Yesterday was Riley’s last soccer practice. It was also the first day I really had any interaction with the other parents, thanks to the coach’s idea to have the adults get out on the field and play against the kids during the last half hour. The clusterfucked Calvinball-esque game that ensued was more than a little embarrassing (my soccer skills are … well, pretty much nonexistent) and hilarious and actually pretty fun, and it was the perfect sort of social icebreaker than I could have used, oh, several weeks ago.

But I can’t rely on someone else to help me over the parental small-talk molehill I’ve turned into a mental mountain and baseball’s coming up and this is just the start of years of kid activities and you guys, I’m just so goddamned bad at talking with people and I don’t know why I’m like this but I am and it’s not normally a big deal but sometimes it is. Like when you’re sitting on a bench with a group of other parents and everyone is chatting except you, and it makes you start to dread going to your kid’s soccer practice as though it were a twice-weekly root canal and it’s ridiculous and it sucks.

Here is the bench. Here are the adults talking amongst themselves in a friendly manner. Not pictured: me, silent and awkward and occasionally snapping photos of Riley or sticking my nose in a book but mostly just feeling incredibly self-conscious and wishing the earth would open up and swallow me whole.

field

Ah, I’m so tired of being shy. I’m lonely and I have no social life and I hate feeling this way during activities that should be perfectly normal and I hate the self-defeating brainloop it causes and I hate the creeping certainty that everyone thinks I’m a standoffish asshole when the reality is that I’m pathetically eager to connect, I just can’t get past the first step.

Comments

101 Responses to “Polar waters”

  1. Tamara on May 9th, 2013 3:20 pm

    I hope some un-shy parents will weigh in here because, um, I have so much awkwardness when it comes to meeting other parents when I’m out with my 10 month old. Moms will attempt to make small talk and I freeze up and don’t know what to say and then over compensate and can’t shut up and it’s so awful. A book needs to be written for shy adults trying to break into the parental social scene, like, yesterday.

  2. Kristi on May 9th, 2013 3:32 pm

    I feel the same way! If you manage to solve this problem, please share your secrets. I find it hard to ramble about myself but find others have no issue with this. And I also wonder if others just have this burning desire to talk to everyone and I just don’t have this? I do want to connect but have a hard time with small talk.

  3. Hilary on May 9th, 2013 3:35 pm

    Oh, I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way! I’ve never met you — just know you from your blog, Twitter, etc — but I’ve often thought, “She would be a great friend.” You are funny and honest and smart with wide-ranging interests. I’m medium shy, meaning I need someone else to start the conversation, but once it gets going, I’m usually ok. But listen, everyone finds these interactions awkward. Everyone is looking for someone to break the ice. Could you try to maybe talk about the person’s kid? People love that. Or instead of sharing your hilarious and insightful observations with the Internet, share them with the fellow soccer parents? It’s really hard. But I’m sure there’s someone out there who would absolutely love to be friends with you.

  4. Audrey on May 9th, 2013 3:44 pm

    I’m the same way — sooo bad at small talk and connecting with new people, and yet so lonely. I would love to have more parent friends, but it’s so hard to reach out and establish that connection. If you (or your readers) figure out a way to overcome this, please let us know.

  5. Christie on May 9th, 2013 3:45 pm

    My kids are 8 and 10. I feel like I finally, maybe, just this year have gotten slightly better at the parental small talk. But I still dread it…

  6. Mama Ritchie on May 9th, 2013 3:46 pm

    Well, try not to beat yourself up. Today I had a lengthy conversation at C’s school with who I thought was the gym teacher. I was all, “hey, I got you a gift for Tescher Appreciation Week!” And he was looking at me confused and said, “Do you think I’m a teacher? I’m a parent. I’ve been picking up my kid at the same door as you all year.” Oops. So see? Sometimes it’s better to NOT talk to other people.

