There will come a time when you’re hanging out with your best friends and one of them will say something, in the most honest and genuine way, that will have you question what exactly drew you to this human in the first place.
These realizations typically materialize through the discussion of life’s most fundamental questions, e.g. “What three things would you bring with you if you were stranded on an island?” We’ve all heard some very clever answers in our past experience asking this question. But then, your best friend will say something like “a fluffy beach towel” for one of his items, in the most serious, calculated way possible. Or perhaps he’ll say “a camera to capture some sweet sunsets.” Not considering at all the extreme circumstances of having to drink your own urine or slowly losing your mind.
To your friend, this is a vacation. And it blows your mind that he has a full time job and that a superior trusts him enough to delegate real work to this person. This frightening circumstance becomes dramatically enhanced when he responds to your question “What would you do if you fell overboard and were stuck in the middle of the ocean surrounded by sharks?” with “I’d obviously break my own ribs and blow myself,” with the proudest of looks on his face as if to say “Bet you never thought of that, idiot.”
These things happen. And it makes you realize that you haven’t made a single new friend since undergrad. We spend years developing these networks of idiots and hardly branch out when we enter the real world. We’re somewhat unwilling to make friends with the people in our office (whether they’re terrible or not), we don’t talk to anybody at the gym, and god forbid we’re one of two people on a long elevator trip – we ain’t saying shit. Why? Because we’re satisfied?
It’s silly. Just because you make a new friend doesn’t mean you have to get rid of an old one. A lot of us pride ourselves on our social skills. We can go to a pregame or a bar or a wedding and engage people. But how are those skills when you’re alone? The times when you don’t have five friends on either side of you.
As much as we’ve all gone through our own personal issues and have celebrated our own personal triumphs, so have other people. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has a story to tell. Whether it’s the tiny Russian woman cashier at the grocery store with a full beard, or the same person you see at the gym every single day because you’ve been going at the same exact time for three years, just say “Hi.”
Make an effort. You don’t need to go to lunch with these people, or exchange numbers, but you do need to be social. We create so much anxiety within oursevles just avoiding encounters or eye contact, it’s pathetic.
It’s a habit that is so easy to get rid of and will benefit you in a way you wouldn’t expect. Everyone knows SOMETHING you don’t. Everybody can help you in SOME way. But you’ll never know until you say something.
So stop being a weirdo. People that are actually profoundly shy and socially awkward need people like you and me to approach them, to smile, to say something, to ask them how their day is. So sack up and stop walking around miserable. Go out and learn a thing or two.