Rakesh was known as someone who didn’t talk much. He wasn’t very good at making friends because he used to think too much about if it was really necessary or how the other person would react. He just didn’t like small talk and meaningless chatter.
He learned how to find commonalities, how to use conversational threading and ask personal questions. Now his social circle is increasing one person at a time, at the pace he chooses. He’s changed and is now comfortable in conversations and social events.
“Talking to the person as if I knew him from a long time and realizing that he might also be struggling to make a good conversation in spite of wanting to make one, really helped me feel comfortable,” he says.
“Instead of asking about facts, I ask about opinions”
How Awkward to Awesome has helped Rakesh’s conversations change
After introducing ourselves, we would talk about mundane things like what courses we were doing, what events were going to happen on campus or when the deadline of an assignment was. These were unrelated to each other and not interesting or satisfying to talk about. At most, it would make me better informed. But now I’m more skilled, and instead of asking about facts, I ask about opinions. Or even better, I give them my opinion, ask them theirs, and end up having a satisfying conversation.
In the middle of the conversation, I offer to help them achieve their goals in some way, unselfishly. The conversation is getting more comfortable and establishes trust. Our talks become more personal. For example, about family or bad habits, we want to get rid of etc.
One thing it has done is completely eliminated awkward moments. And because I’m not putting on a mask, it’s not at all tiring. In fact, I look forward to more interactions. I’ve even started a brotherhood group so that I can meet new people and forge healthy relationships.
“Now I rarely eat alone as I can think of 2-3 friends who would want to eat together when I drop them a message”
Can you tell me some more about how the course has helped your relationships?
I remember, a couple of months back I went on a road trip with my neighbor. He was older than me and I admired his social skills, so I thought being in the same car would help us to have meaningful conversations. After the trip, my comfort level with him grew exponentially. He came to my college, we went out for late night eateries where he used to pay on my behalf as well and he even gifted me a dog.
Once I had a good conversation over lunch with my assignment partner, whom I did not know personally before. After talking about what we planned to do after college, he suggested me some books which would give me knowledge about the field I was planning to get into.
For the last couple of years, I used to eat alone in the cafeteria. Now, I rarely eat alone as I can think of 2-3 friends who would want to eat together when I drop them a message.
Did you have some objections before you started?
I had a misconception that becoming a better conversationalist would make me one of those extroverts who unapologetically talks about themselves and looks for how they can benefit from the conversation. I stopped listening to that voice inside my head because, for me, it had become a necessity to make new friends and strengthen my friendships. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered major upsets or failures on my path.
Occasionally I have this feeling that people wouldn’t want to talk to me as my grades are low, I don’t have a great network, I’ve not achieved any great success or I’m not that promising. Basically, I thought people wouldn’t want to talk to me as they had nothing to gain from associating with me. But then, I thought I don’t mind talking with anybody as there is something to learn from everybody, So other people might also feel the same.
Why did you decide to join Awkward to Awesome?
There are so many reasons why I connected with your style of teaching. First, you start with what we introverts think. Then you convince us that, achieving what we are trying to achieve is not hard work (expanding your comfort zone rather than stepping out of it). Some coaches try to impose their mindset on us and because it is somewhat convincing, we believe in that. On the other hand, you are more practical. You give personal experiences and practical demonstrations with your real life video examples. One more thing that really worked is that your approach is very rational. At no point did I feel that you are saying something without giving a foreground to it.
How has the program helped you?
I would definitely recommend it to my friends, especially those who think a lot instead of assuming the norm. I even tried to recommend it on anonymous chat sites, after a conversation. Some said they’ll look into it and some rejected it saying they’ve done similar things before and they didn’t like it. Others shot me off as if I’m a PR representative 🙂
However, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who fall in the following category: someone who is convinced that it will not work, even before trying. Someone who finds comfort in small talk and is insecure of opening up personally.
“Giving up and saying this is not my cup of tea would get you nowhere but good communication will get you somewhere”
What would you say to someone who’s starting off but isn’t yet where you are right now?
I would say that most of the questions that you have about things that are blocking your progress are more or less covered in the emails. Still, if you have any problems, you can always mail David. He responds more often that not. Giving up and saying this is not my cup of tea would get you nowhere but good communication will get you somewhere.
“Never be uncomfortable with who you are”
What are some practical tips you would like to share?
Let’s say you are talking to someone for the first time. There are a hundred thoughts going in your mind whether he/she is interested, whether a question would come across as too personal, etc. Talk about something personal about yourself, then the person will feel comfortable and show eagerness with your facial expressions etc. This way the person will be convinced that you are eager to know about them. Asking them their opinion of something followed by a personal question will almost always get the person talking. You should try it once before thinking of it too much.
- Never be uncomfortable with who you are and block other people from knowing you.
- Take the initiative to take the conversation forward.
- Show the other person that you are eager to have a meaningful conversation.
- Avoid stereotypes and be open. Don’t have preconceived notions.
90% of the time you won’t come across as “a desperate guy trying to make a conversation.” If anything the person will admire you for taking the initiative. Worst case scenario: you will realize that you don’t connect with the person. You will have at least made a contact and gained some experience. That’s not too bad either.
Future plans for career and social life after personal transformation
I’ve become comfortable with making new friends and strengthening existing friendships. But, what I think I really need to work on is my presentation, group discussion, and interview skills. I see myself as somebody who gets on well in a team, gets things done and is respected by other team members. I would want my social skills to enhance my relationships with my boss, my clients, and my family members. One more thing, I want to be comfortable at talking to women and making relationships.
What do you usually do when you’re around friends today?
I have 2-3 groups of friends. When I’m with my college friends, I talk about academics, their cities, their family and the job market. When I’m with my brotherhood group friends, I talk about how we can improve our lives such as getting up early in the morning, making new habits. We did this thing where everyone was asked to write down a couple of things that they want to achieve in the upcoming week and we helped each other actually achieve that.
We meet at different places every week. We choose places where we can talk peacefully as a group. The usual places are one of our homes, a mall or restaurant, a temple or a park. We just talk but we’re planning to do some constructive activity as a group to improve team building skills.
Rakesh on his social life and what he enjoys today
Having meaningful interactions with a diverse set of people is giving me multiple perspectives of looking at situations. I’ve noticed that social interactions are helping me tackle and overcome my challenges at a much faster pace than I would had I been alone all the time.
I can think of many things that seemed boring before but I look forward to them now. I stay in a hostel. I used to skip meals, especially breakfast, very often. Even if I went to the cafeteria, I would not have a complete meal. This was the time when I ate alone. Now that I have friends who I eat together with, I never skip a meal and end up having things I never really liked, as I don’t think about it too much when I’m having a conversation.
Similarly, those long walks from the academic block to my hostel doesn’t seem that long when I’m with someone.