  7. Michelle on May 9th, 2013 3:46 pm

    I feel the same way a lot of the time. I can actually make small talk ok, what I can never seem to do is take the next step. I meet moms all the time who I think are so much like me, and I think, “wow, we could really be great friends” and then…nothing comes of it, ever. I always convince myself that everyone already has friends, no one is looking for a new one. I am terribly self-conscious of taking that first step so here I am, no social life outside my family. It hurts to not have friends, and I envy those who seem to make new ones so easily. I so feel your pain.

  8. Kim on May 9th, 2013 3:49 pm

    Ugh. Sooo there with you. I have to force myself to go to things for my son so often just because I don’t want to be awkward in front of other people (again… still). I have to do the self-talk about how it’s an important event for my son, blah blah blah. I confess to totally staring at nothing on my phone just to pretend I’m not simultaneously wishing someone would talk to me and that no one will.

  9. Ashley on May 9th, 2013 3:51 pm

    Hi I’m Ashley and I was anti-social. I went from 100% shy to being moved the HELL away from my comfort zone into another county… I found that part of it is do unto others.. I think of how I would want to be approached. I don’t like to find out that someone is being nice to me only long enough to get away from me, so I figured out if I go slightly overboard of acceptable first contact, I will weed out the people that are more anti-social and less prone to give a crap. It helps with the sports. My oldest is in softball and it’s always “First year?” “Where’d she play last year” “Cool Helmet” or “Cool ’something’” I have become way more social with having kids. But I always tend to have someone approach me first. I used to have a really unapproachable stance. My husband almost didn’t talk to me when we met because he said I was walking around like I didn’t a man, I didn’t need ANYBODY! well, I did do that, I just didn’t know it at the time. SO I made sure I stopped. It’s amazing how much approachable I am to other social adept people. My husband made me sociable. He started it. Cause I wanted him so bad, so I just rolled up on him and said “Hi, I’m Ashley. You have a girlfriend?” It was like 3rd grade, only at college. And then I started going for what I wanted more. Good luck!! The first step is to anything is always admitting you have a problem…

  10. Julie on May 9th, 2013 3:58 pm

    I feel exactly the same way – except I don’t yet have children. I interact with my colleagues at work just fine, but I avoid any type of social gathering (retirement parties, team-building events or just going out for a beer after work). I have zero friends outside of work. It’s just my husband, myself, and our cat. I’m content with our quiet life, but do yearn for the joy of friendship. Camping, traveling, barbecues, sporting events etc. would all be so much more fun with friends! I’ve convinced myself that it’ll be easier once we have kids. Once I see fellow moms and dads at the park, at a birthday party (or at a soccer game), I’ll be able to relate to them and strike up a conversation. However… that may not be the case!

  11. Nicole on May 9th, 2013 3:59 pm

    Oh I am so with you. I am horrible at small talk, I always seem to make it awkward. And then if I don’t talk, I’m perceived as snobby. I’d love to figure it out someday as my oldest is 6 and is diving into all these extracurricular activities as well!

  12. Liz on May 9th, 2013 4:18 pm

    I’m not terribly shy, but I *am* insecure, so I assume that if I’m trying to talk to someone who isn’t responding enthusiastically that must mean I am boring or dorky. So I am no help.

  13. Lauren E. E. on May 9th, 2013 4:26 pm

    Trying to connect with new people is hard. My worst nightmare is arriving at a party where I only know the host, who is busy trying to talk to everyone. It’s so awkward trying to talk to strangers. I think my main tricks are making compliments and asking questions. “Your shoes are so cute! Where did you get them?” “Your kid is so good at foot work! How long has he been playing?” Questions put the focus on the other person and make you seem interested. And usually, if they’re polite, they’ll ask you something back. And then you’re in a conversation. You might also do something like bring a big container of homemade cookies and just offer them to the other parents. Or drag a cooler of cold drinks over for everyone. People will then probably approach you and try to start the conversation. I feel for you. Taking first steps sometimes feels like jumping off the edge of a cliff.

