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Is there a reason for my inability to connect with guys and what can I do to be more at ease with them?
September 1, 2011 11:01 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t communicate with guys at a more personal level. I’m wondering if it’s just shyness or something more.

A bit of background info (Okay, it is long).

I’m 21, female, at uni. I live in a dorm. The kitchen is where most of socializing is done. I don’t usually talk to random guys who are cooking beside me. If one walked up and said hi or asked a question, I’d have no problem answering. The ones that I know and do talk to regularly, our conversations are mostly polite and formal: how are classes, what are you cooking. And there are a couple whom I have tried being friendly with. They seem uninterested to talk so we are now on ignoring terms whenever we walk pass each other. Ok, basically I gave up trying with these dudes. But I want to improve. I want to talk about movies, music and other more interesting things.

I’ve never had a boyfriend. Don’t think there was/is anyone interested in me. It takes a while for me to open up to people. Maybe it’s partly due to me being an introvert. I’m much more comfortable around girls. Most if not all of my closest friends are girls. But I’m okay with the more feminine guys. And I’m also okay with guys at a professional level, say working on a school project together or being in a position of authority.

Possible reasons:

Maybe my family background has to do with it. I’m an only child. I have a good relationship with both my parents, but much closer to my dad as my mum often worked long hours. My dad suffers from depression and I guess he’s just a naturally angry person. I grew up in a not so peaceful household, always exposed to my parent’s bitter arguments, things breaking in the house, my dad screaming his head off at my mum and me, calling us ‘stupid’, ‘useless’ and worse names in my mum’s case. It’s she who is frequently targeted. He has hit her a few times too. Could witnessing all these abuse have left some sort of impact on me? Am I wary of guys without realizing it?

Also, I notice girls who have male siblings (and not forgetting those who are generally bubbly and outgoing) are very much at ease in their interactions with guys, like touching, teasing, playfully hitting and getting the boys to do things for them. I don’t really feel comfortable doing those things (I pride myself in thinking I’m independent enough, don’t need a guy to carry my books). I’m just not used to it I guess. But I don’t mind the occasional physical contact. You won’t believe how touched I get when a guy pats me on the shoulder. I feel like I’m acknowledged as a homie. The word that comes to mind is ‘stiff’. Yeah, I’m ‘stiffer’ compared to these girls. Maybe having a brother or male relatives my age would have given me more insight about the male species?

It is possible the root of the problem is simpler than that. I just need to socialize more? I’m usually quiet but loud around people I’m comfortable with. I can spend long periods (days even) alone in my room watching movies and reading AskMe posts happily without getting bored. I don’t have a big gang of friends to hang out with. I have 2 that I’m pretty close to but I can’t expect them to want to spend all their time with me. They have other social circles and stuff to do. Or maybe I don’t have the right body language? When I enter a crowded room, the only thought in my head is to choose a less crowded area to pass through and stare directly ahead... makes me unapproachable, I know. Hell, I even avoid the kitchen at peak hours. I’ve never liked crowds really.

Or is it just plain self-esteem issues? There are days when I do feel miserable and lonely after beating myself up mentally for not having many friends (or a gang to be exact). But that’s rare now as I’ve started embracing the idea that it’s alright to go out and do things by myself without dragging the entire village along.

I’m worried this silly problem will lead to me never meeting the love of my life in the long run. I would be really grateful for any experience/insight/advice!
posted by the borneo kid to Human Relations (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ok, first off, take a deep breath. You should not be concerned about meeting the love of your life right now, you've still got lots of time.

So, yes, it's pretty clear that you're naturally shy, and so you're not likely to be the life of the party, etc. But it also doesn't sound like you're hiding in your room or being a total wallflower. So you've actually done pretty well, you just need to take the next step. If you want to talk to guys about movies or music, *do so*. You don't necessarily need to wait for them to take the first step or cross any sort of boundary line. It would probably be easiest if you start by talking to guys you aren't romantically interested in, but otherwise, it just takes practice. Guys are not a separate species. If you treat them more or less the same way you would treat a girl, you should have reasonable success.

