Quick recap of Socially Rusty Part 1: I’m Awkward:
My lack of social contact has started to affect my daily life. To improve my socially awkward condition, I challenge myself to spend an entire week enhancing my social skills.
1) Do a minimum of two items per day from “The Social Skills List” for 7 consecutive days.
2) Accept ALL social invitations.
3) Get out of the house.
In addition to these rules, I have attempted to help all of my socially awkward readers by grading the effectiveness of each social skill.
Tasks: Make eye contact, Pay attention to local stuff
Eager to start my social challenge, I walked to an early yoga class excited to come in contact with humans. I made a mental note to make eye contact with the yoga receptionist as soon as I entered the studio. I arrived at yoga, and my glasses unexpectedly fogged up due to the change from cold outdoor to warm indoor temperature.
Maybe you are thinking that I stopped and waited until my glasses cleared to make eye contact? Wrong. I was not deterred.
I immediately whipped off my glasses, looked deep into the receptionists eyes and said, “how are you doin’?” Remember, in my mind this was a completely socially acceptable thing to do.
It turns out that whipping off your glasses, staring deep into someone’s eyes and asking, “how are you doin’?” is actually pretty creepy. Plus, mumbling incoherently afterwards about the weather and the fact that your glasses fogged is even weirder. No matter. The receptionist didn’t seem too alarmed, and I’m sure she has had to deal with stranger yogi people before. At the very least, I had grabbed her attention and I’m pretty sure that more socializing would have transpired had I not shuffled off to the locker room.
Eye Contact: Grade C+
After yoga, I had errands to run so I decided to visit some local joints in the downtown region of my city. I wasn’t sure how “paying attention to local stuff” was supposed to enhance my social skills, but multiple sources suggested local attractions for social advancement.
I visited some local shops, the mall, the post office, and a grocery store. Overall, I made small talk with a few store employees and I bought a new decorative pillow.
Tasks: Be friendly, Ask questions
My Monday social improvements were weak and I was learning that my social skills were rustier than I had originally thought. I wanted results, so I decided to accelerate the improvement of my social skills by doubling my social efforts on Tuesday. When my husband suggested that he invite his friend, Coach, over to play video games, I was all for it. My surprised and delighted spouse made one phone call and an evening of Xbox NHL ensued.
My first task, being friendly, was easy. When Coach arrived, I offered him a selection of beverages to choose from, provided snacks for the gamers, and engaged the duo in some meaningless but pleasant conversation. Being friendly was a great social task that allowed me to gather helpful information for the upcoming task of asking questions. Specifically, I learned that Coach was about to start playoffs with his high school basketball team.
After several rounds of Xbox hockey, I realized that hockey games didn't have halftimes, so instead of waiting for a halftime break like I had planned, my string of questions came on strong in overtime of game five.
I started interrogating Coach with every question that came to mind: “How is work?”, “How’s your basketball team this year?”, “How tall is your tallest player?”, “Will any of your guys play in college next year?”
Sure, I could have asked coach questions that didn’t pertain to basketball, but I was in the zone and these questions were off the top of my head. And, in a roundabout way, it worked! Coach mistook my enthusiasm for asking questions as a sign that I was a huge high school basketball fan and he invited me to attend his team’s game the following night.
Ask Questions: Grade A+
Tasks: Talk to people, Be positive
On Wednesday, I went to Coach’s basketball game alone. For the entire first quarter of the game, I sat quietly and watched. This did not enhance my social skills. I needed to try harder.
The second quarter, I ventured out of my comfort zone and shouted some positive “yahoos” and “nice shots” for Coach’s boys. To my surprise, this sudden solo cheer from a previously uninvolved crowd rallied the student section.
Next, this series of events happened: A student fan revealed a vuvuzela and produced a terrific vuvuzela honk, the game announcer promptly reminded students that “artificial noise makers were banned”, a school authority person confiscated the vuvuzela, and the student fan section went buck wild, mad-as-hell crazy!
I had created a social uproar.
At this moment, with students acting like psychotic soccer hooligans, Coach and his team trying desperately to ignore the crowd, and referees blowing whistles left and right, I remained positive. Yes, I was in the middle of a potential high school riot, but just four days prior, I had been sitting alone at my kitchen table writing a blog about social rustiness. Now, I was surrounded by mobs of people. This was a sure sign that my social skills were improving.