  14. Lisa on May 9th, 2013 4:32 pm

    I am not the most social person out there, but I’m not paralyzed at the thought of small talk, either. If I feel like chatting, I tend to avoid the clusters of people deep in conversation. I will seek out people sitting alone and say some random thing: “which one is yours?” “Where does he goes to school?” Etc.

    It’s easier at the beginning of the season, and when they’re this young, because by the end of the season, you’re kind of an asshole to be just now asking the kid’s name. And when they’re a little older, the sports parents start to know each other & cluster up.

    But I probably WON’T approach someone who’s got her face in her phone or a book. ‘Cause she’s giving off all kinds of warning signs. And why would I interrupt someone who found something more interesting to do than talk to me?

  15. Katherine on May 9th, 2013 4:32 pm

    Honestly, I think most people feel the same way you do–even the ones who look like they don’t. A few unsolicited tips:
    1. Find a model you can emulate. Doesn’t have to be someone you know or even a real person. Just has to be a character you can observe somewhere (book, TV, movie, etc.). How does that character do it? Body language? Words? Attitude?
    2. Then practice playing that character. Do it in a safe place first–playact with the boys if you want to. Dylan is shy, right? Involve him too and let him know you’re working on the same people skills.
    3. Then join the group at the ballfield as if you’re carrying a personalized invitation from them in your back pocket. What that gives you is confidence to walk up with a smile on your face and a “hi, how’s it going?” on your lips. Use what you’ve learned from studying the characters you’ve observed. Be curious about people. Ask questions about general stuff. “Oh, I love your shoes, where’d you get those?” or something equally harmless. And, unless someone reacts like you just looked up their skirt, just assume that you’re doing fine and they’re feeling just as awkward as you. Also, you won’t connect well with everyone you talk to. That’s okay, and it doesn’t mean you’re a dork. Not every person on the planet is destined to be a friend or even an acquaintance. Just move on to the next person. You can do it. (”All you have to do is twyyyyyy.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_m-7jLDPf8)

  16. Lindsey on May 9th, 2013 4:53 pm

    Gah. Come sit by me!! I get this ALL THE TIME … I am unfriendly and aloof … when really I am just nervous and awkward. I wish I had a helpful suggestion. I don’t. I can merely tell you I’m right there with you. xox

  17. Erica on May 9th, 2013 4:58 pm

    I am so surprised to hear this! I have been reading your blog for a while, maybe since 2009? And I didn’t pick up on this part of you. I always think you are so eloquent and such a fun and cool person. I would be IRL friends with you in an instant! I feel awkward talking to people sometimes too … I usually start with just one person and then build from there. I hope you reach out to people at these things because it will make it more fun!

  18. Elleana on May 9th, 2013 5:22 pm

    Oh, me, too. Me, too. One of my biggest regrets is that I let fear dictate how often I took my kids to classes/events, which means they hardly ever did anything. Kudos to you for taking your children and suffering through. Maybe by next season the faces will be more familiar and you will feel more like you belong.

  19. parodie on May 9th, 2013 5:30 pm

    Sympathy! I read an advice blog (Captain Awkward: http://captainawkward.com/) and they frequently talk about approaching strangers/making friends/etc for the socially anxious and awkward. People here have given you good tips too. One tip I really liked from CA was to think of each social experience (e.g. a ball game) as a game you play against yourself. Give yourself points – e.g. 5 points for smiling at a stranger, 10pts for a simple comment on the weather, 20 pts for a back-and-forth exchange (”love your kids shoes! Where do you find stuff like that? Riley grows out of his stuff so fast…”), and give yourself permission to check out (read a book/ignore others) and get yourself some reward once you reach a goal (e.g. 50 or 100pts).

    Of course, that kind of personal incentive will only work for some people. But really, the key thing to remember is that this is hard. No one knows how to do it perfectly. AND this is a skill you can learn/improve, like running or whatever.

