How to be less lonely and more social, even if you’re an introvert
Many people are lonely. Loneliness has been an increasingly important topic, made more so by the 2020 pandemic. What are some of things you can do to help prevent loneliness?
Go outside. Simple interactions with people have more significance than you think. Experts say that you may think that a brief “Will you be paying with cash or card?” with a cashier doesn’t mean that much, but all these small interactions with the people in our community have more power than we think. This was highlighted during the pandemic when we weren’t allowed to leave our homes and couldn’t see people.
Even small, brief interactions with people can help us. A study put a monitor on people to track their voice throughout the day. What they found was that people who had more conversations in a day, even though those conversations may have been about more seemingly trivial things, were generally happier people.
Pick up the phone. As in the above study with people who had voice trackers, the more you use your voice throughout the day, the more you can improve your overall sense of happiness. Don’t wait for people to call you. Be the one who calls other people. Check in on people you haven’t talked to in awhile. Keep the connections going.
Do regular Zooms with some friends you don’t see often due to distance. Get them together every two weeks or so to catch up, laugh, reminisce, or help each other out if they happen to be going through some difficulties. I do a biweekly Zoom with some childhood friends and really enjoy it!
Read the book “Talk to Strangers: How Everyday, Random Encounters Can Expand Your Business, Career, Income, and Life” by David Topus (find it here on Amazon). This is one of my favourite books on how to approach people you don’t know.
Topus drummed up so much business from flying across the continent for business meetings and casually talking to strangers in airports, taxis, restaurants, hotels, and pubs, that he started flying across the continent for no reason. He often takes the longest route possible too. With no conference or business meeting to go to, he made more money this way by talking to random people.
He says people when they go out into public are often hoping that they’ll meet somebody. I’m like that. Are you like that? However, we are so afraid to talk to the people in our communities. He says many people are looking for conversations and want to get know you.
In the book he teaches how he approaches people and starts up some banter. One tip: talk about the weather to break the ice with someone. The weather gets a bad rap as being a mundane thing to talk about, but he is all for talking about things in your immediate environment to help strike up a conversation.
Look up Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind “Humans of New York”. He has approached thousands of people on the streets of New York City with the hopes of being able to take their photograph. He posts his photos with a brief story about the person.
Stanton can’t get everybody to talk to him, even though he is a pro at this. Many people don’t want to talk to him. But he does get many people to engage with him and often they will tell him a story that is very powerful, something that means a lot to the person, such as how they felt when their son died of cancer.
How does he get people to open up to him, a complete stranger asking to take their photo? Check out this video as well as this one (with an example interview with an audience member at 57:10–1:08:40) on how he slowly works a genuine and heartfelt story out of a complete stranger.
Read “Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion” by George Thompson (find it here on Amazon). I’ve read many books on people skills, but this one by far has helped me the most. It is how police officers deal with people with words, not weapons.
The police officers involved in the Rodney King beating in LA were just days away from taking their Verbal Judo training unfortunately. See my summary of Verbal Judo here.
If you’re an introvert (or even if you’re an extrovert!) or if social settings leave you stymied, read “Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome” by Ty Tashiro (find it here on Amazon). The book gives a good look at how people who may be described as “socially awkward” can become better at meeting people and making friends.
I think everyone can feel awkward sometimes in social settings, no matter how smooth you are. This book is a great one for demystifying some of our species’ unique yet counterproductive behaviours.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I would argue it takes a village to maintain an adult. A survivalist once said he wished everyone got the chance to be thrown naked into the middle of the wilderness to help them appreciate all that we have in our communities to survive. Let’s try to pay more attention to the people in our lives.
Those who have gone through terrible ordeals like disease or disaster often say that how they changed as a result is that people become much more important to them.
Many of us are lonely and it is nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of our situations where we feel lonely didn’t use to exist: people living alone today versus large families living together in centuries past; working alone in cubicles versus our ancestors working together on farms or fishing boats. These weren’t your choices. We are the victims of circumstance.
Try not to beat yourself up too much if you feel lonely. Millions - literally millions - feel the exact same way as you.
Put talking to people higher up on your list. Don’t wait for years or decades to call somebody. Life can pass us by pretty quickly. Let’s try to make the most of the people in our lives!
P.S. I’ll leave you with this anecdote that may or may not make you feel less lonely. This may seem like an odd thing to admire, but I have been paying more attention to seagulls in recent years. The birds will often flock together on a beach or in a parking lot and just sit there together, mostly quietly, although the odd one will let out a call every now and then.
Some will be lying down, some standing, some standing on one foot (not sure why they do this), but most of them won’t be making any noise. They will be clustered together close to each other in groups of 20, 40, 60 or so. But they are silent together.
Crows in large groups make an awful racket (a “murder” of crows). Most of the songbirds that inhabit your yards are in smaller groups and often chirping loudly together. Eagles and hawks seem more solitary.
But the lowly, common, garbage-eating seagull gives me a lot of peace when I see them in these silent groups. The make me feel more at peace and they can help ease my loneliness, as I see some animals communing with each other. They look to me as if they know each other so well that don’t have to say a thing.
I know this topic may sound weird, but it’s nice to see a group of animals being so relaxed and at ease with each other, and I can be less lonely vicariously through them.
So get out for a walk on the beach, talk with some locals, and wander over by those social seagulls and see how they make you feel!