The success of my experiment had me feeling ballsy, so I turned to the volunteer cameraman who was sitting next to me taping the game for Coach’s team, and I attempted to strike up a conversation. In a whirlwind of dialogue, I volunteered to tape the next playoff game if Coach won.
By the end of the night, I was the new cameraman for Friday’s game.
Talk to People: Grade A-
Tasks: Join a group, Smile
Thursday’s task was simple: join a yoga group. Approximately one month ago, I purchased a beginner’s pass for 10 random yoga classes. My 10 classes were almost complete, so I decided to fully commit to yoga. Now, I am part of a 30 day challenge, and I will be attending 30 consecutive days of Bikram yoga with a group of other 30 day challenge participants. So far, I have met 5 other members of this group. I smile when I am with them, and we chat and discuss yoga poses. It’s pretty exciting.
Join a Group: Grade A+
Smile: Grade A
Tasks: Introduce self to strangers, Practice
Friday, the day I videotaped a high school district championship basketball game for Coach (my life is weird). While taping, I introduced myself to the father and son duo sitting next to me. Our banter was actually deep and meaningful and touched on the mushy gushy feelings surrounding a father and son basketball bonding event. It was strange to have such a profound chat with strangers, but it felt good. I have decided to strike up more conversations with strangers in the future.
Introduce Self to Strangers: Grade A-
The remainder of the night was spent at a post-game party with 20+ attendees. I took advantage of the social skills I had learned thus far and made eye contact, smiled, asked questions, remained positive and stayed friendly. I must admit, being social is a lot easier with practice.
Practice: Grade A+
Tasks: Volunteer, Arrange an activity with friends or family
Saturday was a prearranged social day for me. I had arranged to, 1) volunteer at a food pantry, and 2) have my family over for dinner.
My job at the food pantry was to enforce the ‘2 item maximum’ policy at the citrus table. This was a strange job.
My food pantry table had various sized citrus items ranging from tiny clementines to 10 pound bags of grapefruit, and regardless of fruit size, customers could only have two of anything. This meant that a measly combination of THREE single clementine was not acceptable, but the economy sized pairing of a 10 pound bag of grapefruit and a 5 pound bag of oranges was allowed. I wanted the customers to leave the pantry with as much citrus as possible, so my entire social life at the food pantry revolved around yelling phrases like “get a mega dose of vitamin C with these fabulous grapefruits” and “try the pomelos!!!!!!!” Social? Not so much. Ability to promote fresh fruit: A+
Saturday evening, my folks and siblings came over for dinner. We talked a little, ate a lot, and then sat in the living room and watched TV. It appears that my antisocial tendencies were inherited.
Arrange an Activity with Family: Grade B (some talking did occur)
Tasks: Push boundaries, Avoid being critical
I dreaded my Sunday plans. The reason: I had accepted an invitation to a baby shower. Had it not been for this social experiment and my desire to help the Miss Nutralicious readers with their social awkwardness, I would have politely declined this invitation. You owe me.
To make matters worse, I paired the task of pushing my boundaries with the task of avoiding criticism. This meant, no complaining when I won baby bingo and my prize was a baby bottle full of pink and blue M&Ms, and no critical words when I was asked (multiple times) about my own plans to start a family. Instead, I attended the baby shower with a smile on my face and talked to all of the wonderful ladies using my most positive happy-lady voice. At the end of the day, I had met new people, had good talks, and ate cake.
Push Boundaries: Grade A+
Avoid Being Critical: Grade A+
There it is! The social experiment that changed me from a homebody into a high school-mob starting-yogi attending multiple parties per week. This experiment brought me out of my comfort zone and improved my overall happiness. Well worth the experience.
Do my social endeavors end with this trial? No way! My upcoming schedule includes a 90 year old birthday party, an 11 person road trip to Ohio, and a local home and garden show. That’s right; I’m a social prodigy!
Cheers to challenges and new experiences! Now get out in the world, use your skills, and show all of mankind how awesome you are. While you are at it, use The Social Skills List, and remember that if you see me out and about invite me to a shindig, or at least say hello!