I’m in a class at the Village Writing School to study a book called Be the Gateway by Dan Blank. The book truly is one of the most practical books I’ve read that leads creative people through the process of sharing our work.
Author Dan Blank reminds us that fear is the thing that holds most of us back. Fear keeps us from finishing a project; it keeps us from following through on an idea; it keeps us from opening up and sharing with friends and strangers about what is most important to us.
One of the things that Dan shares is the fact that he is uncomfortable at large social gatherings. Now, we might think that here is a guy who lives in New York, has contacts with major publishers and writers, is well-known and admired. Why would he be uncomfortable in social settings?
I’m not going to analyze why, but I’ll tell you that I certainly identify with him. In the book, Dan explains what he does to overcome his wall-flower-ish-ness.
I’ll tell you what I do:
Whenever I’m in a large group, I seek out someone—anyone—who looks the slightest bit receptive to talking with me. Then, I ask questions about who they are, what they’re interested in, why they are here, etc. Some might say I fire questions at people like a machine gun. (I try to maintain some restraint. But, I genuinely like to get to know people.)
Because this has been my habit for years, I’ve started observing others. I find that a lot ofpeople begin by talking about themselves. I’ve been in groups in which no one ever asks me a question about myself. That’s comfortable for me because I don’t have to talk, but it’s kind of sad that they don’t show any interest in others. People end up simply taking turns talking. That’s it.
What about you? What’s your mode of interacting with others at a big social gathering? How do you navigate your way through the two or three hours you spend in a crowd?
Here I go, asking questions again. But, I’d really like to hear your response. We can all learn from each other about making social events more social and less like a dreaded event.
What’s your “key to comfort” at a party or reception?