by Michele Fulton
I have several people in my life that always make me feel better simply by being around them. Each of these people’s personalities are magnetic, dynamic and honest and it amazes me how easy it is to spend time with them and how much happier and more grounded I feel after our time together. If I had to say why that is, it would probably be because they consistently make me feel important, that what I have to say is interesting and meaningful.
I was a shy kid, and wasn’t very talkative with people until I got to know them. Of course, since I didn’t open up much, it made it hard for them to get to know me, and I them. I envied some of my friend’s outgoing personalities and how they appeared so unencumbered by their sense of self. I longed to be more like them and so sought answers to what it was that kept me so introverted and constrained.
In my pursuit to attract more positive healthy people into my life, I began to read a lot of self-help books on positive self-image, self-esteem and success in life and in relationships. At the same time, I started working on my physical strength and agility and my nutritional diet. Over time I began to understand what it was that made me want be around a particular person, I realized that I first needed to want to be around myself.
I now believe that anyone can become someone you want to be around. Here are two traits or skills that one can cultivate and develop if you don’t currently possess them; confidence and empathy.
There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The difference, I think, is that arrogance tries to impress others, while confidence doesn’t worry about whether others are impressed by you or not. You have to be comfortable in your own skin to be confident, so be honest with yourself about your harmful choices and your nurturing choices and set goals for choosing the right ones for you.
It took me a long time to gain confidence, and actually I’m still working on it, but I now realize that I kept myself aloof and never initiated healthy relationships with people I admired, because I didn’t think they’d be interested in me. I was also afraid that I didn’t have anything interesting to say, and so any conversation I tried to start would become awkward and strained. Ultimately, I avoided social situations and surrounded myself with friends, who took care of keeping the conversation going.
By really observing, I started to understand that many people feel this way (at least a little bit), because we project our own self-image onto other people. By assuming that what we perceive as faults in our makeup are readily evident to everyone we meet, we set ourselves up for failure.
What I finally realized and now believe is that everyone feels this way to some extent or another. That person that you’d like to talk to, but don’t because you’re too shy? They may have the same hang-ups or insecurities as you! It is even likely that they are so obsessed with their own shortcomings that they aren’t even registering what you are projecting as yours.
Once you are able to develop self-confidence you will have the freedom to display the second characteristic that’s so important to building relationships: empathy.
Almost everyone has felt a little self-conscious around other people at some point in their lives, even the most talented and gifted people have been out of their element at some time. If you want other people to feel comfortable around you, first understand the subconscious hang-ups that people have and learn to work around them to draw them out. You can make them feel at ease in your presence by finding common interests, or something that they are knowledgeable about. By actively listening, you can pick up cues and then allow the other person to look and feel like experts on a topic when they’re around you. People like to feel they are adding to the conversation. Here’s a hint: if you’re having trouble finding something to talk about, ask questions about them. Everyone’s an expert on themselves.
So, confidence and empathy are the keys to being someone that you and others want to be around. It sounds more intimidating than it is, and I understand it’s tough sometimes to take that first step, especially if you’re not used to doing it. For a start, make an effort to talk to people everywhere you go; at the grocery store, talk to the person in front of you in the checkout line, or the person at the register. In the doctor’s office, talk to the person sitting next to you, perhaps not about why they are there, but about the wait, the weather, a compliment on what they are wearing. The only way you’ll condition yourself to talk to people and get over your fears is to do it frequently. By the time you’ve gotten over your insecurities, it will be a habit; and good habits are hard to break.
Pay attention to friends or even strangers that make you feel good or negatively about yourself when you are talking to them; what was it they said or did that made you feel that way. Learning what not to say is as important as what to say. Pretty soon you will be attracting positive people into your life and have no shortage of good friends. Just remember to leave time to be with your favorite person: your self!