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StrangeAlien
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07 May 2008, 7:37 pm

Hey everybody. I've been trying to practice my skills at meeting people and having conversations, but I'm running against an obstacle that some of you might have also encountered.

I used to have a job where I dealt with the public in a routine sort of way. I felt uncomfortable when I first started, but after a while, I found myself making a lot of progress with improving my social skills. Being in a situation where I was forced to interact with people, having a clear role at work, and developing a rough script for what to say to people, all helped a lot with my confidence.

The job gave me a structure for interacting with people. Talking to people was part of my job, and I had a routine of what to say that became an easy habit. I had that base to work from. I already had an excuse for talking to people (I was just doing my job), and if I wanted to try to befriend someone or converse about other things, I could work from there.

I also felt like I belonged.

I've since left that job. It was great for me socially, but it didn't pay enough to live on or fit with my career goals.

Ever since I left, my confidence has sunk. At first I thought all that progress I had made had somehow crumbled. But now I know the social skills I learned there are still with me--it's just that I have nowhere to practice them. My current job doesn't involve much interacting with people, and what interaction there is, is unstructured and ambiguous. I'm long out of school, so I don't have that. And I'm having trouble finding another structured environment in which to practice.

I feel like this isolated person with no connection to anybody, and not a part of any social group.

I've been reading about social skills training (mostly "Preparing For Life" by Jed Baker), and have been trying to practice the skills for starting and maintaining conversations. But the only context I have for practicing them is out in public places with complete strangers. I would like to eventually be able to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, but right now that feels like too big a leap for me to take.

Also, reading the above book, I can see that the suggestions were designed for starting conversations with either classmates or coworkers--not with complete strangers.

I've looked into interest-based clubs in my area and have found very few. Those that do exist meet infrequently, have sparse attendance, and consist mostly of people much older than me (I'm in my early 30s). It seems like most people around my age prefer to socialize in unstructured environments, like bars. Unstructured environments make me very nervous.

Anyway I was wondering if any of you have ideas for more structured places to practice conversational skills. I've tried for a long time to find them on my own--but maybe I'm missing something obvious. I just need a situation where talking to people is considered normal. Striking up conversations with complete strangers who happen to be shopping at the same store or walking down the same sidewalk is definitely not considered normal--at least not where I live. People tend to be a little weirded out by it, which makes me even more nervous.

If you have any ideas, or have had similar experiences, please reply.



hartzofspace
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07 May 2008, 8:12 pm

Well, maybe you could look in Meet-ups in your local area. See what kinds there are. I found one for Shy people, and have been having excellent chances to improve my social skills. I don't know what part of the world you are from, but here's a link:

http://www.meetup.com/

I found this particular group helpful, because others are struggling with basically the same issues.


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Brittany2907
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09 May 2008, 2:24 am

If you have a supportive family, you could ask them to help you practise social skills/talking, etc.

If you don't want to ask your family for help, then maybe you could join a hobby club. There would be people with the same interest as you there so you could talk about that.


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Speckles
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09 May 2008, 8:48 am

The best place I've ever found, wierdly enough, is church. I'm pretty close to atheism, but so far no-one has noticed or cared. So long as you aren't going to an insane one, people tend to be pretty welcoming. Most people want to pass on their memes, and so view any new face in their church as a good thing, particularly if its a young one.

It's important to be a bit careful though. Read up on the denomination of the church before going, as some churches are kind of fanatical and stupid. I personally go to the United Church of Canada, a sect so liberal it has gay ministers, and confirmations involve going to other religions' houses of worship to learn tolerance. My local one shares the men's breakfast with the local Sikh temple, and not in a 'let's convert them' way.

If you want to avoid religion all together, go to a volenteer organization. That's another place where they don't really care if you're a bit wierd, so long as you're helping them. People also tend to be pretty friendly, since you are offering to help them accomplish their goals.



Zara
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09 May 2008, 12:01 pm

Hey, I'm in the same spot with social interactions. I pretty can do it at my job much the way you describe but can't really do it well outside that.
I think the trick is that you need some set of people you can see on a regular basis, get used to them and then start socializing. It goes in line with others have suggested about being in a club, church, volunteer group...


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