Pet Please #125: People Who Introduce Themselves

IMG_5006As someone who has some level of social anxiety when it comes to happy hours and public speaking, the last two days have been a test for me.

Yesterday I spent my Valentine’s Day evening as the featured guest at a Viticulture-themed game night at a local game store. It started with a happy hour and then merged into me teaching three games at once (which, fortunately, soon turned into me just teaching one game, as two of the tables had people who knew how to play).

Tonight I was the featured speaker on the topic of crowdfunding at the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis. I spoke for a little over an hour in an interview format in front of about 75 people.

For both events, I was totally fine–well, nervous and stressed, but otherwise fine–while I was doing what I was there to do (teach Viticulture, give a talk). But it’s the time before the events and during breaks when my social anxiety kicks into high gear.

It’s hard to explain, as there’s no rational reason for it, so I’ll just tell you what it looks like: There was a time at the Valentine’s Day event when I was finished setting up and people were starting to arrive (but the event hadn’t officially begun), and I literally just stood there. I was paralyzed. It doesn’t make any sense–the rational thing would be for me to introduce myself to someone and generally just be a good, welcoming person, but I didn’t.

I wasn’t the host of the event, which would have helped–if I’m the host, I consider it my job to make people feel welcome. There’s something about being in charge that makes me comfortable embodying that role, and I should have tricked myself into that role last night. Honestly, I think part of it was that the people setting up the event were way behind schedule, and I knew I was facing about 30 minutes of small talk. For an introvert, that’s worse than pooping your pants.

I was faced with a similar situation tonight. I finished my talk, and the moderator said there would be a 10-minute break. I probably would have spent that 10 minutes standing awkwardly off to the side, or even leaving. I’ve done that before.

But at both events, something incredible happened. It was a small gesture, but both times it snapped me out of my social anxiety and made me a normal person again.

At both events, someone walked up to me and introduced themselves.

I’m so incredibly grateful to those people for doing that. Like, I can’t even put into words the level of my gratitude. It’s such a huge weight removed from my shoulders. It really does feel like that. An introduction gives me permission to engage in conversation.

I know I need to get better at this, but for now, just for now, after back-to-back days of this, I just want to be grateful for people out there who introduce themselves at events. You never know how big of a favor you may be providing the person you meet.

Also, thanks to Walter (my cat) who sat on me for a while when I got home. That was nice too.


10 Responses to “Pet Please #125: People Who Introduce Themselves”

  1. Jasmin says:

    You can do it, Jamey! I think of myself as the star of a show or something when I’m in situations like that. Big party, know no one but the host. Snap myself out of it and start introducing myself. Went to a work holiday party and had a great time. ?

  2. I am so there with you! I’ve been known to go hide out in the bathroom at those times. I can easily address a crowd of 1500 – but unstructured space in a crowd of people I don’t know? So hard.

  3. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Juliana: I’ve used the bathroom trick myself a number of times (I’ve actually found it helps to recharge in a quiet place for a few minutes).

    Jasmin: I’m impressed you were able to do that!

  4. Matthew Laing says:

    Thanks for being transparent. However – as a fellow introvert – I do believe that pooping your pants would be worse than making small talk for 30 minutes…
    For some reason the imagery reminded me of this scene from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:
    http://youtu.be/wGW8Q2odTJU

  5. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Matt: That’s awesome. It’s been too long since I watched Kimmy–I think she’s returning this spring!

  6. Hello Jayme, my name is Conor, you’ve politely answered a number of my emails/questions on your blog, but after reading this I thought I should re-introduce myself.
    I find it interesting that you are so introverted “in the real world” but so generous and eloquent with your blog.
    Have you ever noticed if there is any correlation between introverts and successful bloggers?

  7. Jasmin says:

    Well, it was something I have to do it and felt like doing it. Key words: “have to” and “felt like”. A work party that I would like to attend and made time for. I have to make the best out of it. I mean, what’s the point of attending a huge gathering with the intent of company bonding when you are standing in a corner as you stare like deer staring at headlights? You feel awkward and everyone who sees you think you are awkward and wonder why be here if you are uncomfortable? I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable or looked uncomfortable and felt like socializing, so I decided to let go any anxiety and just do… with a plan.

    1. Be there early or on time. Parties don’t start until you walk in. Or just mentally ready for socializing ahead.
    2. Talk to people who are already there. These people can be someone you know already or someone new so you will feel more comfortable and have that belonging feeling as the evening goes on.
    3. Don’t have anything else to talk/small talk is done, you can end the conversation, leave, and socialize with a new person/group. Just don’t be rude about it. No need to feel awkward. I think I ended some conversations with, “It’s nice meeting you. I’m going to get myself another drink/something to eat/say to hi to so and so…See you around! :D” And sometimes I just left because they started to have some conversations with someone else.
    4. Only be there when you want to be there.

    I also had a goal. Socialize with as many people as I’m comfortable with. I stayed at the party for about1.5 hours and got to know the company I worked with a little more.

    Now, I need all these factors; otherwise, I would not have gone to it.

  8. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Thanks for the introduction, Conor! I’d say that I’m introverted all the time, but I’m still social. Introversion just means that I’m more energized in most situations by being alone than being with other people.

    As for introversion and successful bloggers, there could be a correlation there. I’d love to see a study about that.

  9. John Coveyou says:

    I have the answer. Jamey, next time I see you at an event, I’ll just come up to you and say, “Hi, I am Walter!” and then sit on you for while. Do you think this will help?

  10. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Ha ha…I think that would be exceptionally awkward, John. 🙂

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