I was a little bit social and I didn’t die.
A few nights ago I wanted a veggie burger from a local restaurant. I was craving the super delicious burger topped with guacamole, and a perfect side of curly fries.
The only problem? I didn’t have anyone to go with.
As a remote worker, I’ve become fairly used to eating mid-to-early afternoon meals alone at places with awesome wifi. It never felt too awkward because I always had my laptop as a distraction. I was a bit intimidated, though, at the thought of going to eat dinner alone.
I enjoy alone time, and frequently can go days without interacting (in person) with other folks. I also enjoy hiking alone, and solo road trips — why was dinner so daunting?
At first, I considered bringing along a distraction, such as a good book or knitting — but I was already in town, and a 30 minute round trip to pick up either of these seemed a bit exhausting.
I was really hungry, and hunger won.
So I did it. I ate dinner alone.
When I walked in there was virtually no one else in the bar-area of the cafe. Awesome — intimidation level elevated to expert.
I took a deep breath, and sat down at the bar, alone. Because felt odd to take up a 4 person table for just me.
The bartender quickly asked if my friends were coming along too (as this is a place I frequently eat at with other folks). When I told him it was just me, I laughed saying “so now I’m the awkward person eating alone.” He quickly picked up on my hesitation and said “Well, I have to be here — and you want to eat, so you can either sit there and stare at your food, or we can chat. I think chatting is less awkward.”
So we chatted. About fully random things. And it was totally lovely.
This blog post is about actually about networking.
I went to a bar and chatted with a bartender. What does this have to do with networking?
It seems like not a lot on the surface, but what he said made a lot of sense.
Networking events and situations always feel awkward for me because I don’t know how to start conversations — I am not sure what to bring up, or fear that folks won’t find anything I have to say valuable.
The truth is, we’re all at said event and need to connect with each other. That is the sole purpose of being there.
In that moment we have two options:
- Stare off and pretend to be busy by playing on our phones
- Or decide to chat with those around us, fulfilling the purpose of being around them, and heck, maybe even enjoying the conversation
If you haven’t guessed it, I typically pick the first option (scrolling through years-old Instagram posts for the win). It seems easier to avoid conversation — but, is that just making things more awkward? I had never considered this until this week — is avoiding conversation actually making the whole situation feel worse?
I (obviously) need more practice — but I am looking forward to continuing the social-skill and networking lessons through more dinners alone-at-local-places-with-bars-to-sit-at.
Learning to be social, a little bit, perhaps?
I have the extreme pleasure to share the ups and downs of this journey with some wonderful folks over at Support Driven — an online community for Customer Support Professionals. Right now we are focusing on writing for us, and have put together a fun writing challenge. Feel free to join us — we’d love to have you!