. At least, once in awhile.
You Have Short-Lived Social Battery
By nature, introverts don’t gravitate toward social engagements, especially with people we don’t know, especially when small talk will buzz the air like gnats, especially when a great time means reading a great book, or hiking with an awesome friend. But, we need to stretch ourselves socially once in awhile.
Let’s Look At the Scene Again
So your husband and his buddy are yacking like school girls while you stand there feeling both conspicuous and invisible all at once. Your mind wonders down the twisted trail that goes something like this: I-can’t-believe-I’ve-been-standing-here-this-long-and-no-one-has-introduced-me-to-what’s-his-name-yet. What should you do? Introduce yourself first.
Introduce yourself first.
Your Secret Weapon Is Hello
By getting the first word you’re establishing yourself as confident and reassured.(You might even pass yourself off as an extrovert.) Keep your greeting sincere, short, and simple. Something like this is all you need to say (while making eye contact and smiling, naturally.) “Hi. I’m Sue Ellen. It’s nice to meet you.”
That wasn’t hard.
The world mirrors back to us our own behavior. And quiet, reserved people are often misunderstood as “snobby”, “aloof”, or “rude”. While you’re thinking about that, read what I–a card-carrying introvert, have discovered about saying the first word by introducing myself first.
Why Get the First Word?
1. Because it relieves social pressure
When I say hello and introduce myself first, I no longer wonder who’s going to greet who first. I don’t know about you, but I like to get painful things over and done with as soon as I can. If that means being first to offer my hand, pull on a big smile, then say “Hi, I’m Sally,” so be it.
2. Because 30 percent of the world’s population is made up of introverts, so they’re glad you went first.
Now this is statistically sound. Of the 7.5 billion people living on planet earth today, one-third is introverted. They’re happy to have you go first. You see: you’re doing your new introverted friend a favor. Good for you!
3. Because getting in the first word lets you set the tone.
After the greeting comes the small talk, which is easier to direct if you go first. Follow me here: if you go first, then you also go third, meaning you can guide the conversation down a meaningful path lined with nuggets of good information and not one littered with excruciating chitchat.
There’s something about initiating the first word–“hello”, that puts you in the driver’s seat, but out of the limelight. As you’re offering a warm, friendly introduction, their minds are busy listening to your name, while your mind is busy finding the trailhead of this brief conversation so you can get from A-to-B–and stay out of the weeds. Be the trail guide.
4. Because you will appear more confident than you feel.
(I promise. Next time it gets easier.) I think this fits into the principle of treat others the way you want to be treated. When your new acquaintance perceives you as confident, they’ll treat you in kind. Wouldn’t you rather be treated as a confident party-goer than the quiet wallflower you think you are?
5. Initiating the first word puts you both at ease.
I don’t have any scientific data to put behind this “fact.” But, my personal field tests prove this to be true. I think people, in general, want to be noticed—not with a spotlight, but by way of a smile or simple “hello”. Think back to the opening scene of the barbecue (top of the post). Were you squirming in discomfort waiting for someone to include you in the conversation? Saying “hello” first (in a kind, non-threatening way), brings you in. Don’t be surprised if you make a new friend this way because you made someone feel noticed.
Introverts Can Be Outgoing
Remember, introvert doesn’t mean “shy,” which is “the fear of negative judgment. Introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.” Introverts are quiet; we do our talking on the inside as creative inward thinkers. Problem solvers.
So, problem solver, challenge yourself to make the first move–introduce yourself first. Do it in a way that’s natural to you, as counterintuitive as that is. And please let me know how it goes.
Expect good things and I’ll see you out there!