how to be a people person

“I’m not a good people person.” 

I don’t know why I say that, or when I picked it up. But it’s something I’ve always accepted about myself as true. I have brown hair, I have blue eyes, I’m terrible with people.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the things we tell ourselves about ourselves. Those little labels we stick on our foreheads and carry for decades at a time. I’m not a people person. I’m forgetful. I’m terrible at mornings. I’m a klutz. I’m socially awkward.

Do those labels describe us, or do we just live up to them?

I’m aware that this post sounds a bit like therapy. But hey, it’s my blog and I’ll use it as an emotional sounding board if I want to.

Last night, I went to a conference. Afterwards there was a social hour and I dipped out early. I told myself the other people there were WAY cooler and more successful than me, and I’d only say something awkward or boring. Because – ya know – I’m not a people person. 

I let myself miss out on an opportunity to meet people and learn some new stuff because I told myself I couldn’t do it.

How stupid is that?

I’m a grown-ass 40-something woman and I intimidated myself out of talking to a bunch of people I probably have a lot in common with.

I gave myself a good talking to today (not in public – that would definitely not help me be more of a people person).

Because if I’m really honest with myself, I’m not terrible with people. I just tell people I am. Which – if you think about it – is a truly self-sabotaging way to start any conversation.

“Hey, nice to meet you, I’m pre-disposed to dislike you.” 

I have friends. They seem to like me. I can make small talk at parties, or in the queue for the bus.

I run a business that’s based almost entirely on communication with other people, and for the most part, we’re quite successful. I can do public speaking, and I’m a fan of a long, gossipy phone call with friends. I am the sort of person who will send a card or a gift if I know someone is having a tough time.

I don’t glance at my phone in the middle of a conversation with someone. Side note: is it just me that wants to take an axe to someone’s head when they do this to you repeatedly?

What I’ve realised is that I’m not bad with people. I’m just not an extrovert.

That means I have to give myself a little mental prod to go say hello to someone at a party. I put reminders in my calendar to catch up with friends. Because otherwise, I suspect I’d be quite content at home watching Netflix for 23 hours a day, with breaks to order food online once a day.

But when I need to, I have the skills to communicate with other people. I can smile, and ask questions, and remember their names.

I need to stop telling myself I’m “not a people person”. 

And I need to stop believing it.

Believing that I’m terrible with people stops me from having difficult conversations. “I’m bound to mess it up, so I’ll just wait and see if it gets better,” I’ll tell myself.

Ha! Spoiler alert: it doesn’t get better.

Anyone else feel a bit like this?