Say hello to old David.
> I had a tendency to overthink and get stuck in my own head
> In social settings I often got self-conscious
> Sometimes my conversations just “hit a wall” and there was awkward silence
> I got stuck in small talk and felt like I didn’t really connect
And what’s more, I was certain that’s just the way I was.
But I was determined to be successful in life because I was sure that once I got successful, things would change.
I thought to myself:
“Just wait until I make money”
“Just wait until I look better”
“Just wait until I can buy the coolest stuff”
“Just wait until I become an interesting person”
So I started working hard for years.
I co-founded an import business. We got a mentor that in just a few years helped us grow the company to a multi-million dollar entity that still operates today. (Now part of the MEC Group)
So, I did become successful. Or, at least, that’s what it looked like to people. But I didn’t feel successful because nothing in my social life had really changed. I was still awkward. I didn’t have more friends.
Nothing that really mattered had changed.
I understood that to stop being awkward and to start bonding with people I had to have a different strategy.
I tried to go out there and practice conversations. But it felt like nothing happened.
It turned out that I’d made a huge mistake:
I thought it was wrong to read books on making conversation, that it would make me fake. I thought, “only time and embarrassment can help me”. But I slowly realized that I couldn’t figure all this stuff out on my own.
All those who went to school discos and got their social training “the natural way” still took a decade or more to be good through trial and error.
I finally realized: If I used the same trial and error they had used, it would take just as long for me.
It had been naive to think that “I’ll eventually figure it out on my own.”
It was now that things started to happen.
I read everything I could on conversations. I was so busy running my company, but I practiced whenever I had a chance. Just a few minutes of practice on some days still made a difference.
I took small steps. I practiced asking sincere questions and talked a bit less about myself. I practiced telling stories and making conversations more personal. I slowly became more and more confident in conversations. I took small new steps whenever I had a chance. I talked to servers, coworkers, cashiers and other everyday encounters.
I started to realize that the voice I had in my head had been wrong the whole time. That voice telling me “Being awkward is just who you are”.
I made a life-changing realization:
Being able to talk to people in a relaxed way and bond with them is a skill you can learn. It’s not something you have to be born with.
When I saw how much people liked to be around me, my self-confidence rocketed. I could be myself, and I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else to fit in.
Over time, I became more confident, more fluid in conversations. I could bond with people more easily. People started keeping in touch with me (instead of me always having to keep in touch with them).
Here are some recent photos I’ve taken. I included them here because I think that they sum up my social life today. I’ve never been a “party person”, I always wanted a close circle of friends I can hang out with when I’m up for it.
And it all started with the understanding that making conversation and bonding with people is a skill you can learn.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear what your path has looked like so far and where you would like to go in the future.