The social fabric could be one of those things that, if we should remain aware of, can actually serve to strengthen our conviction in reaching out to others. Many of us who are not so socially integrated (me being the first and foremost example that comes to mind) may find a constant bug at the back of our heads the grating idea that we may make another silly social faux pas, and be somehow, utterly and severely shamed by it.
Fact is, it’s pretty common. Or rather, it’s extremely common that people make social mistakes. Everyone (or say, most people I know who are shy) thinks that conversation and social interaction should be the perfect seashell, the wonderful sparkly gem that reflects sunlight over a Caribbean horizon. The truth is, there can only be so many seashells and nice shiny stuff (that are not beer bottles) on the beach, and comparatively, there’s an infinite number of sand. We tend to make more social mistakes than we think we do, and in the rare cases that we do not, we’re actually just moving things along. In essence, our conversations are mostly just sand – common threads in the wider social fabric.
Then there are those sparkly moments where the usual faux pas becomes the socially right thing to do/say, when our little conversational gems find the correct pillow to display themselves upon, when we finally find that special context where everyone understands the joke, or agrees with our impassioned speech, or finds that risque topic particularly enlivening for the night. It doesn’t happen to everyone all the time. In fact it happens to few people, and then, only sometimes. To an even smaller group of people, it happens all the time; being hip and cool is the rule and not the exception. In light of just a moment of that perfect social interaction, every other thing seems dull, and a mistake could take us, mentally and emotionally at least, much further back than we actually are. Let’s keep it straight; most mistakes don’t matter in the long run, but failure to correct them does.
The reason why there exists those who are so socially comfortable and in their skin is because these guys understand the social fabric intuitively; the mistakes don’t really matter, and neither really do those shiny moments, because everything fades away in the larger scale of things. That takes the pressure of them to perform, and so to an onlooker, they perform, ironically. They can bring on the charm, and just as quickly take it off at the right moments. No crowd fazes them. They may say something wrong, but they get back into it and everything is fine again. No, great again. But to get there, first you will need to be a movie star, or a pop sensation.
Ok I kid.
Anyone can get that degree of social ease if they really want to! But desire is not enough, and you need to work at it. I am no where at that level to be giving advice, but I did climb out from the pit of awkward-dom a few years back, and slowly but surely got myself to a point where I could actually start to work on my social skills without being too much of a prick to myself about it.
These are just some of the stuff I did.
1) Read about social awkwardness.
Yes I know, at first it was just pitiful self-indulgence, but after awhile you get to the grind and you realize that there’s got to be some changes that need to take place before you get to where you want to be.
2) Go and do something about it that does not involve other people.
I mean, you don’t throw a kitty into the face of someone who has kitty-phobia to get them to overcome their fear. It’s got to be slow and gradual, but resolute. You may have to find something that is just not so acceptable and work on it hard before you’ll dare to step into the terrifying social fabric again. For me, it was my weight. A girl once told me that she’d date me, only that I was, well, fat. So it took me about a year or so, and now I’m fit, and far more confident. For some it may be to get a job, to learn a useful skill, or it could be simple stuff like hygiene or a new wardrobe. Ask for advice from people whom you trust to not sugarcoat things nor be too harsh, and work on it. One thing at a time, and slowly.
3) Go and do something about it, but with people.
Now start involving people. Gogogo. Chances are, the thing that you decided to change has some sort of social following. For me, I found people who also work out for various reasons, and conversations begin from there. Don’t just stick to forums, although they could be a good springboard to real conversations, but go out there and actually meet people. Go to the gym, the workplace, the school, the park; wherever and whenever people congregate to talk about something that you are seriously and actively working on, be there. It improves your chances, and chances are what you need.
4) Don’t give up.
So after awhile you make mistakes and you’re down in the dumps. You’re wondering what is it that you’re doing wrong, and you imagine various scenarios in your head to work things around. Great, you’re doing fine. Just don’t stay there; get up and go back into the real world and try things out. After awhile, you’ll get there. Remember, it doesn’t matter how people responded to you, but that you put yourself out there; you talked, you socialized, you said hi to that intriguing stranger who caught your eye. Changing people’s response to some degree is dependent on your own behaviour, but even then to do that, you must first be out there.
5) Be aware of the Social Fabric.
Right, we’re back full circle. You may realize after awhile that there are times you are so close to reaching that elusive gem of social comfort/flow/rush (whatever happens to be your pet term), but you miss it because you fail to stretch a bit more. It’s out of the comfort zone, and you know you’ll flinch. And like everybody else you’re scared of flinching. But hey! You know you can’t be like everybody else, so make it a habit to overcome the flinch. Or think about it this way to make it easier for yourself . The social fabric is as such: every mistake you make dilutes into a bigger social flora and fauna if you like, where a single bird’s chirp is hardly noticeable. Neither is a leaf’s crazed flutter against the wind. Or on a larger level, the death of a poor deer by the claws of a tiger, which may register as a blip on the “forest consciousness” for awhile, but rest assuredly, it’ll fade before the day ends (and another critter gets mauled). On a huge enough scale, nothing really ever matters that much, and no, not even death, as how most religions go. So suck it up, raise your chin and take the blow.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You realized that somewhere along the line you traded awareness of your own social awkwardness to awareness of the social fabric as a whole. That’s good. It means you’re somewhere along the way. I haven’t got there yet, and I don’t think I will (I may write about some interesting pit stops when I get there), but like they say: it’s not the destination, but the journey that’s worth singing about.