I have a people problem, always have for as long as I can remember. People were certainly part of my traumatic history, and that set me up for building walls around people without even realizing it. I can walk by people without even acknowledging them, even if I know them. My instinct is to not be noticed. It doesn’t always occur to me to say “good morning” or “good night” to folks. I grew up trying to get by without being noticed because being noticed often meant trouble.
It’s taken me years of observation to figure out that my natural way of being does not serve me well. A few years ago I was visiting with a Mexican family that had young children. When company would visit the kids knew they were expected to say hello and greet their guests. One day I was there when one of their young sons just was not in the mood for it, and his mother told him, “Saludale! (Greet them). And later I heard her privately explain to him that it’s considered rude not to greet guests. And in that moment I realized this child and I were learning something important, that you greet guests! So simple, yet not always present in my awareness that I need to do this.
Many of the friends I have made in my life have come from other more outgoing friends making introductions. Meeting my future wife came out of an outgoing friend introducing us with no preamble before she did it, and I often wonder if it’s because she knew I would have foolishly fled the scene if I knew an introduction to a stranger was on the horizon. When I ask my would be cupid friend if she introduced us this way on purpose she just gets coy and smiles, never giving me a straight answer, which just adds to the joy of the story.
I instinctively run from people, yet I need people in this life. And I often disadvantage myself all on my own in this realm. I have to make myself say hello and good night to folks. I have a colleague who can be very effusive when she speaks with folks, and I thought to myself that cannot possibly work. I thought surely people would find it a bit much. But I tried it on during interviews I facilitate in my job, and oh my, it works. Tell a person that you are so thankful they set time aside to meet with you, and you are happy to have a chance to speak with them just works wonders with getting folks comfortable. You would think I promised them the universe. Much to my surprise, as I express gratitude more and more during these interviews I’ve found myself truly feeling gracious for their time.
I have learned that I need to continue to watch and observe those that are more successful with people than me because I do not know crap about how to interact with others. I like to think I do, but I do not. I only know how to speak clearly, calmly and directly. It’s became painfully clear to me that I cannot trust my assessment of how to interact with others. My instinct is to stay home all day and speak to no one, that is my default mode that I fight every day.