It’s story tiiiiiiime! I’m going to show you two different scenarios and I want you to try and figure out why they turned out the way they did. **Spoiler alert** The answers will follow later on in the article. Here’s the first scenario, and yes, I exaggerated about how antisocial I was. A regular day would probably look more like the second scenario.
It was a cold winters day. I lay in bed, dreaming away about things I no longer remember when all of a sudden, BANG! I’m jolted awake by a loud noise. I panic as I slowly become more aware of my surroundings. It’s still dark. I look up and see a faint light in the background through a window. It’s… the sun! I also see what seems to be a… Hindi book? Huh? “What’s that doing there?” I think to myself. Beside it, I see a Spanish course. It dawns on me. I was in my room and my alarm had just woken me up. Sorry guys, I had to make it suspenseful!
I fight to get out of bed. It felt like I’d only slept two hours… oh wait, I HAD only slept two hours. “I guess that’s what I get for Polyglot grinding late into the early morning last night” I thought to myself.
I shower, hardly say a word to anyone in my house due my fatigue, regret and self pity and then depart and walk to the bus stop. It felt like it was taking forever for the bus to arrive. “Why are they always late when I’m early?” I asked myself. I see the bus on the horizon. I toss my earbuds in to avoid having to greet the bus driver. I get on, tap my card and avoid eye contact as I walk to find a seat near the back of the bus where there were less people. I sit on the bus in silence while violently fighting to stay awake. “I’ll never stay up that late again on a work night” I mentally repeated to myself.
I arrive at work and greet everyone and then start working. I was working in fast food at the time, so I wasn’t forced to talk to people if I didn’t want to. After a lethargic and antisocial work day, I leave work and make my way to the bus stop. I see a lady I normally talk to already sitting down on the bench near the stop, so I stand just out of eye shot to avoid conversation and small talk. I was way too tired for that. The two hours of sleep were really weighing me down. The bus arrives, I get on, this time I greet the bus driver with a simple “hello” because he got me before I could put my earbuds in. I then sit down and actually put my earbuds in. I listened to foreign music as I commuted home.
I arrive at the bus stop near my house and get off the bus and then make my way home. I go in, say hi to my family in the living room and then immediately go downstairs to take a nap. I set my alarm clock to go off in an hour and a half and then lay down. I sleep until my alarm clock wakes me up. I woke up knowing exactly where I was this time. I shower and get dressed and head to the train station. It was time for round two of the Polyglot Grind. I arrive at the pub that I’d go to to practice languages at the time. I walk in and do my usual lap around the pub to see what language prospects I had. I see a mixed table of about 8 people. “Piece of cake” I assure myself as I walked towards them. I felt something weird in my chest as I got closer to the table… it was… butterflies! “Why am I nervous? I do this all the time”. I asked myself. I approached anyway. It was a cool group, but I didn’t build the connection with them that I usually do when I’d do this. I still got a few languages in. A friend of mine eventually shows up who was also into languages. We try to approach groups of people and have interesting conversations with them. My friend was doing good, but I just couldn’t summon the energy. I felt like I was dragging him down and leeching off his energy. I started to get in my head. I was able get back out of my head on previous occasions, but this time was somehow different. I couldn’t put my finger on why. The rest of the night went on like this until I eventually called it quits and went home early. My friend didn’t get why I was leaving because he was having a blast and thought I was too.
What went wrong here? Why was it such an unsatisfying night? Let me explain!
Being social is like working out!
Yes, being social is like a working out in the sense that you need to warm up first. If you go through an entire day without socializing with anyone and then are suddenly thrown into a high stress social environment like a pub in my case, you may feel like you were thrown into the middle of a lake with no life jacket and no knowledge of how to swim. You need to warm up. Did you notice how antisocial I was throughout the entire day due to how tired I was feeling? That’s why I struggled so much later on. I hadn’t warmed up and gotten into the groove and flow of talking to strangers. Imagine waltzing into the gym and then trying to bench your max without warming up with lighter weights first! You may end up hurting yourself. Same thing goes for socializing except you don’t have to worry about straining your chest or pulling muscles. Let’s look at the second scenario now.
