For lack of a better post title. On a serious note though, one of my greatest weaknesses is that I don’t know how to start up a conversation with someone I just met. And Google amazes me. When you search on “how to start a conversation”, it gives you a bunch of things to try out but it just seems like ten things to do to land a dream job, or how to stay healthy or even better, read food recipes. It is just overwhelming, especially that I use Google search enough, and I read so much material for my job throughout the day; therefore, the last thing I would want to do is to sit down and learn how to do an icebreaker, after work. Unless it’s a graded homework, so thank God it isn’t.
I really never considered myself shy before, but I guess I am but that’s not the only the problem I encounter. In addition to the fact that I would rather keep everything to myself than figuring out what to say and what to leave out, I cannot recall people’s names and where I know them from. I feel terrible about it. I honestly have no idea what happened. During my undergrad, I used to be able to memorize school books cover to cover, for certain subjects and courses, to the point that my classmates joked that I cheat with my head.
I also could easily memorize phone numbers. At any given time, I would unintentionally cram most numbers I often called, and it’d be a few dozens to be specific. Most of those I surprisingly still remember to this day. But in the last 5 years or so, I have only been able to memorize no more than five phone numbers. Another weird past memory, it was very easy for me to memorize license plate numbers; who does that? But that’s in the past, apparently it’s all gone.
So, one of the Google suggestions to overcome shyness, is to tell a funny joke; oops. Trust me, I had tried. It’s just not for me. The last time I tried to tell a soccer game joke to an audience of about 40 people, less than five people got it. The joke goes like this: There were two fans at a soccer game who were rooting for their teams and doing what normal fans do during a game: they yelled at the players instructing them what they should or shouldn’t do. Then one of them got up and loudly yelled: “that guy just hit our team’s player, it’s not fair.” Then he slowly sat back down and leaned over to whisper to the second guy: “what are the names of teams playing today?”. That’s the end of the joke, and good luck figuring it out :).
And about how to approach people? I am simply intimidated. But I am absolutely okay if someone else approaches me and asks me questions. Nothing is as terrifying as a group of individuals I have not met before; I would rather sit and make people around me wonder if I ever open my mouth. I smile though, I promise, to assure people around me that I understand English. One day, after going to our church young professionals gathering for a little bit over two years, one girl who attended for the first time that night approached me to say that she really liked the message and that she would come back. And I am sure I said that I am glad to hear that, and added that I enjoyed it as well. And then she proceeded to asking me if I plan to come back. Then I smiled and mentioned to her that I have been coming for two years and I am sure I will come back. Apparently, when you are quiet, it may be a sign of loss of interest??? I don’t understand why most of the time I don’t feel like I have something important to say to people.
One weekend, I was asked if I’d be interested in reading a Bible passage in front of our church congregation. I was not sure if I should say I will pass, or thank you for asking but I am scared :D. But I gathered my courage, prayed and responded that I would be honored to do it. Before the day could arrive, I was trembling with fear and nervousness when I imagined standing in front of hundreds of people, but the time came and God gave me strength. I was astounded to hear that people didn’t detect fear in my voice. And by the way, I call myself a Motivational Speaker. I guess I don’t know what that means. I have been sharing God’s work in my life with different groups of people though, and all the credit goes to God for real.
But there is much more to my awkwardness: I cannot keep people’s names or where we met. The easier the name is, the less likely I will remember it. I recently attended a conference on a weekend and carpooled with several people. In the end, as we parted, I gathered my strength to give a warm send off to one of my new friends by politely saying that it was nice to meet this friend. Then my new friend looked annoyed by my unreasonable excitement and responded that we had met many times before, once at my house and other places, and added a thank you. I was heartbroken and disgusted by my memory leak.
On another occasion, this one person looked familiar but I didn’t believe we had met in person. So again, trying to stretch my comfort zone, I extended my handshake to say: “I don’t think we have met. My name is Alphonsine.” My new friend looked at me as if I was crazy and answered that we met during an other yet long trip where we had a chat about different things. Not only we had met before, we were friends on Facebook. What a shame. Oh, and sometime I blank out on names of people I had known for a while, especially if I haven’t seen them in a long time. I can go on and on with my awkward moments. The best thing that stays in my head though, is people’s life stories. Although I can’t often put the name and the story together, when we get to know each other better, we click right away.
So to overcome my challenges, I stay quiet until I have something better to say rather than embarrassing myself :(. I can write long paragraphs and stories though, can’t you tell? :D. I definitely find it more easier to interact with laptops and smartphones. And that’s the modern technology, which has clearly proved to supersede any social interactions. It’s very sad.
This is my struggle. I am not happy about it and I am trying the best I can. I hope and pray that I overcome, and that my friends are patient with me. How about you, how do you embrace a new culture and start a conversation with people you just met? I would like to hear your opinion.