  20. Jen D. on May 9th, 2013 5:56 pm

    I am the same way, too. I am THE WORST at small talk, everything either comes out in a rush of awkward words followed by an awkward heh heh, or I just look like a deer in the headlights. Mostly I just keep my head down and don’t talk. Most people think I’m a snob until they get to know me and I open up my awesome self. Sigh. No kids yet, but my mom was the same way at my brothers’ sporting events/practices. Would it be weird to bake or make something to share with the other parents as an ice breaker? Also, just asking a lot of questions and getting them to go on about themselves can help. Sorry you have to suffer the painful awkwardness! Such is me in the lunch room at work every day.

  21. Evelynne on May 9th, 2013 6:00 pm

    Is your problem that you don’t know what to say? Or do you worry about how you will perceived if you start talking?

    If it’s the former: Google “how to make small talk.” People have broken it down to a science so you don’t have to. This was one of the first things I turned up and it had some great suggestions, especially the small-talk chains: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/08/22/how-to-make-small-talk/

    I was super shy in high school because I didn’t know what to say. When I got to college I watched what chatty people were doing and saying and started copying what they did. Mostly I asked questions and made them talk. Within a month my inner social butterfly had fully emerged and I haven’t been shy since. I get rusty sometimes if I haven’t socialized in a while, but not shy.

    If you’re worried about how what you say is percieved, you can cheat by not doing too much talking at first. Watch and listen for the motormouth in the group. If you can catch them and say just enough to get them started, you won’t have to talk much but you’ll be part of the group, and seem more approachable. And maybe the equivalent of me in that group will come over and start asking you questions. :)

  22. Meg on May 9th, 2013 6:01 pm

    Do you get that thing where once someone DOES approach you and starts a pleasant conversation, and they’re nice and fun to talk to and you actually like them- you can’t stop that bitter voice in your head that says, “oh, NOW. Just forget it.” ??? Maybe you know what I mean… Socially awkward loneliness is a sucking vortex and I kind of don’t see myself ever getting completely out of it.

  23. NancyB on May 9th, 2013 6:22 pm

    OMG I am so terrible at small talk!! And I feel so dumb in social gatherings because my husband is a social butterfly but he can’t and I don’t expect him to stick by me!
    Sometimes I would find other people alone and talk to them but when they leave it think its because I’m so boring!
    I was just thinking about this the other day as to why my conversational skills are so bad – and I’m 53!

  24. NancyB on May 9th, 2013 6:24 pm

    Oh! And at my son’s sporting ends I always had a book – just in case!

  25. Lisa on May 9th, 2013 6:30 pm

    I have the same issues and it’s so awful. I think somebody already mentioned this, but focus on the other person. Asking questions always works for me to get the conversation going. And pretty much all parents are happy to talk abut their kids, so ask questions about them. It may feel forced and disingenuous at first, but eventually you will begin a real conversation and it feels more natural.

  26. Gigi on May 9th, 2013 6:41 pm

    Piping up as another shy parent…it is hard. But I found as mine got older-which forced me to be more “out there”-the easier it was to meet other parents. The problem I have now is that he’s flown the coop (college) and how in the hell do you meet new people if you don’t have a kid to force you into it?

  27. Mary on May 9th, 2013 6:50 pm

    A guy I used to work with was the best I ever met at striking up conversations with strangers, everybody just loved him after two minutes. I asked him his secret, and he said, everybody has a story they want to tell me. My job is to find out what it is and let them tell it. He asked questions until he got people talking about themselves, and then he just sat and listened. Everybody likes to talk about themselves. Most of them will never notice you just smiled and nodded and listened.

  28. LB on May 9th, 2013 6:54 pm

    Oh Linda! My heart aches for you. I can relate to this SO Hard and could write a novel on it. And I might just do so in your comments section :). I am the same way and I have been told many times that I come across as aloof and standoffish at first which is so frustrating because I am actually just shy and as you put it pathetically eager for connection.

    I have improved and gotten better at this over the years though and here are a few things I do:

    - psych myself up in social situations and tell myself with my inner dialogue that i am interesting, kind and worthy of friendship. Sounds cheesy but it helps. And for the record this is so true about you. I only know you from your writing but I can tell you are all of these things. I would love to be friends with you.