The only other thing I would say is that while I don't think your past family history is at fault here, you still may want to talk to a therapist or councilor about it anyway. Even if it's unrelated, that's something that could cause its own problems down the line.
posted by tau_ceti at 11:29 PM on September 1, 2011


You need to go beyond your kitchen to meet people and you'll wait forever in your room for Mr Right to knock on the door. Everyone else looks really self assured but scratch the surface and most will be as uncertain as you are. The best way to make a friend is to pretend they're your friend already. Most guys will be really pleased that a girl, any girl, comes up and talks to them. You're 21 now, you're an adult and in control of your future, you can't change your family and you'll only waste time blaming other people for the past. Staring directly ahead in a crowded room isn't exactly welcoming anyone else to come and talk to you, make a bit of eye contact, smile and say hello instead. Don't think over analyse your feelings, think about doing things with others instead.
posted by joannemullen at 11:32 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, one more thing. There's a pretty fine line between garden-variety shyness and social anxiety. If you find that you really can't bring yourself to talk to people directly, that's when you want to go find a therapist to work with.
posted by tau_ceti at 11:33 PM on September 1, 2011


I’m worried this silly problem will lead to me never meeting the love of my life in the long run.

You're 21 years old. Live life. Be you. Crush it.

You're also Australian, so I'm having problems interpreting some of your words.

You'll either meet the "love of your life" or you won't. I'm fucking 40 and I constantly worry that I met "the love of my life" back in college. And that it wasn't my ex-wife. Or maybe it's the cute redhead I work with.

What I mean to say is that as you get older, the whole "Love of my life" bit turns more into the "Toleration of my life"

In addition, you sound like an introvert who desperately wants to be an extrovert. From personal experience, this doesn't work. I had to go to a therapist to figure that out. The most important thing she said to me was "Don't live to somebody else's expectations. Live your own."
posted by Sphinx at 11:33 PM on September 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


What I mean to say is that as you get older, the whole "Love of my life" bit turns more into the "Toleration of my life"

Not that I disagree with this, but another path is that it turns into the 'Loves of my Life'.
posted by mannequito at 11:45 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not Australian, just an international student studying here. So I apologize if I am confusing some of you with my English!

In addition, you sound like an introvert who desperately wants to be an extrovert. From personal experience, this doesn't work. I had to go to a therapist to figure that out.
I've figured this out myself over time. I realized that what I need is to have at least one social event to look forward to each week to keep sane.

Thanks for the answers so far people! Keep 'em coming!
posted by the borneo kid at 12:06 AM on September 2, 2011


Practice! Socializing is a SKILL that requires lots of practice. That means lots of failure, and trial & error. Remember to be kind to yourself, you are human after all.

*Practice talking to people (guys and girls). Ask them what they have been up to lately, or what they do for fun, etc. Then actively listen and ask them questions about it. Your goal is to have a fun conversation and learn something.
*Read How to Win Friends and Influence People.
*Take an acting class. Learn how to let go of your inhibitions so to speak, because if you don't do that in acting class you're the one who stands out!

You are putting so much emphasis on the goal of trying to find a mate or talk to guys that its causing you anxiety. Notice that by practicing mindfulness perhaps. Start living in the moment (so to speak) with much much less attachment or desire for your goal. Just have fun and keep practicing. No need to become an extrovert, but you do need to refine some basic socializing skills.

Next to to learn how to flirt, hold eye contact, hug, touch the other person on the arm or leg, etc.

There are tons of resources out there, you just need to say "Enough is Enough, It is up to me to Change," and start the process of developing your social and flirting skills.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 12:08 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"... Or maybe I don’t have the right body language? When I enter a crowded room, the only thought in my head is to choose a less crowded area to pass through and stare directly ahead... makes me unapproachable, I know. Hell, I even avoid the kitchen at peak hours. I’ve never liked crowds really. ..."

