The Real Reason You Have Trouble Talking to New People

The real reason you have trouble talking to new peopleTake a quick google search:

“how to talk to new people” & “how do I start a conversation”

You’ll find millions of results all with the same (oft-repeated) advice:

“comment on the weather”
“keep up with current events”
“ask about their family”

Which isn’t all bad. In fact, a great deal of this advice is actually pretty sound.

Asking someone about their family is usually a good idea. Remembering their son’s name? Even better!

But, all the advice in the world doesn’t make you a fantastic conversationalist. Those of us who are blessed with the ability to talk to people don’t go around thinking about what to say…

…we just say it.

There’s gotta be something more to this “how to start a conversation” thing.

Definitely more than a few ‘tips’ and ‘tricks’. I’m definitely not against tips and tricks.

However, I think that we are all doing ourselves a disservice to believe that ‘10 tricks to starting a conversation’ is going to give us the ability to start a conversation with anybody.

Before you read any further: This is a good post. But one post will never be enough. If you are serious about growing your conversational and people skills then you need to sign-up for my free 5-day email course. I created it for readers of this post. Check it out here.

I want to go deeper: To cover what is actually keeping you from holding deeper and more meaningful conversations(and relationships).

And it’s something within all of us in one form or another.

The voice.

The one that talks negative in your head, saying all kinds of things like:

“What if she/he doesn’t think I’m good looking?”
“I might say something stupid”
“He’s got more talent than I do.”
“Well, I’m an introvert”
“Well, I’m boring.” OR the opposite: “Well, I’m weird.” [I prefer the word unique. 🙂 ] “Well, my interests are too weird.”

That voice clouds our minds and keeps us from holding a fantastic conversation.

When all we can think are variations of the above thoughts, how can we participate and connect with someone?

We can’t.

Therefore, we must go to battle with the voice. So first we must study our enemy and investigate:

binoculars gif

Where does that voice come from? Why is it here? And why does it matter?

Where does that voice come from?

Internally. It’s coming from within you.

Most likely based on insecurities and past experiences. I’m sure Freud could explain that there was some (seemingly irrelevant)event when you were young that caused you to create that inner voice, but that isn’t important to us right now.

(side note: if you feel that you need professional help, please reach out to a professional. As much as I argue that traditional education fails us on a lot of fronts, it is also the reason our world is as fantastic as it is. There are people out there who are trained to help you, and can help you much better than I could.)

But on a deeper level, that voice is quite literally fear.

More importantly though, it is an unhealthy fear. It is not a fear that empowers you, but a fear that constrains you, and limits your abilities.

Why is it here?
Fear(& the voice) is critical for our survival. But it has lost most of its importance since we no longer have to run from tigers when we go outside.

A long time ago, we didn’t have computers, cell phones, brick homes, large cities, big organized militaries, guns, global politics, and space programs.

We had ourselves. Our simple tools. And our tribe.

If we didn’t run when we thought there was a tiger in the bushes and there was a tiger in the bushes: we died.

& more applicable to why that voice is still in your head today:
If we didn’t fit in with the tribe by what we thought/did/said: we died.

Fear, and that voice are what guided us to run when we heard the rustle in the bushes.

During that time, those fears were essential to staying alive. However, it is time to redefine what we are afraid of.

Why does it matter?
It matters because fear is a old system for a new world. Fear(at the intensity we sometimes feel it) is losing its importance because the world has changed.

We no longer run from tigers & lions, we actively try to keep them alive.(& for good reason)

More importantly though, that fear is what is keeping you from the ability to have great conversations.

That fear is what creates that voice in your head.

That voice in your head causes you to ‘draw a blank’ since all your thoughts are keeping your focus away from the conversation and instead puts your focus on internal dialogue.

As I touched on above: When all you can think about are thoughts based in insecurity, it is near impossible to actually hold a conversation with someone, much less create a connection with someone.

So we have to actively combat the voice & turn fear on itself.

How can I turn fear on itself & hold better conversations?

Use fear instead of letting it use you.

Here’s five simple steps to follow the next time you are feeling afraid of approaching someone new, or holding a conversation with someone.

Step 1: Breathe
It’s all cool to read an article about how fear is what is keeping you from having great conversations, but what do you do when the fear is in you right now?

The first thing we can do to combat that fear is something we can do immediately when the fear comes: Breathe.

When we breathe out longer than we breathe in, our heart rate is forced to slow. We are actually programing our bodies to calm down. It is explained much better by Dr. Robin Berzin over on Mind Body Green.

So the next time you are confronted with fear, do something called the 7-11 breathing exercise. Simply close your eyes, breathe in for a count of 7, and then breathe out for a count of 11.

Try it yourself. Right now. Take 54 seconds and take 3 breaths. You’ll see the results immediately.

