Our first secret in finding fabulous friends and love relationships was, ironically, to learn to enjoy being alone. But what if you’re fine being alone, but have trouble meeting people? Often I counsel people who are very, very shy and experience social anxiety. They have a lot of trouble taking social risks. They can entertain themselves just fine, but they are afraid to talk to people. Many introverts say they like their own company but still crave deep, meaningful friendships and love relationships. You can’t discover those relationships if you spend most of your time alone.
I am not demanding you become a social butterfly, but finding quality relationships requires taking some social risks. You may feel that most people are out there whooping it up, asking other people to get together and having a great time and you are the only one sitting home alone. As a therapist who has counseled literally hundreds of people over the years, I know for a fact that this is not true.
With all the electronics and social media available these days, people are not communicating face to face very much anymore. The truth is that most people wish that someone else would make that first move to get together socially. Since it has become harder for people to take social risks in this information age, it is even more important to practice and develop that skill.
In fact, if you become skilled at approaching people and asking them to get together with you on a regular basis, you are going to be ahead of most of the population. In fact, you’ll find others will be drawn to you. They will be thrilled that you asked them, and you’ll have a much greater chance of making lasting friendships and love relationships.
Just take one small social risk every day. You can use our old friend the scale of 1 to 10, but instead of using it for intuitive eating you use it for assessing fear. Let me explain further.
Imagine another scale from 1 to 10. Number 1 represents no risk or fear at all (i.e. you don’t ask anybody to do anything and there is no anxiety). The number 10 represents total panic attack level (i.e. you ask everybody over to a party that you are hosting at the last minute).
Never choose a social risk that is close to 1 or a10. Pick one that is about a 5. So it might be sending someone a little message saying hi or asking them to go to a movie. You always want to be a bit uncomfortable when you take a risk; otherwise it is not a risk. But you don’t want to be unable to breathe, either!
Next, it’s essential to rethink fear of rejection. What if the person you ask to get together says no, or stands you up, or doesn’t call you back? Here’s a way to think about rejection that will help you continue to take social risks even when they don’t all work out:
Now forgive me, all you baseball fans out there, because I am not a huge baseball fan, but apparently a .400 batting average is fantastic for baseball. But what .400 actually means is that the player only hits four out of ten balls that are pitched at them.
Remember you are going to strike out a lot socially in order to be successful, and that’s not something personal against you. It is just the nature of the beast. If you know that 6 out of 10 times you are going to strike out when you take a social risk, but 4 times out of 10 you are going to hit a home run, it takes a lot of the pressure off of you. And remember, that’s true for everyone, even the most popular and confident person you know!
If you are struggling with loneliness or social anxiety, I would advise you to take one social risk every day. It may mean just calling and saying hi to somebody or texting them hello when you normally wouldn’t. Or it may involve sending them a Facebook message. Or maybe walking up and asking someone to go for coffee, someone in your class you think you may like. Take one small risk a day and you will be on your way to making lifelong friends and wonderful romantic partnerships. And if you experience rejection, keep swinging, don’t throw down the bat - eventually you are going to hit some amazing home runs!