Tuesday, February 14, 2012

HEART TO HEART (Part One: Friendship and Introverts)

Ok I am socially inept. My socializing skills could be compared to that of a limp lettuce leaf. I admit it - which is why I have to work at it so hard. I still don't get it right. Remember the film "Dirty Dancing"? When the girl (awkward, plain and impressed) walks into the dance hall carrying a rather large fruit in her arms? She sees  Patrick Swazey for the first time - sweaty, and in theory gorgeous (although not my cup of tea personally) who  points in her direction and unamused  growls  "What's SHE doing here?" she stammers "I .....bought the watermelon!" Cringe. Yup  - that's me. I so know how she felt. 

Often in the yoga class one hears about "anahata chakra" the chakra of the heart. I try not to ramble on too much about it as I think all this talk about chakras just gives us one more thing to get attached to. One more thing to "resolve" ("emotional energy block" - tick! Got one of those!),  one more thing to get done on our "to do" list ("be more open with others" or in some cases, "less"). I think most of us have  emotional baggage  and problems. One of the hardest things to get through in life is that barrier between  ourselves and another. Starting conversations with people can be excruciating, and silences even worse. Getting to know someone or rather having someone else getting to know us, is a mine-field. We're often so careful about the message we are trying to get the other to perceive and so flooded with internal dialogue that the other person gets faded out of the equation.  The barrier is not only high but it's also think, dense. It takes more than the time to down a Bloody Mary to begin to kindle and reap the rewards of friendship.  But when one does make it across to the other side it is usually incredibly rewarding. 

Stop reading for a moment to think about the best times of your life. A couple of seconds to contemplate moments of when you felt joyful at ease, happy. You may notice that the most rewarding, fulfilling moments involved other people-  your friends (and depending on your luck - your family). If friends equate with happiness then they are a very valuable commodity.  The good news is there's no shortage of people out there! They are EVERYWHERE! Our problem is not an unrealistic  demand for rare goods, but often a unacknowledged demand for a market that is wonderfully flooded. We don't want to believe we need people, and even if we do we often don't have the courage to bridge the gap between "you and I". Pretty ironic really.  There is a shortage of GUTS not of people/potential friends. 

If you ask a prisoner who has been tortured what the worst form of torture is they say: solitary confinement. That is indicative. Being social is intrinsic to our being, our nature (whatever that is). You can be starved broken, and dangerously dehydrated, but nothing will make you suffer as much as being isolated. Which means the opposite is also true: nothing will make you feel as good as being with people/friends. 

How the hell do you make friends? You need to be brave. If I have to talk chakra, it's about opening our heart, risking it, being open to vulnerability.  It's about ASKING QUESTIONS. Never let a silence lose you (the opportunity of making) a friend. Bridge the silence gap (Gently. you don't want to come across as being a complete nutter.)

Here are 10 tips, truths and pointers I've had to learn to make "opening towards others" a little easier (I always say in my yoga class that anahata chakra is my favorite - that's just because it's one I need to work on the most).

1. Everyone has something to give you (and I'm not talking about anything tangible - unless it's the guy at the greengrocers'). 

2.It can be the most unlikely person that gives and relates the most.

3.What you think about people before you know them, is usually wrong. 

4.Throwing a question into silence with someone you don't know is always worthwhile. Try it. Have any of you had the experience of making a really good friend due to an off chance comment made on the spur of the moment? It can happen. It's up to you to make it happen. 

5.Being shy sucks ( I know I am shy) and it's also egocentric (worrying about yourself more than the other).If you are shy try with your posture to open out, to lengthen your spine. It may make you feel more confident and will give the message that you are up for talking. Try to think  of this talking business as a curious experiment in personal development (rather than an exercise in pain endurance).

6.He or she is just as fragile/scared/worried about making a good impression as you are.

7. PAUSE. This is not the script nor timing of the dialogue from the film "Mission Impossible". Unlike in Hollywood movies most people need to think before they talk (and most people come across as more intelligent when they do). You want to be spontaneous, witty, funny, smart? Then give your brain the time to be able to do that. Talking through difficulty is like holding a challenging  yoga position. It's advisable to pause before deciding "I can't do this!". Breathe. Relax and Wait and  it'll come. Don't just throw in any old words in a desperate attempt not to look stupid. Because guess what....? Watermelon.

If this is a skill that you have already managed to grasp, try this:

9.Listen with your EYES. I'm not kidding. Stop wondering what you are going to say and look rather than listen. You don't NEED to concentrate on listening! The words will passively enter - they will be absorbed ANYWAY. Look at/into the other person's eyes, you will understand/connect  more and the other person will know that he or she has your attention. There's no greater gift you can give than this: your attention.

8.Unlike "Mission Impossible" usually a conversation does not have to fight against the clock. Especially when you're out for a few drinks. Don't worry. There will be enough time to have a turn at talking too - honest! Trust me on this.

9.I haven't quite figured out how to do this (I'm SO bad at small talk)but, everyone has something that makes them TICK. A passion. Try to find out what it is, rather than what job they do. Don't ask me how as I'm still working on it. 

10. Dhanurasana (as wonderful as it is)  will not make you friends and influence people.Unless you do it at a dinner party. But I don't advise it myself. Try talking instead. 

Homework: try saying something to someone you would have previously kept quiet with. Just to see! 

Ps. I may well have written something similar in other posts - I've tried to skim read them to check but I got bored ;-)  So forgive me my repetition just in case!