As a textbook extrovert, I’ve never found it hard to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Whether you ask for the time, compliment their shoes, or just dive in with a "Hey!" — getting the ball rolling can be easier than you’d think. So, if you find the idea of approaching people in real life scary, allow me to change your mind. Of course, if you don’t believe just me, allow Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Host of ‘The Kurre and Klapow Show,’ to do the dirty work.
"Asking someone out isn’t universally scary," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. "It is, however, most scary for those who fear rejection the most and have the least experience with managing rejection." According to Dr. Klapow, people commonly do everything in their power to avoid the possibility of rejection. Due to this behavioral pattern, approaching strangers doesn’t always come naturally. Cue: you making eyes with a cutie across the coffee shop, then immediately walking away and putting on your headphones, instead of offering to buy them another latte. While never approaching a stranger can mean never risking rejection, it also means limits your chances of making a potential connection.
"The bottom line is this: The more you are comfortable with asking someone out and either being accepted or rejected, the less anxiety the act of asking him or her out will have," Dr. Klapow says. "The problem is that because we fear we might be rejected, we don’t ask people out frequently. And should we be rejected when we do, it often pushes away from trying again."
What’s that Wayne Gretzky quote about missing 100% of the shots you don’t take? When it comes to approaching a cutie in public, the more you put it off, the bigger and scarier it seems. If you’ve only ever approached one person IRL and they had a partner or weren’t trying to talk, approaching your next cutie could seem like attempting to climb Mount Everest. Yet, according to Dr. Klapow, it you make starting conversations with potential-boos a part of your routine, each time will be less intimidating than the last. The more you open up and connect with people, the less you’ll fear rejection. "We don’t engage enough in the risk-reward or risk-rejection-rebound process," Dr. Klapow says. "We set up this phobia like scenario for ourselves, ‘If I ask them out I might be rejected and that would feel terrible’ or ‘I better not ask them out, but I really want to, but I don’t want to be rejected.’"
And if you do approach someone who isn’t really in the mood to chat, rather than hiding under a table, Dr. Klapow suggest shrugging it off and cutting yourself some serious slack. "Know that you might be rejected but that even if you are there is benefit in learning about yourself, the person the interaction," Dr. Klapow says. "Take the act as beneficial to your personal growth even if you don’t get the outcome you are looking for. It helps you do better next time and it takes the pure pain out of the rejection because you are learning from it."
If you’re on the shy side or strangers make you totally nervous, approaching someone IRL can seem like a nightmare. But, as they say, practice makes perfect, and the more you learn to engage with people around you, the less intimidating it will be. You have so much to share with the world and anyone would be lucky to talk to you. And if someone’s not trying to connect — well, that’s just their loss.
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