    -try not to take rejection personally. I still have some painful social interactions which are a train wreck and make me want to go home and cry. I inevitably get rejected on occasion when I try to connect sometimes and when this happens instead of taking it as a personal failing and that there is something wrong with me, I make a conscious effort to reframe it in my mind (ie. that person is too busy,having a bad day, already has an established friend group, we aren’t compatible,etc).

    - just do it. I find the more I reach out and try and connect, the better I get at it and the more positive responses I get and it gets easier and easier. It will never be easy and come naturally to me but ultimately it has been worth it for the friendships that have resulted. I also assume that other people are as eager to connect as I am and a lot of the time, they are. Practice, practice, keep at it and you’ll make progress.

    It’s hard and it’s scary and the situations you described are some of the hardest for me (ie. group settings where other people seem to be getting along famously). I also think it’s particularly hard in this stage of life as everyone is way to busy with parenting, careers, keeping the household running, trying to devote time to a marriage, have balance, etc.

    I know how isolating this feels but take it from me, it does get easier with practice.

  29. Kdub on May 9th, 2013 7:12 pm

    Me too!

  30. Jodi on May 9th, 2013 7:15 pm

    It’s crazy that the majority of the comments here are “me too’s” yet we all feel like the only one at the field that feels this way. I wonder how many other moms are sitting at my son’s games feeling the same way. Too bad we don’t all live in the same town – we’d make one bad ass group of friends!

    Seriously, though, I’d love to hear if anyone has any tips on how to take the small talk to the next level. Like how/when is it not creepy to suggest exchanging phone numbers? And good lord, what would I talk about if another mom actually called me?! Oh, it’s so stressful! Do these people you meet later in life actually turn into real friends? I can’t imagine.

  31. laurs on May 9th, 2013 7:59 pm

    Another me too here. I have been making a point of trying harder. What I have been trying is to position myself to the person that appears to be the most shy/set apart in case they are like me. It’s so hard sometimes! You’re definitely not alone!

  32. Angela on May 9th, 2013 9:38 pm

    Oh, this is so familiar. I also have a hard time talking to strangers in groups; I am awkward and self-conscious and over analyze everything. But what I find is that in almost every group there’s something you all have in common. When you have that, there’s where the small talk begins. At soccer practice, you all have kids about the same age, all playing the same sport. “Wow, your kid plays great! has he been playing long?” At my last job, everyone had tickets for the same production. “Have you seen this show before?” I will never be a natural conversationalist like some people, but I find if I think of topics in advance, it’s easier to bring them up. I dunno. I think it’s something one learns to manage rather than enjoy, you know? And then at some point you find the person in the room who sniggers over some vaguely porny centerpiece or something and there’s your new friend,

    FWIW, having met you in person, I know that you are hilarious and smart and delightful to talk to. And I know that in Eugene somewhere are other people who like zombies and movies and laughing at porny centerpieces too. You’ll find them.

  33. SK on May 9th, 2013 9:55 pm

    I feel your pain. I have a 10 month old and have been attending a mom/kid exercise class for the last 8 months, and have just in the last month started to make some friends. It’s hard when you see everyone around you chatting away so easily and you have no idea how to join the conversation without being totally awkward.

    I read a book a while back called The Introvert Advantage that highlights the differences between introverts and extroverts. It really helped me identify why I’m uncomfortable in unfamiliar/social situations, which was comforting because I realized that a) being introverted is the way I’m wired and not something that I can ever ‘fix’, but I can use techniques to function better in situations if needed and b) there are other people exactly like me (25% of the population, apparently). It also talks about the various ways in which introverts are awesome.

  34. Jen (SaitoAbroad) on May 9th, 2013 9:56 pm

    Everyone’s suggestions are great! Another idea I had was to try and get to practices early, maybe before everyone else and then that way you and the next person to arrive are kind of forced to say hi to each other which in turn opens the door for small talk. And I always find it easier to talk one on one vs. trying to insert yourself into a group of people already chatting. Small talk is the worst, but it’s unavoidable.