If you walk around looking like you're afraid that you'll be a victim of a major crime in the next few seconds, most non-criminal folk will avoid getting near you, on grounds of simple self-preservation. On the other hand, if you look like you could string together a simple greeting, and a few additional interesting words, or even better, that you might be more interested in new people, than afraid of assault, you might get a better response from a larger cross-section of your uni.

Also, a communal kitchen is not a great place to initially socialize; a lot of people are looking to minimize problems, because they have to go there regularly, not maximize social interactions. And, it's sometimes loud, crowded, busy and smells funny. Try finding some better places to hang, where conversations are more of the chosen variety, than of the "have to" variety.
posted by paulsc at 12:26 AM on September 2, 2011


When someone talks to you or asks a question in the kitchen, try looking directly into their eyes. Hard, I know. But notice them, the eyes, the color, the pretty flecks in the iris (if you are close enough to see). Don't "stare" of course, just regard them (the person) while they engage you and while you respond, since you say it is no problem answering. See if you can do more than just answer yes/no and engage them; maybe ask them a related question?
In other words, check them out. Try to relax your face/posture (only if you feel safe, of course).

People will respond to a personality that is not shutting them out ... introversion might be a "set-point" for you but try to realize these other people are trying to check out your interest level in them. Everybody is self-interested, as are you. Your introversion is not necessarily the only thing that matters. To them, who knows what matters? You might have to ask them!

On preview, many good answers upthread ...
posted by bebrave! at 12:33 AM on September 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't have any great advice except I know for a fact that you can't pin it on your lack of male siblings. I have a brother and I've always had a hard time talking to people enough to cultivate them into actual conversation-with-me-havers, especially guys. For some people being jolly and goofy and playful and automatically being friends with everyone is second-nature, like breathing, but it's not because they had brothers (although it might be because they grew up always feeling safe and secure and rarely afraid of basic things like parental love and security and so there's never that unconscious fear). I think it must be possible to learn it though.
posted by bleep at 1:11 AM on September 2, 2011


Following up what bleep said: you can have a brother you grew up playing and squabbling with, and an idyllic, secure childhood free of even a shadow of a demon, and still turn out to be the kind of woman who takes months to be comfortable with new people, prefers to be on the edge of gatherings, and couldn't/wouldn't be flirtatious if her life depended on it.

And you can also, FWIW, be that kind of woman and still end up with friends and romantic relationships.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:12 AM on September 2, 2011


Don't worry, shy people get to meet the love's of their lives too.

Instead of thinking of college/Uni as the place you are going to meet the love of your life, think of it as the place you are going to practice all your social skills and figure out what does and doesn't work for you. The good news is no matter how much you think you embarrass yourself chances are you are never going to see anyone from college ever again and chances are they are never going to remember once they get out in the "real" world so its a great time and place to practice.

The best way to find guys to talk to is in my opinion to find a club or a group that do something you are interested in and enjoy and then conversations roll naturally. "Cold calling" people in the kitchens is a lot harder as you don't have the obvious opening of working on something together. Work at making a wide range of male friends. It takes the pressure off of them and you, friends can always become more but if nothing else you will have made a lot of friends and will start to feel relaxed around guys.
posted by wwax at 4:25 AM on September 2, 2011


Ah, but you describe me in my youth! I know how difficult it is to feel like you should be more social, when you really are quite happy to be closed up in your room without anyone to bother you.

Step 1. Realize there's nothing wrong with you. I secretly suspect that all those extroverted people sometimes wish they could just sit alone in a room for an afternoon, like you. But they find that difficult, in the same way you find cooking in a crowded kitchen difficult. Apples, oranges. No biggie.

Step 2. Seconding the suggestion to join some sort of club. If nothing suits your fancy, try starting one. Bold!

