Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Power of Being Social

It’s funny how wisdom kind of sneaks up on you. One minute you’re 17, heading off to college, moving away from home for the first time, only concerned about how hot the girls are gonna be on your campus (and possibly the prospect of getting a degree). The next you’re 23 and planning the rest of your life in general.

In these six years, one of the most important things I’ve learned through experience is the power of being your most social self. I say “most social self” because I know not everyone by nature is social. In fact for some, the attempt at being social is almost crippling.

I am naturally a social butterfly (my friend Dave nicknamed me “The Monarch” because of this trait), but this quality has increased over the years, both naturally, and through concerted effort of my own to be more social. Why do I make this effort? I have learned that there are FAR more benefits to being outgoing and social than mild mannered and reserved.

So what are some of these benefits? Well, lets take my office job for example. Most people at work get through the day interacting only with people they need to for work and exchanging casualties with work “friends.” It’s fairly common that two people who don’t know each other will cross paths without so much as looking at eachother.

I do the complete opposite.

At the VERY LEAST, I smile at every single person I see. Most of the time I’ll say “Hey!” When I’m getting coffee and I run into someone, I always make conversation, and if I don’t know them, I’ll introduce myself. As a result, almost everyone on my floor at work knows me! Its great walking through the halls because everyone says hi to me and I joke around and conversate with people throughout the day, almost none of whom I directly work with! These daily interactions make work much more enjoyable.

In fact, I don’t limit this to only work. I do it almost everywhere. A lot of times you’ll see something happen while you’re out and about but you won’t say anything. Confused? Let me give an example. The other day I was at the grocery store in the produce section and a lady was checking out the apples. She went to pick one up to inspect and somehow it slipped out of hands and fell to the ground. In the process of trying to catch it, she knocked another one off as well.

Normally most people won’t say anything to save her from embarrassment. The old me wouldn’t have said anything either. So what did I do?

Lady: “Heeheehee! That apple got away from me”
Me: “Maybe you should let me pick for you. I don’t know if the store can afford your business!”
Lady: “Hehehe! Common now I’m not that bad.”
Me: “In fact I think they have a three strikes policy. Two more slips and you’re banned! And don’t even think about going NEAR the watermelons!

After some more banter, we went our separate ways, but this funny interaction made a mundane activity like going to the store, much more entertaining for both of us! This is just one example of interactions I have like this EVERYDAY. I think this is one of the reasons I’m always in a good mood. Having these fun, positive interactions, even with complete strangers, puts not only me in a good mood, but it leaves the other person feeling great as well.

In fact, getting to know people whom you may see more than once has far more benefits than just feeling good. In college, there were a couple of bars I used to frequent, and after chatting with the bartenders and bouncers a few times, they began just letting me in without checking id’s, and I’d get discounts on drinks! At the coffee shop I go to frequently (and where I am right now), my drinks always come right away even if they are busy because I now know all of the baristas.

At work, when other departments are having little party’s for birthdays or whatnot, I get invited to indulge despite not even being in the department! Yes, being social has many of these “selfish” benefits.

The fact is, being social even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone to be so, has so many tangible and intangible benefits. The problem is, the people who have the most trouble being social are those who are by nature, antisocial.

Well there are some ways to help overcome this and become “your most social self.”

1. Ask people you naturally encounter how they are. These are people like the grocery store clerk and bagger, the receptionist etc. Simply by going beyond the normal pleasantry of “Hi” leaves open for some more conversation to be had. Even though “how are you” is pretty generic and is generally not considered a legitimate question, it’s a start. Even better though is “How is your day going?” This actually gets a real response more than just “fine” most of the time.

2. Try to make eye contact and smile at everyone you pass. You know those situations when you’re walking by someone and to avoid awkwardness you glance then look away. Just as you look away they smile and say “HI!” and as you’re passing you try to recover and say “Hello” all the while feeling a little guilty for being a cold bastard. Well don’t be that guy!!! Even just a smile makes you come off as extremely friendly and approachable.

3. Treat everyone you meet like old friends. Even if you just met someone, joking around and speaking candidly automatically raises the comfort level and makes the other person(s) feel a social connection.

