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A Loner’s Guide to Socializing


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A Loner's Guide to SocializingThere are a million people out there with whom one could share a laugh, or have a few minutes of conversation. Out of the million, there are also the one or two with whom one can have an enduring relationship. But what if one is not able to make the first few moves to make this happen? What if some inbuilt hesitation or inhibitions are preventing one from reaching out to others? This is for all those people who may have developed the tag of ‘loner’ over the years, without realizing it.
 
Professional colleges often require upto five years of hostel life immediately after one’s school years. This means that young men and women may enter a semi-monastic set up at age 17 or 18, and emerge only four or five years later, with little idea of how to bridge the gap between themselves and the outside world – those who did not stay at their hostel. If the institution where they studied had few members of the opposite sex, this lack of social finesse is even more pronounced. This, coupled with a natural shyness, can sometimes make people quiet and retiring, seeming to be so focused on their work that they have little time for others. Over a period of time, others begin to perceive them as ‘loners’.
 
Lack of supportive company can be a crippling handicap, even when one is professionally well placed and not worried about the other details of survival. If one is separated from family, and living in another city, this can be an intensely lonely experience. Sometimes, one has become a ‘loner’ just because one is in an environment where every other person appears to have different values, priorities and preferences than one’s own. To break out of this situation, one needs to actively search for more like-minded people. If this search is not undertaken, the loneliness intensifies.
 
Some things that any person finding it difficult to approach others may consider are:

  • People in groups are often able to hide their own insecurities and complexes under the protection of the ‘herd’. This makes them appear much saner, more ‘normal’ than they really are. As a shy and reserved person, we may be exaggerating our own inner fears, and looking at the person before us without any idea of his or her own weaknesses. Its important to remember that everyone is after all human – that under all the confidence that comes with their more social masks, others are also vulnerable.
  • Friendliness can begin with the most impersonal gestures. Even if you lack the confidence to boldly smile and approach another person with a ‘Hi, how are you?’ and a handshake, you can still make friends with the simplest gestures of consideration. Making way for another in a lunch queue, passing someone something they need, lending someone a pen at the bank – any of these can show your willingness to be kind. Perfect strangers sometimes respond to these with friendly acts of their own – it’s the smile, handshake and ‘Hi’ in reverse!
  • A smile does not cost anything, and is the first, most important point in any social contact. Don’t forget to smile to at least three or four strangers in a day to improve your confidence levels and establish  that you are interested in others.
  • The dangers in social interactions arise out of inappropriate responses or gestures that disturb, annoy, or threaten others. Very loud laughter may be inappropriate unless one is really intimate with someone. Persistence is fine if one is trying to build a relationship, but insistence on some things may be perceived as a threat by others. You can greet someone in the lunch room every day and it is all right. But if you insist on sitting with a person every day, without their expressed approval or invitation, then you run the risk of seeming ‘odd’. Be very sensitive to the thin line that separates truly friendly gestures from more aggressive ones, boldness from brashness and inconsideration.
  • If you make a few mistakes, or meet with rejection a few times, don’t take it as a lifetime of failure! Remember that confidence in social terms evolves over a long term of interacting with others. You will have many opportunities to make up what you lost.

 All the best!

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