I used to think I was quite a shy person. This isn’t unusual – when questioned roughly half of all people consider themselves to be at least a little shy.
But the strange thing is, I enjoy talking to people: I’m not scared of standing on a stage making a fool of myself and am happy to step in and lead a venture if no-one else volunteers to.
Seriously, it’s one of the main reasons I’m not a member of any clubs or anything. I went along to a British Science Fiction Association evening in a pub once – a place full of nice, smart people with similar interests. Hated it. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know who to speak to, and I just imagined they weren’t interested in speaking to stupid old me – this despite me being a reviewer for them and judging the Clarke Award that year, too!
I know, crazy, right?!
But I realised very recently (personal insights at the grand old age of 43 – imagine!) that when given an external reason to start speaking to people, say, a task to complete, I can talk to just about anyone, nae bother.
If it’s my job, I can do it.
If I’m in charge, I can do it.
If I have an audience of friends, I can do it.
So long as there’s an official reason to do it, I can. I’ve worked at enough different companies that I’ve become quite good at appearing polite, interested and sociable when I have to.
Plus, get me talking in the first place and you’ll probably have trouble shutting me up! Especially if you want to talk about something other than sport – which, for a man, is a real handicap – start talking about sport and macho nonsense and you can pretty much kiss goodbye to my conversation.
Maybe that’s why I often find it much easier to talk to the opposite sex…? Hmm.
So, my apologies if I seem rude or ignorant – or simply shy – when we meet; I’m not, it’s just my desperate strategies to avoid small talk. That’s why I’m self-diagnosing myself as crap at small talk – the art of striking up (and maintaining) a conversation with a complete stranger, rather than being properly “shy”.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and be charming and amusing in a meeting…