Step 3. I found, when I was trying to break out of my shell, that striking up meaningful conversations took a lot of effort with very little payoff. Instead I focused on simply increasing my presence slowly. Smile anytime someone passes you in the hallway, even if you don't say "hello!" When you pass the busy kitchen (but aren't quite ready to enter it), look in, smile and wave, and keep walking. It will seem awkward, but after a while, people will take notice of you. They'll realize you're not a sociopath, but you just do your own thing. If they see you warm to them, they'll instinctively warm to you (unless they're jerks, but you don't need to cultivate jerks). Once you work up the gumption to enter the busy kitchen, it will still feel weird and anxiety-producing, but you'll have a baseline of goodwill in there.

Step 4. Continue to build the relationships you already have. Slowly, at your own pace. Don't expend energy on the people who make a point to remind you you're invisible. Smile at them politely, but write them off socially.
posted by oohisay at 4:39 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, I forgot to add: allow yourself to enjoy who you are. Yes, spend some time increasing your social circle, but don't look at your "introvert time" as a waste or some sort of deviancy. It's part of you. :)
posted by oohisay at 4:53 AM on September 2, 2011


I’m worried this silly problem will lead to me never meeting the love of my life in the long run. I would be really grateful for any experience/insight/advice!

Not true. The right guy will love you for who you are.

You are very much like me, and I also spent a lot of time wondering the same thing as you. But I learned to like myself after a while. A guy did come along appreciating me for who I am. I'm not saying you should stagnate. Continue to grow and develop naturally, but there's no need to force yourself to be somebody you are clearly not.

I take a longer time to open up to people too, I think the trick is to feel comfortable about this. If you feel awkward about this, people are likely to pick up on that through non-verbal signals. So just accept that it's the way you are and actually be comfortable taking your time to warm up to people. Be comfortable in your own skin.
posted by accisse at 5:15 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The trick is to keep the conversations going.

You can't expect the other person to be the one to always initiate a conversation, or lead the conversation into the topic of your choice. People out there are many different levels of introversion, so they might be expecting you to start the conversation, while at the same time, you are expecting them to start the conversation. In the end, it's a dead-lock, and the only way to break out of this it to take control of the conversation yourself and lead it in the direction you want to go in.

It's difficult to take control of a conversation when most of the time they just seem to fizzle out. The trick is to keep your side of the conversation going no matter what. The best way I've found to achieve this is by sounding genuinely interested in what the other person is saying/doing, and asking them a ton of questions.

Asking a question demands a response, so if you keep asking questions, the other person will keep answering them, which in turn keeps the conversation going. Most people love to talk about themselves, so most of the time they don't even notice all the questions you're asking. And even if they do, they will just start asking questions back at you, which is still a win-win situation for you because they will get to know you better.

So a conversation might go like this:

You: What are you making for dinner?
Guy: Oh, I'm making some lasagna.
You: Wow! Lasagna? I love that stuff, it's so delicious! Do you have a favorite recipe?
Guy: Yeah, it's one of my family's secret recipes passed on for generations.
You: Oh really? Is your family really good at cooking?
(repeat with the questioning)

If the guy notices that the conversation is all about him, he will eventually start asking questions back at you.

Guy: You know, I see you in the kitchen often. Do you like to cook?
You: Yeah! Nothing seems to beat good ol' home cooking. Homemade macaroni and cheese is my favorite. What about you?