    You can do this. I know it sucks but at least try, you’re bound to make a friend and at a very minimum feel more comfortable at the practices.

  35. Robyn on May 9th, 2013 10:45 pm

    Another “me too”. I think the reason I feel the same as you do, is because, with friends, I swear, I joke around a lot, I’m not all “PC”, and I’m afraid to offend people with my personality. So, I tone myself down, and then I don’t even know who I am, and why should I have to change myself for people I don’t even really care about. I’m called “aloof”, and “snobby” all the time. I guess I am in a way, because I’m not giving them a chance to show me their true self either. I don’t know what the answer is Linda, but I know for a fact that you have a lot to offer…seriously? Nobody in Eugene reads your blog? You could make a zillion friends if they got to know you through your writing, because we know how you are, and we know what to expect. You could just come out of the gate with funny, “porny centerpiece” remarks, and have us all laughing our asses off!!! Good luck at the games and practices. But one thing someone said above, don’t look at your phone, or read a book, because you come across like you don’t WANT to interact. Smile, and seem open, and someone will approach you for sure!

  36. Carmen on May 9th, 2013 11:03 pm

    Oh, I am the same way. I’m friendly and can chat back to others IF and ONLY IF they make the first move (and maybe the second). The thought of initiating a conversation with a stranger nearly makes my heart stop.

    I’m also quite lonely but I have no idea how to meet people now that I’m not in school anymore. I work in a lab at the university, so all of my co-workers are young grad students so we’re not really in the same stage of life or interested in the same things, really. I’m too shy to talk to the other parents at school dropoff, or even if we do chat a bit, I have no idea how to advance that to being the kind of friends that go for coffee & do stuff together. Being a grownup sort of sucks sometimes.

  37. Sarah on May 9th, 2013 11:06 pm

    I so, so get this. I tend to make my husband do all the “heavy lifting” when it comes to social interaction. That plan quickly falls apart when I have to go somewhere alone.
    Having said that, I live in Eugene. I have two boys, eight and six. The youngest is starting Babe Ruth Tee-ball. I feel your pain at sitting on the sidelines.

  38. sooboo on May 9th, 2013 11:26 pm

    I am shy and have social anxiety big time. I married a very outgoing person and I have learned a few tricks from him that helped me break free a bit. Like someone else mentioned, ask questions and give compliments. Instead of the standard what do you do for a living, I ask people what they do for fun. People love to share their hobbies and you learn a lot about a lot about different kinds of things. I also have to admit I carry Rescue Remedy lozenges in my purse and sucking on a couple of those makes me feel less nervous about getting things going. You are so funny, charming and smart, it’s hard to believe this is an issue for you, but as a fellow sufferer I also know it has little to do with how things actually are and more how we perceive them to be.

  39. sara on May 10th, 2013 2:45 am

    My grandfather was shy and he got so tired of it he took the Dale Carnegie Shyness class and as hokey as it seems, it changed his life.

    My dad is also shy and he usually hides behind his camera at social events. But then people started asking for copies or emails of the pictures and it’s been a great conversation starter.

    Compliment their children and go from there… what school are their kids in, how long have they lived there, where do they work, which other sports are their kids in, etc.

  40. Anne on May 10th, 2013 5:37 am

    I have no answers, but all of the empathy. I am very much like you.

  41. melanie on May 10th, 2013 5:53 am

    I am exactly the same – even my own HUSBAND has said sometimes that I seem standoffish and cold and like I don’t care about people. It’s really just this debilitating feeling of… I don’t even know, fear? Shyness? Inadequacy? Abject freaking terror of people judging me and finding me lacking???? Ugh. I wish one of us had the answer – but just know you’re not alone AT ALL. :)

  42. Suki on May 10th, 2013 5:55 am

    I don’t have trouble starting conversations, just a tendency to stick my foot in my mouth once I get going :)

    This may sound weird, but as a non-shy person, I kind of feel like us non-shy people have a responsibility to use our outgoing nature for good, and attempt to get shyer people into the conversation. I try to notice if someone seems like they are feeling uncomfortable or not being included, and use some of the techniques Swistle recently described in a post about talking to other parents, like asking their opinion on what we’ve been talking about.