4. Don’t hold in your thoughts. When you see something that you could comment on, just say it! Don’t wait and let yourself get anxious or nervous. Let it out right away. If someone does something embarrassing, tease them a little about it! Everyone loves light hearted humor. This goes hand in hand with treating people like old friends. My grocery store interaction is one example. Here’s another: I was at my favorite coffee shop and the barista was really cute. When it came time to order, I asked how her day was to get conversation going. At one point she asked me what I was reading, and I turned over my book to show her the cover. It was one of those “_____for dummies” books. I then looked up, smiled and lightheartedly said, “This series seems right up your alley!” while pointing at the word “dummies”. She laughed and playfully hit my shoulder. I was in. She ended up sitting and eating dinner with me.

5. “Its’ not what you know but who you know.” This is so true. The best way to advance in essentially any realm is by having great relationships with the people around you. When I worked at Tennis Warehouse, I advanced primarily because I had great relationships with our employees, managers, and customers.

6. Try to have at least one positive interaction everyday. This could be anything from and extended chat with a coworker to calling a friend and talking for more than just a couple of minutes. For me, having a great interaction or conversation in which both people smile leaves me feeling great for long time afterwards!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my mouth and said something when I normally wouldn’t or was otherwise uncomfortable. Honestly, 99% of the time, I leave the interaction, however long or short it may have been, feeling better off!

Hell, just yesterday at work, I saw a guy in the café’ eating by himself that I recognized from college, but I never knew him. I knew of him, of which I new he was a recluse, a bit of a nerd and seemed a bit odd. I wasn’t going to say anything to him because he didn’t see me. Then I thought about it and said to myself, “Arun, sack up and go talk to him!” I went and introduced myself and asked how he was enjoying the company. We chatted for a couple of minutes before I left. The great thing was, I could tell he was genuinely excited to be chatting with someone rather than eating alone the whole time.

I left feeling great, not because he did anything specifically for me, but because I think I made his day just a little bit better. Social Arun enjoys life so much more than less social Arun.

UPDATE! My ebook about becoming your most charming, social self is now available HERE. This is a complete accumulation of everything I know about social dynamics and making your life happier and more interesting. Check out The Social Charmer!"


Paul E. said...

Great stuff Arun! Very encouraging and your illusrations are tremendous!!

Paul E. said...

I couldn't resist I have to correct my spelling..."illustrations" :)

Deb said...

I like to smile at's contagious. Sometimes, just saying hello to someone as you walk by at the grocery store can make a difference in someone's day.

Saymorre said...

Thank you so much for this. I believe smiling and interacting with others is very important. I'm still a bit shy, but thanks to this post, I'm going to try harder to take my smiles a step further. :)

Ananga Sivyer said...

Thank you for contributing it to the Living by Design Blog Carnival - this article has been included in this week's edition and is now live on my site.

with best wishes

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, some of us just can't interact with others so easily. Believe me, I wish I had a knack for kicking up conversations with random people like you do, but it's not a natural thing for me. I've tried being super social before and it's just left me feeling awkward and mentally exhausted. That being said, you do sound like the kind of person that I enjoy being around.

tacogirl said...

Arun I came across your post today and really enjoyed it.

I live in a Island in central america and people are so friendly here. Reading your post excited me and reminded me of how lucky I am to live in a place where it is common / normal for people you do not know to say hello to each other.

Anja said...

This is a great article.

Anonymous said...
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Dare said...

OMG...I Need this Ebook. I can't wait for it to come out!

Anonymous said...

Just read your ebook Arun, and honestly I think it's AMAZING! Thanks so much :)


Anonymous said...

thank you very much ,i'd love to ask you smthg else ,i'm someone who smile and try to start conversations ,but i never feel confortable in my or even in real sociable people's conversations ....and i don't know what and when say smthg making me more sociable more serious and pure pragmatic person in his own vision ...please help ....thank you again

Anonymous said... are definitely inspirational in your social abilities Arun. I'm really working on being social. Thanks for the great social advice.


Kim said...

Thank you!

Stephen said...

Excellent Post. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Arun thats nice,im Wisdom from Nigeria,we are birds of the same feather.pure extroversion