If you want to talk about movies and music, you need to be the one to steer the conversation in that direction. And it's also okay to introduce those subjects out-of-the-blue as long as you preface it with some kinda of comment that ties it to the person you're speaking with. A good trick to do this is to pretend you "just remembered" something that has to do with the subject you wish to talk about. For example:

Guy: (Says something off-topic)
You: That's really awesome! Oh! Hey! I just remembered you and the other guys watch movies on Saturday nights. Have you seen "Rise of the Apes?" It's so awesome, I totally recommend watching it.
(You changed the subject and asked him a question, so he will be forced to respond)

So, remember, you need to take the initiative and lead the conversation if you want guys to talk to you on a personal level. Most people won't naturally talk about personal things unless they think someone is genuinely listening to them, so that's where you come in with all your questions. It's difficult to take the lead on conversations, especially for a type of person that likes to listen rather than talk, but if you can at least guarantee that your side of the conversation keeps going, then that will be one less reason for a conversation to fizzle out.

Good luck!
posted by nikkorizz at 6:00 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does your university have a film club or a rock soc or something like that? If it does, why not go along to it!

All the friends I made at university were made through societies, and exactly none at all through communal kitchen usage.
posted by emilyw at 6:40 AM on September 2, 2011


There's an awful lot of good advice here, and I know it's good because twenty or so years ago I could have written this question and lots of it would have helped me. I'm an only child from a not-very-affectionate family (apart from a few incidences of sexual abuse). From the other side, yes - you can and will get more comfortable not just as you mature and learn social skills for the adult world, but as others around you do as well. You're in a place where you are meeting people that haven't necessarily been out in the world much either, and may still be interacting in a more youthful way.

It's funny that you mentioned the scenario about suspecting that older brothers make a difference, and I'll tell you - they certainly can. I remember staring in fascinated horror and admiration at my childhood best friend's three older brothers as they tortured her in a hundred different ways, and as she shrugged it all off. Imagine: I've grown up and still wonder and regret not knowing what it's like to have been regularly held down and farted on! But I did get to observe them, and learn from them. Without her older brothers, I would not have been introduced to so many cultural reference points - everything from Monty Python; the Wall; the stench of hockey bags; and backyard football. It does make a difference, no matter how slight.

I agree that (like me) you're probably an introvert, and like me, when you want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of anything other than needing to regain energy after being around people; or, simply wanting the time to be with your own thoughts. I also found that one way in which I differed when trying to converse was that I liked to talk about ideas and concepts, not about social small talk. So for me, kitchen talk would be torture still (It's why I like to host parties with my husband, not attend them. If I'm in the kitchen cooking and arranging and serving, only one or two people at a time will come in and chat - as opposed to my having to circulate, which is where he excels.)

As well the chatting - as you can see, I type a lot. I can type as fast as I think (to others' detriment). I have a rich social life in correspondence with friends I've met online. It makes a huge difference in how connected I feel.

You'll be fine, or more likely even great.
posted by peagood at 6:45 AM on September 2, 2011


You can save yourself a tremendous amount of time, energy, and frustration by doing three simple things.

1. When a guy you're curious about enters the room, and you start talking to yourself and thinking about the situation, STOP.

Internal processing, in this context, is actually counterproductive.

2. Smile.

3. Maintaining your smile, make eye contact. Hold the eye contact and the smile until he says something.

Doing these things, in this order, *will* transform your experience. And if you want to expand your options even more quickly and profoundly, add one more step:

4. Take a deep breath, and no matter what reflexive, obsolete thought-patterns might be kicking in, say, "Hi."

If you want to make things easier yet, follow nikkorizz's advice above.

Also, you might be tempted to think, "I can't do any of that until I feel comfortable with it." The problem is that recurrent feelings are programs, and aren't rational. Whether you feel comfortable has very little to do with whether you actually should be comfortable.

Do this routinely, and you'll start to feel comfortable as you do it; avoid doing it, and it will continue to be uncomfortable.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:58 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Also, I notice girls who have male siblings (and not forgetting those who are generally bubbly and outgoing) are very much at ease in their interactions with guys, like touching, teasing, playfully hitting and getting the boys to do things for them. I don’t really feel comfortable doing those things (I pride myself in thinking I’m independent enough, don’t need a guy to carry my books)."