    I also use the standard b.s. questions (Did you grow up around here? If not, where are you from originally? What do you do for a living/for fun?) to try and find ANYTHING we have AT ALL in common and can use as a jumping-off point for conversation. I’m also big on paying compliments, and feel like it can be a good way to get a read on someone- if they’re bitchy about a compliment, I’m not going to waste too much energy trying to connect with them, because chances are, they’re just a bitch.

  43. Lori on May 10th, 2013 6:23 am

    I dislike meeting new people, but I like having friends. Not a ton of friends, but a few good ones. And, having friends with kids is even better b/c they understand. My advice is to just ask a lot of questions. The only thing people love to talk about more than themselves are their kids. Leading with a compliment is always best. “Your son is so focused when he plays, I wish my son had that dedication. Do you spend a lot of time practicing with him at home?” Also, if you’re reading a book or texting on your phone, people aren’t going to talk to you. Meeting new people is hard. Often you have to spend a lot of time chatting with someone you wouldn’t normally click with before they eventually introduce you to someone who becomes a life long friend. The part that sucks is you just have to make yourself do it, that’s the only way.

  44. Becky on May 10th, 2013 6:24 am

    I am kind of suprised to hear you say that, I think you are so smart and funny and I have always wanted to be your friend :)

    Yeah, start out with complimenting their kids and smiling.

  45. Christine on May 10th, 2013 6:50 am

    I am super outgoing and will talk to anyone, but not someone reading a book. It puts off a vibe that you are unapproachable. If you have been going to practices and not talking to people and only reading or taking pics you will need to work a bit harder. As a parent, you always have something to talk about, what school? or which teacher? or what do you do? etc.

    My son has been in sports for years and we are now with a team that we adore, all the parents are friendly and social. It is worth it to make the effort. Good luck! I love your blog!

  46. Adrien on May 10th, 2013 7:32 am

    Linda, I am so exactly like this. I’m fine one-on-one but put me in a group of strangers and I want to curl up and die. Here’s how I cope: Pick one. Pick one person who looks interesting to you and be brave and talk to that person. Once you know one person, it’s easier to feel more included and work your way into the group.

  47. Amity on May 10th, 2013 7:40 am

    Have you ever checked out Meetup.com? It’s an activies website for ANY activity that you could be interested. Like mom’s groups, hiking groups, etc. I got involved with them about 5 years ago, and it has totally boosted my ability to meet new people and strike up conversations. You just sign up for the events that you want to go to, it doesn’t cost anything, and everybody there is there for the purpose of meeting new people/making new friends. I will admit that I was intimidated the first few times, but once I started seeing the same people event-after-event, and making some connections, I LOVED it. Also, it makes it a little less intimidating when you’re there to do an activity, like take a hike or paint some pottery or whatev; the activity is your main focus and the comraderie is secondary. Also, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people that are into the same activites you are.

  48. Pickles & Dimes on May 10th, 2013 7:44 am

    True story: I am a total introvert, but I once approached a woman I had never met and initiated a conversation because she looked like you and I thought she would be friendly and fun. (She was.) (Also, I assume you have never been to Minnesota, correct? If you have, then I have possibly met you, and we talked about dogs and that weird 40-year-old guy at the bar who was creepily staring at women while wearing a lettermen’s jacket.) :)

    Anyway, it was really nice chatting with a stranger, and I think she was relieved to have someone to talk with as well. I agree with other commenters: Pick one person who seems like they’ll respond to you and start chatting.

  49. Amity on May 10th, 2013 7:46 am

    Also, I want to second someone else’s comment about coming up with a list of usual questions to start with: things like where are you from? what part of town do you live in? what kind of work do you do? etc. I find it generally leads to opening up the conversation to other things, and gets someone comfortable with talking if they have a subject to focus on.

  50. