I may have mentioned this before, but I tend to be something of an introvert. I’m not good at . . . people.
Yeah, sure, put me in front of a screen, and I’ll type a long, newsy, humorous e-mail. Stick a phone in my hand, and on a good day, you’d think the customer service representative at the credit card company was my long-lost best friend.
But real live, in-person people? Not so much. I’ll spare you the description of the awkwardness when I actually am physically around someone with whom I primarily communicate via email or phone. I’m not sure whether to be Chatty On The Phone Me, or Bashful Awkward In Person Me.
I’m telling you, it’s a tough line I walk sometimes.
In my never-ending pilgrimage to be more comfortable in my own skin, I find myself looking in various places for hints and tips and just ways to make this part of my life a little easier.
Maybe it’s a quest to “find my tribe.” That’s apparently a thing these days. Or to “get a life,” which was popular when I was younger. Or maybe it’s just a desire to make a couple of women friends – there is a serious lack of women in my social circle. Heck, there’s a lack of people in my social circle – there’s my husband, the dog, and, well, that’s pretty much it, I think. My boss? Nah. A couple of people at the gym, maybe. A few on the internet. Nobody that I could, say, go shopping with.
So I’m told that one thing I can and should do is practice starting conversations.
Just walk up to someone and start talking to them?
But apparently, this is the way to determine if a random person is even up for friendship, or at least acquaintanceship.
Then I remembered – a few years ago, I took my son out to a “fancy” restaurant (read: cloth napkins!) for my birthday. It was just the two of us, and it was kind of a milestone birthday for me, so we got dressed up and went out and enjoyed a grown-up dinner (which also served as a “how to behave in public” lesson – he was about 8 the time).
When we were finishing up, and my son had excused himself to use the restroom, the lady at the next table leaned over to me and said “excuse me, but I just wanted to say, your little boy is such a little gentleman! He’s adorable.”
I’m still telling that story, more than twenty years later.
So I tried it.
I was at the DMV one afternoon, and the woman behind the counter had a photo of a teenaged girl next to her work area. While we were waiting for computer stuff to finish doing whatever it was doing, I just said, “Oh, is your daughter? She looks like you.”
I was amazed – this kind-of-grumpy lady’s face just lit up and she smiled at me! In fact, she was still smiling when I finished my transaction and she called the next person.
I like to think I brightened her day – which, in turn, brightened mine.
Then, out of nowhere one morning, this lady at the gym complemented my socks. (Yes, my socks. They were very cool.) That was kind of weird, but you know what? It made me happy then, and the next time I saw her, she’d already broken the ice, and we eventually exchanged first names.
The other day, I noticed that a woman I see almost daily had drastically cut her hair. I was surpised what a difference it made – she looked younger! I bumped into her in the locker room a couple of days later, and I told her just that – that her hair looked great. She, like I had been, was surprised, a little taken aback, but very happy to accept the compliment.
So maybe it’s not just about looking for someone to fill the role of “friend.” Maybe, if I sow enough seeds of genuine kindness, a kind word here, a compliment there, sure, I might end up finding a new friend, but mostly, maybe I can do a little bit to help make the world a nicer place.
We need a little more nice, wouldn’t you say?