The brothers are more likely to knock your books down, not carry them for you. You don't learn to be a damsel in distress by having brothers. (One of my brothers, when he was 20, kept flatly refusing to go get me a drink of water on the grounds I could do it my damn self, when I was bouncing a fussy infant. Because he's my brother, and I spent years hiding the remote control from him and possibly also sitting on him and tickling him. Possibly.) Having brothers (with whom they have good relationships) may make it easier for some women to have comradely FRIENDSHIPS with men, but it's really a completely different dynamic than romantic or flirty relationships.

It sounds like maybe this is a kind of girl you want to be (bubbly, fun, flirty, getting books carried), and so you're casting about for reasons you're not -- my relationship with my father sucked, I didn't have brothers, etc. -- and also disclaiming that you're independent, you don't need it. Well, fellow human, you can be independent and still need more fellow humans who like you and spend time with you and make you feel appreciated. You belong to a social species.

Yes, socialize more. Yes, work on the body language. (No, you don't have to like crowds. I'm fairly social and I hate them. And I'll just say to my friends, "No thanks, too big a crowd for me," when I'm going to skip an outing somewhere too crowded, and nobody minds.)

Here's a couple of tips I have for you:
First, it's often easier for (Western) men to engage in "side-by-side" activities rather than "face-to-face" activities. This is also often true of shy people! This means any activity that involves sitting and staring directly at one another will be awkward and less-desired. (Even at parties, notice how men are much more inclined to turn 45 degrees to the person they're speaking to -- straight-on face-to-face can be confrontational body language, or express too much intimacy -- and two men talking will often stand side by side and gaze out over the party while they chat! In general men are more sensitive to this, but everyone feels it to some degree and it's more pronounced in shy people and kids in awkward phases too. (This is why parents of teenagers often get the good dirt while in the car, when they CAN'T look their kids directly in the eye.) There's a huge variety of side-by-side activities, allowing varying levels of bonding and chatting. Playing video games involves mostly talking about the game (but often has good bonding). Going on a hike can allow more non-hike conversation, or just some quiet. Driving places (carpooling, road tripping, whatever). Working at a charity stuffing envelopes or doing something assembly-line fashion (bonding and ideally chatting). So you might look for some side-by-side activities you can do where you can talk with people while DOING something and not having to look them in the eye. It will probably be easier for you, and it will also be easier for many men.

"Or is it just plain self-esteem issues? There are days when I do feel miserable and lonely after beating myself up mentally for not having many friends (or a gang to be exact). But that’s rare now as I’ve started embracing the idea that it’s alright to go out and do things by myself without dragging the entire village along."

Good on you! Step two: "I'm going canoeing on Thursday if anyone wants to tag along!" I LOOOOVE doing stuff by myself, which gives you interesting things to talk about and impresses others with your independence. Now that you're comfortable going alone, whether or not anyone comes, you can issue general invitations without feeling awkward or getting your feelings hurt. Chances are there's someone who's always wanted to try canoeing/check out that rave/go to the French film festival, but isn't as brave as you are and didn't want to go alone. They may come along.

Or nobody may come along, and that's okay too. You're still doing it by your bad self and enjoying it.

Third, there are days when most of us, I think, feel miserable about not having enough friends. (And dude, it's fair to expect your close friends to include you. Friendships come in different shapes, and you can have close friends you only do stuff with occasionally and close friends you do stuff with constantly, and your friends may both be the "occasional" type. But you CAN be part of a social circle. You can also let your close friends know you'd love to tag along. They can even smooth your way, by maybe saying, "Susie's coming along, she's very shy, so she probably won't talk much, but be nice to her, okay?"

Fourth, sometimes I just tell people, "I'm shy on the inside." After years of socializing I'm pretty decent at it. And I like people and being around people. But good Lord I'm so shy on the inside. When I'm meeting new people there's a little shy-bot inside me going, "OHGODOHGODOHGOD ... go home. Hide. You're going to say something stupid ... and there it was. God." And even people who aren't shy often feel awkward meeting new people and are afraid of looking stupid or being disliked. I think only like 5% of people walk into a room and are both a) sure everyone will like them and b) enjoy meeting all those strangers. The rest of us struggle with one or both of those things. For me, feeling shy among strangers manifests as a lot of reserve. People often tell me when they first met me, I came across as very reserved and proper and they weren't sure if they should approach me because I seemed so self-contained. So I try not to project reserve, and I try to remember everyone else feels awkward so I'm doing them a favor by approaching them (gets me outside my own headspace, so I feel less awkward), and if I start to fumble it, I'll sometimes just say, "Sorry, I'm terribly shy on the inside, so I'm really enjoying talking to you but I can't think of anything to say!" with a laugh. Usually everyone laughs and having put my shyness on the table, I can now ignore it and people work a little harder to make ME feel comfortable.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:23 AM on September 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


"It sounds like maybe this is a kind of girl you want to be (bubbly, fun, flirty, getting books carried), and so you're casting about for reasons you're not -- my relationship with my father sucked, I didn't have brothers, etc. -- and also disclaiming that you're independent, you don't need it. Well, fellow human, you can be independent and still need more fellow humans who like you and spend time with you and make you feel appreciated. You belong to a social species."

I also meant to say -- you CAN be this kind of girl if you want to be. You don't have to be if you don't want to be. IN EITHER CASE you will (eventually) meet men who are interested in you romantically. Be the person you WANT to be. You're not going to meet the right man by advertising a false personality, you know? But you can also be independent and studious AND FUN, if that's what you want. (And you can be bubbly fun or you can be crazy fun or you can be witty fun or whatever you want.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:25 AM on September 2, 2011


I think you're making this into a much bigger deal than it should be. Just talk to the guys. Ask them questions about stuff. You want to talk about movies? Ask them about movies. You want to talk about gardening? Ask them about gardening.

Start off slowly with one question a day. Then up to two. Then three. Once you get in the habit of it, you'll find it a lot easier and you might actually find out you have something in common with these people. (You might also want to try this outside of the kitchen when people might be in GRR ARGH FOOD mode and thus less responsive - try maybe a TV room or lounge if your dorm has one.) Akin to this is to treat them like you would any other potential acquaintance, don't stigmatize them because they're guys/you didn't have brothers/blah blah. They're PEOPLE and hey, you're a people too! Awesome!

It's ok to be shy but if you want to meet new people, you have to do some of the reaching out as well! You can't just sit there hoping you vibe TALK TO ME loud enough for people to talk to you, that's just silly. (I tried this for a few years in university and it made me miserable; I had a LOT more success/happiness taking control and making these interactions happen. And yes, it was absolutely terrifying at first.)
posted by buteo at 6:29 PM on September 2, 2011


I've been in a similar situation to you regarding your upbringing, and it is hard when you come to socialising. If it's weighing on your mind, do see if your university offers counselling so you can talk it through - I did and although it was hard I felt like less of an outlier for it.

Definitely look into joining some groups that enable you to meet those who share your interests - then you have an easy conversation starter. I joined a singing group which did a lot for my confidence and helped me meet a lot of others who were great people but not the loud, gregarious types that terrified me.

I found a lot of socialising at university revolved around alcohol - is this a problem for you? I can see that if you don't drink or are wary of drinking as a social crutch then you might feel like you can't join in as much.
posted by mippy at 5:30 AM on September 3, 2011


Thanks for all your answers guys! I'm definitely trying your tips out!

Eyebrows McGee: I don't know whether my independence impresses people. I have a feeling that my friends think I'm a weirdo for doing things by myself as they always do things in a clique. But I don't really care what others think.

I have signed up to volunteer for a couple of organizations. And I finally made myself speak to the cute guy down the hall. So I'm hoping that all will go well!
posted by the borneo kid at 11:29 PM on September 23, 2011


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