It was a warm summers day and I somehow managed to wake up naturally and relatively well rested which was and still is a rare thing for me. I lay there in bed wondering what was missing from my morning while also contemplating going back to sleep for a little bit longer. Five minutes into my deliberation my alarm clock surprises me. That’s what was missing from my morning…my alarm clock nearly giving me a heart attack… “Anyway, So much for sleeping a little bit longer” I thought to myself… but I wasn’t even mad because I’d actually slept decently. I get out of bed, shower, eat, greet my family members that hadn’t left for work yet and then walk to the bus stop. I wait for the bus and then get on. To my surprise, it was the cool bus driver I’d sometimes talk to. We talk the whole time until I eventually need to get off to make my bus connection and ultimately go to work. I get to work and greet everyone and then start working. It was a pretty fun and social work shift and I talked to some of the cleaning ladies in Spanish on my break. At the end of my shift, I walked back towards the bus stop and saw some people waiting there. I attempted to make some small talk with them just to kill time and the conversation ended up being pretty interesting and we talked for part of the bus ride. I get home and relax for a bit and try to plan out my day in Toronto. I eventually go to the GO station, but get there early, so I decide to go grab some food. I saw some people I knew there and we talked briefly. I eventually leave and catch the train. I make it to Toronto early and make my way to the first language exchange. While walking, I see a group of people that were standing around and they looked foreign so I walked a bit slower as I passed them to see if I could hear any accents. I heard what sounded like a Brazilian accent and without much hesitation or fear, struck up a conversation by asking about something situational. People seem to always be surprised when English speakers take the time to learn other people’s languages, so more people in the group ended up coming up to me and talking to me. I ended up getting in a few languages talking to this group and they were really friendly and fun to talk to. I left and went to the language exchange after while. I bumped into a friend and we killed it at the language exchange, we met a lot of cool people and got a lot of languages in. I remember feeling almost socially “high” for lack of a better word. It kind of felt like the runners high. Anyway, the venue was slowing down because it was getting late. I was still feeling amazing and didn’t want to stop, so my buddy and I decided to go to another place. The place we chose was a place that was often frequented by exchange students. We go and to our great dismay, there was a line up. We slowly make our way to the end of the line and mentally prepare ourselves to wait a really long time. We get half way to the end of the line when we hear French. Luckily my friend was able to speak French too, so without hesitation once again, we engaged in conversation with the French people. We had no intentions other than to practice French and meet some cool people. The conversation went so well that they told us to wait with them in line. “YES!” I thought to myself. That saved us like 45 minutes. We kept talking to the French people and had a good time. The French people had fun too. We eventually made it in and lost the French people at some point by accident, but we went around talking to a bunch of other people and having a great time. We got even more languages in and it ended up being a great night
Alright, so both of these scenarios are stories that happened a couple years back. They’re not entirely accurate and my memory may have failed me a few times and I also exaggerated for comedic effect in some parts(I don’t think I’m ever thaaaat antisocial), but thats beside the point. The point here is how different these days both turned out. You’re probably wondering why they turned out so differently and no, it’s not because I slept better… ok fine, part of the success can be attributed to better sleep, but the main difference is the fact that, unbeknownst to me at the time, I warmed up before throwing myself into the high stress situations in the second scenario. I talked to the bus driver, I was social at work, I saw people I knew while I was getting food. After I’d arrived in Toronto, I bumped into that group of international students and talked to them. All the socializing that I did throughout the day prepared me for the high stress situations that I faced later on. It was like taking a shower and then slowly cooling the water down instead of just turning it from very hot to very cold.
I hardly talked to anybody in the first scenario. I was tired and antisocial, so when it finally came time to dive into the high stress situations that the day provided, I wasn’t ready and it was evident to me and everybody else.
Cool stories, bro, but how can they help me?
I’m glad you asked! Try to be more social every day. It keeps you sharp and keeps your comfort circle wide. Don’t know what I mean when I use the term comfort circle? Check out this article that I wrote on anxiety here!
Anyway, if you have a work meeting coming up, a date or maybe you’re just about to meet up with a group of friends that you haven’t seen in a long time. Make sure you warm up by socializing with people before hand. Talk the old lady who always goes for walks at weird times in your neighbourhood. Talk to the cashier while you’re paying, but don’t hold up the line. You don’t have to have long drawn out conversations about the Mandela effect, just say hi and maybe engage in some brief small talk. Talk to your family or significant other more or maybe even to your cat or dog. **If the cat or dog respond to you, run!**. Don’t look back or hesitate for the best results. All jokes aside, just try and push your comfort zone and be as social as possible. As I said earlier, it’s the same as lifting light weights before you start lifting heavy. It will help you ease yourself into the work out just like socializing will ease you into high the stress social situations that may follow in the day. The more you do this, the less warm up you’ll need and the easier it will get! You may even make some new friends by being more social!
Good luck! Be as social as possible and try to always expand your comfort zone!
This picture was taken is Wiesbaden, Germany.