Today, I’d like to share some of my secrets for giving solid, good advice, even in difficult situations. We quiet people tend to be good listeners and think (sometimes a great deal) before we speak, so we are often consulted. Beging asked for advice is a sign of trust and confidence, but it can also be uncomfortable and a great responsibility. Here’s what to say, how to cope, and how not to get blamed if things work out in unexpected ways.
It’s that time of the year again… Biscuits and tea become the very thing, familiar carols drift through the air, and there’s a vague scent of cinnamon and oranges everywhere. Mmmmh. And we’re too stressed out to enjoy it all because we’re Christmas shopping like crazy, of course. I’d like to offer some suggestions for making that particular hell a little easier, quicker and more comfortable to navigate: Behold, the introvert gift guide. What to give to whom, and how to acquire it with a minimum of fuss.
Receiving a compliment is many introverts’ worst nightmare. “It’s nice that you want to say something kind to me, but can the earth please open up and swallow me right now?” That’s how I used to feel about compliments for a long time. And making compliments – ugh! – even worse. Will the other person not feel just as awful about receiving a compliment as I would in their place? Will they think I’m kissing up to them? That I want something? That I’ve got a crush on them, maybe?
You can tell compliments in general were pretty terrifying to me.
Over the last years, however, my outlook has changed rather a lot. I realised that, somewhere deep down, I kind of like receiving compliments. Who doesn’t like a sincere reminder of their good qualities sometimes? It’s just having to react that feels vulnerable and awkward and awful, having to let the other person see that private part of you that needed validation. But it doesn’t have to be awful! There are a few simple strategies that make taking compliments so much easier, and, in time, even pleasant.
And don’t get me started on giving compliments. Once I realised that, on average, it doesn’t cause mortification or awkwardness, but heartfelt delight, I began speaking up more often when I noticed something I liked about other people. I am now firmly conviced that making a compliment is a wonderful way to brighten someone’s day, strike up a conversation with a stranger, or deepen your friendship with someone you already know.
As I am an almost neurotically structured thinker, I have compiled a list of pretty straightforward tips and strategies for you. Take a look and start making and taking compliments like a suave social butterfly in no time.
Whenever there’s talk about art, concepts like “talent” and “genius” inevitably come up. Frankly, I think they’re overrated. Our culture has created a hype around talent which is destructive to joy, creativity and the single most important ingredient to any great piece of art: practise. Practise, time and dedication make wonderful artists – while talent is, at best, a starting point.
Many shy or introverted people (myself included) positvely dread making phone calls to anyone but our innermost circle of friends – and sometimes even to them, depending on what we have to say. But you don’t have to be shy to dread certain conversations. Having to make them over the phone, without being able to get feedback from your addressee’s face, doesn’t exactly help. So we keep putting those calls off, agonising over how to do it, and knowing that we should. Here’s how you pick up the phone and get it done – even though you’re terrified.
If you’re not faced with the immediate need to make an important call on the spot – say, because some emergency happened or you need to call the police/an ambulance -, there are some simple strategies for making it so much easier. Take a minute (or two, or thirty) and just think it through. Here are some strategies that I find extremely helpful. When I wanted to quit my job, but couldn’t meet my boss in person because I had just broken my foot, I think I followed all of these tipps, actually. It went well – my boss accepted my decision (she kind of wanted me to stay, because teaching new people the ropes is time consuming, of course) and we left it on very good terms.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about what being introverted means, apart from the basic definition. Which, by the way, many people have only a fuzzy concept of, to begin with. (“What do you mean, socialising drains you? We’re not that horrid!”) But more than that, I’ve been thinking about characteristics which we introverts tend to share and things via which we connect to others and the world around us. I also did some research into the scientific insights and came up with a handy list of facts about introverts.
We introverts know the value of some good, refreshing silence. Aaaaah. Silence. Yes. There are situations, however, when silence can become awkward and unpleasant even for us. Car trips. Visitors. People who stare at you expectantly because they are shy and/or introverted too and hope you will make the first move. In these cases, less introverted persons usually resort to small talk – anything to fill the void and banish the silence! But what are people to do who dread lengthy talk about the weather more than dentist appointments? Who would rather have a deep and meaningful conversation, but do not feel sufficiently accquainted with the current conversation partner to do so? Fear not, my fellow introverts, for I am going to let you in on some secrets. The art of small talk for introverts.
I’d like to mention, by the way, that my credentials in this regard are impressive. For example, I recently had a six-hour car trip with a loose acquaintance. It was not the least bit awkward and I ended up making a genuine new friend. Being from the countryside and, consequently, having had a beat-up old car since age 18 has really helped me get so much better small talk. When you drive people around all the time, you learn to fill the silence with something other than complaining about other drivers. So let me share my petrol-fuelled wisdom.
You don’t have to be terribly empathetic to get upset by watching the news. If you are very empathetic, though, the news become a real trial. We get upset by all the awful things that are happening in the world, depressed about the lack of compassion, overwhelmed by the feelings of despair which the people in those stories must have experienced – because we share them. I have struggled with this for a long time and still sometimes do. But there are some strategies that help a lot, which I’m going to share today.
It’s tempting to just stop watching the news altogether. After all, there’s nothing we can do – we just get really bummed out everytime. However, it’s also a fact that a democracy cannot work with uninformed citizens. And people look at you strangely when they mention a story that has been all over the news lately and you go “Uh, what was that?”. And finally, maybe there is something you can do, sometimes – like with the current wave of refugees all over Europe, which can only begin to be handled because plenty of normal people volunteer to help -, but you have to know about that first. So I’d like to make a case here for keeping up with the news, even when it’s hard… who am I kidding – even when it’s terrifying. Here’s what helps me cope with staying informed.
I was going to write an upbeat post today about the value of kindness. Well, another time. You see, I’m having a bit if a bad day. Today, my partner woke up with a cold, and when he has a cold, he watches crime shows, and I made the mistake of watching an episode with him. (Why??) Predictably, it made me feel awful. Lonely and sad and aching for all the pain and loss and cruelty in the world. So I didn’t feel like a chirpy post about kindness.
Instead, I thought I’d share a list of the things that help me feel a little better on bad days – days when I’m depressed, anxious, sad, or otherwise in emotional pain. I’ll keep updating thist list as I find new things. If you’ve got suggestions, leave a comment and I’ll add it.
As I explained last week, “Get out of your comfort zone!” is my pet peeve and the piece of thoughtless, bad advice that I dislike the most (read why here). But there are a few more pieces of advice and conventional wisdom that I’d like to talk about, because they are regularly and liberally thrown about, but can be terribly harmful. They tend to be especially bad advice for introverts, high sensitives or anxious people, but really, some of these “gems” are shitty advice no matter who you’re talking to, and they’re worth thinking about for everyone – the advisors and the advised.