How to Talk to People (Without Being Awkward)

How to Talk to People 2
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For the first time in a week, I’m wearing makeup. My lips are painted a blush pink and my eyes are accentuated with a dash of liner and a couple combs of mascara. I’ve twisted my hair up and out of my face in an elaborate braid and I’m wearing a dry-clean only dress—I look so professional.

And yet, as I enter into the room, I am overwhelmed with the urge to bee-line it straight to the bar and gulp down a glass of whatever red they’re serving.

Okay, more than one glass.

Why?

Because this is a networking event and I am completely terrified of having absolutely nothing to say to the people in this room.

I’m the type of person who goes to an event and when the one person I know in the room moves on to talk to someone else (you know, what they’re supposed to do at these things), I get so nervous that my brain turns off and I can’t remember how to talk. At all.

All of a sudden I’m Tina from Bob’s Burgers and, like, nobody is interested in talking to her…

That’s why I head straight for the bar. A little liquid courage. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to shake those nerves without a glass (or four) of wine?

Well, I may have found it on Ramit Sethi’s blog, I Will Teach You to be Rich.

Here’s what he has to say about learning how to talk to people (It’s kind of weird):

1. Forget Motivation

What?!

How are we supposed to get anything done without motivation?

Well, in his post, “How to Create Explosive Growth in All Areas of Your Life,” he calls us all “inspiration junkies.” Now, before you deny it, think about all of those photos and quotes you’re constantly bombarded with as you scroll through your Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest feeds.

It’s everywhere. Whether you’re just exposed to the secondhand smoke of others’ #fitspo posts or you’re an active addict who can’t stop posting Gandhi quotes, we’re all surrounded by this form of “motivation.”

So what? Why does Ramit have a problem with us feeling inspired to better ourselves? Does he want us to stop striving to improve?

Actually, he feels exactly the opposite. He tells us to stop wanting to be better and to actually make ourselves better.

How does he suggest we go about doing this?

Well, to start, we have to stop looking at pictures on our computers and actually seek out the people in these pictures. What I mean by that is that we have to find the people who have actually done what we want to do and learn from them—not just admire them from afar.

The only way to get what we want is to learn how others have gotten it and then DO that.

It’s easy to stare at #fitspo pictures on Tumblr and say that we’re going to get in shape. But unless you’re planning on painting those abs on, that won’t give you the six-pack you’re dreaming of.

What will get your booty in shape is actually learning about the workout routines and diets of really fit people.

Focus on the process—not the result.

2. Practice

Okay, so like I said, the first step is focusing on the process and not the result. But just figuring out what to do isn’t enough. You actually have to do it.

Lucky for us, Ramit makes this easy when it comes to improving our networking skills.

In his post, “Help! My Mind ‘Goes Blank’ When I Talk to People,” he talks about his own experience learning to overcome his socially awkward tendencies and shares his procedure with us.

So, instead of looking at images of talented public speakers, we’re learning how a real person transitioned from awkward to excellent when talking to strangers; the focus is on the process not the result.

There are so many people and blogs that tell you about networking and what you need to do to be good at it. The problem with all of this advice is that it’s too clean-cut. I’m a totally awkward person so I know that when it comes to being with people, nothing I do is ever that simple.

How did I know Ramit’s advice was legit? He admitted that while learning to talk to people, you’re gonna feel like a weirdo.

Here’s what he recommends:

Write out scripts. Write out all the possible things you can say to people. Write out questions you’ll ask them and then make up their possible responses. Create conversations on paper and rehearse them.

Now, doing this is definitely going to make you feel like a total dork. Think about it. You’re pretending to have conversations with pretend people (or real people you’re hoping to someday meet). And that means walking around your house talking to yourself.

Sadly, next step is going to be even more uncomfortable.

You’re going to take these pretend conversations and try them out in real life. Ramit warns that some of your scripts will work better than others. When trying them out, be sure to make a mental note of how people respond to what you say.

When someone responds positively, know that was a good thing to say. Conversely, if after telling someone about your favorite hobby of brushing your cats and collecting the fur, they clear their throats and slowly start backing away from you, know that that’s one to keep to yourself in the future.

At first this is going to feel strange. After all, you’re staging a conversation rather than engaging in one organically, but it’s a process that has been used before and worked. When I first started doing interviews, I was terrified and stumbled over my words. But, I wrote out scripts. I practiced them, tried out different conversation possibilities, and now am much more relaxed when I talk with people.

Over time, you’ll learn what works and talking with strangers will feel more and more natural.

It may not be as easy and comfortable as staring at a pictures of famous public speakers, but it will give you actual results.

I definitely still enjoy a nice glass of pinot noir, but knowing that I have things to say and that my mind won’t have the chance to go blank gives me the confidence to sip slowly on one rather than chugging it down and immediately reaching for another.

Homework time! Get to it. Start drafting up your future conversations and practicing them. Say them while looking into a mirror so that you can practice your body language at the same time. Not sure Ramit’s script technique will work for you? Ask around. Learn how others have gotten over their fears of talking with strangers and then adopt those practices into your own daily routine.

Remember that Ramit isn’t only talking about networking in his post, “How to Create Explosive Growth in All Areas of Your Life;” he’s talking about everything that you do. Stop focusing on the results you want and start learning actual steps you can take to reach your goals—then put those into action.

Also, check out another of our posts inspired by Ramit’s blog that helps you learn how to create goals you can actually achieve!

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