by Vince Fabra
Recently, I led an activity where we created a physical spectrum in the room. One wall was “Super Confident. Socially Excellent.” The other wall was “Super Uncomfortable. Awko Taco”. The fabulous Tina VanSteenbergen and I read different social scenarios, and the participants were encouraged to find the space on the spectrum that they felt best suited their social skills in that specific situation.
Ex. “First day of class. You walk in and realize you don’t know anyone.”
“You are engaging with a potential new member at a recruitment activity or event.”
“You run into someone in real-life that you’ve never met, but you’re friends with on social media.”
We read about 5-7 of these. Most participants found a new spot on the spectrum, as they had different confidence levels with each varying situation. A few pockets of participants, however, were firmly planted near the “Social Excellence” wall and others didn’t move from the “Awko Taco” wall. (BTW, the “Social Excellence” wall dwellers talked a big game. The level of Social Excellence they chose to display throughout the rest of the session was underwhelming at best. Being “too cool” is not the same thing as Social Excellence. In fact it is closer to “Super Uncomfortable and Awko Taco”, but that’s another blog entirely).
I interviewed an “Awko Taco” participant (only because her friends raised her hand for her). I asked, “When is a situation when you actually feel confident or Socially Excellent.” She replied, “When I have one or two friends with me I feel more confident.”
My expert advice was, “Life Hack: Make More Friends.” If you have more people you know, are connected to, or have some relationship with, you’ll have more life situations where you feel confident. Friends create confidence.
Think about this. At one point in time, your best friend was just another stranger. There was a time when your roll-dogs, your ride-or-dies, your besties were nameless faces in a crowd. You had to make friends with these people who are now special to you, these people who give you confidence. With the exception of identical twins and other close siblings, everyone with close friends, mentors, spouses and any other (non-relative) loved ones had to create and develop those relationships. So to my “Awko Tacos” out there, you know how to do it, and if you want to become more “Super Confident. Socially Excellent.” I will repeat “Life Hack: Make More Friends.”
Three Hacks within the Hack.
1. Find a community of shared interest – Fraternities and sororities are an obvious go-to. However, assuming that most of you readers out there are already members of a fraternity/sorority, I want to challenge you to find a new community. What are you passionate about? What are you good at? How can you surround yourself with people that possess those same passions and skills? My (non-Greek) community is the stand-up comedy scene in Charleston. I moved to Charleston in 2010, and I didn’t have (m)any good friends in town. This was a challenge, particularly because my job is to teach people how to make friends. In finding the stand-up community, I found many great friends with a shared interest.
2. Get out of your own head. Focus on others. - We think that everyone notices our every move; that others are so aware of our embarrassing moment and faux pas. I don’t believe that to be true. No one is worried about you, because they’re too busy being consumed with their own thoughts and insecurities. Ego is a tricky thing, and it has us believe that we are at the center of the universe. You’re not! And PLEASE let this be a RELIEF. Imagine all of the stress and anxiety you would save yourself if you realized that no one is as concerned about you as you are. Get out of your own head. This one is a 2-part-er. Step 2. Focus on others. Be a kind generous person that let’s people know that you notice and appreciate what they’re good at. “Hey, you ask really great questions in class. I wanted you to know that I appreciate that.”
“Hey, I see you tabling for this organization 5 days a week. Tell me what this is about.” “I feel like we’re always in the dining hall at the same times. What is your go-to meal in this place?” These small acts of curiosity and outward focus are a great way to approach a stranger. Who knows? That could be your future roll-dog/ride-or-die/besty/life partner.
3. Social (without the) media. – Think of all the times when you’re most inclined to pull out your phone and open that app. It is usually when you are looking to get connected (i.e. Waiting in line at the coffee shop, waiting for class to start, feeling bored at your house/apartment/residence hall). What if instead of using social media as a tool to fill the void of connection, you made the choice to be Social (without the) media? Instead of looking for that status update on your phone, get a status update from the real person behind you in line. “How’s your day going?” is your guide to a real life tweet (and this one doesn’t have any character limits). Other than “connection”, social media gives us the opportunity to build community. Hashtags, likes, favs, retweets are all ways to show support and spread messages. Although these tools are powerful, they are limited to the screen. What does a real, in-person hashtag, like, fave, retweet look like? Social media can only do so much in “finding connection” and “building community”. Social (without the) media, however, holds limitless possibility.
LIFE HACK: Make More Friends