You can also make this a daily practice.

Step 2: Smile
The second thing to help you combat that fear is to smile. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Smiling makes you better in a multitude of ways. Even if it is fake.

I cover many more in one of the lessons of my 5-day minicourse: Talk to Anyone.

It is hard to be afraid when you are feeling fantastic. There’s like a billion sources on this. Here are 3 great ones:  The Science of SmilingStress Recovery, Smiling could make you happier.

How to get the long term benefits of smiling.
Step 3: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
The third step to help you turn fear on itself is to ask:

“What is the worst that could happen?”

Key here is to be realistic: No lions are going to eat you if you make a mistake. No sabertooth tigers are lurking in the bushes. You are not at risk of dying.

Step 4: “What’s the best that could happen?”

After acknowledging that the worst isn’t that bad. You need to immediately ask yourself:

“What is the absolute BEST that could happen from this?”

Key here is to let your mind run wild for a moment. Literally imagine the absolute BEST possibility from this situation.

Step 5: Take action

Boom. You’ve gone through the first 4 steps to turning that fear on itself. Now it is time to take action.

The key here is to take that first step towards talking to someone. Once you make the first step, it is much easier to follow through.

For example:
Let’s say you see a beautiful woman in Starbucks tomorrow morning and you get the urge to approach her. Immediately, you begin to feel your fear creeping up. Your inner voice is already running through the various habitual statements you say to yourself that keep you from approaching her.

THEN, something miraculous happens: you remember this example, these words, from this blog post. You take a breath. You smile. Then you take control of your thoughts and ask yourself: “What is the worst that could happen?”
The answer is probably: “I could go over there, choke, look silly, and walk away.”

Is that really that bad? No.
Yes, you might feel silly.
Yes, you might choke.
Yes, it’s embarrassing to choke.
But no, it’s not really that bad.

However, no one is going to shoot you. No one is going to die. No lions are hopping out of the bushes to eat you on your way out of Starbucks.

AND, you got a chance to practice. (social skills are practiced)

Now ask yourself:
“What is the best that could happen?”
Let your mind go to a good place. If you’ve got a minute or two, let your mind run at the possibility.

The best that could happen? Maybe that woman will your wife, and this is the only opportunity you’ll ever have to approach her… and you do. It doesn’t go fantastic, but it doesn’t go awful and she agrees to have dinner with you. At dinner you realize she’s just as beautiful inside as she is out, and you find that she loves your quirks. You go on to live a happy, loving, and fulfilled life with her next to you.

Yes, that’s a little extreme. But the key is to make the ‘best’ outweigh the ‘worst’.

Risk of choking < Possibility of finding my life’s partner

Here’s another way to think about it:

Scenario 1(fear):
Pretty woman. Starbucks. Thoughts of approach. Fear. Woman gets her coffee and leaves.
Your life stays the same.

Scenario 2(‘failure’):
Pretty woman. Starbucks. Thoughts of approach. Fear. Breath. Smile. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Nothing that bad; I will survive the encounter regardless. Take first step. Stumble. Get her name, but can’t seal the deal. You walk away. She leaves with her coffee. You got to practice and you improve as a human being & thus:
Your life improves.

Scenario 3(success!):
Pretty woman. Starbucks. Thoughts of approach. Fear. Breath. Smile. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Nothing that bad; I will survive the encounter regardless. Take the first step. Stumble, but succeed. Dinner. Goes fantastic.
Your life is forever changed in a good way.

I think it’s easy to say that you would take scenario 3 any given day. But scenario 2 is still better than scenario 1.

Become afraid of what won’t happen if you don’t take action. This is how you take fear and turn it on itself. 

I will always be more afraid that my life won’t change in a good way than I will be of taking action with the risk of ‘failure’(practice, learning).

I will always be more afraid of my life staying the same than I am of failing.

On to you:

Success with people comes from lots of practice. The best way to practice is to study the methods and then put them into action! You absolutely must be committed.

If you are truly committed to improving your social skills then I would recommend taking my ‘Talk to Anyone’ mini-course I mentioned above. In five days you will learn:

  • The one simple change to improve your social skills(and life). (day 1)
  • The one thing you can do everyday to improve your confidence. (day 2)
  • The one thing we all crave – yet few of us get. And how to use that to craft the perfect introduction. (day 3)
  • The one method to ensure you never run out of things to say. (day 4)
  • The secret to getting people to want to hear what you have to say. (day 5)

Checkout and enroll in the ‘Talk to Anyone’ mini-course.

Also, I’d love for you to do me a favor: think of 2 friends who could use this post, and then share this with them. Then answer this question in the comments:

What do you feel holds you back from starting new conversations with people? Fear? How so? Not fear? Then what?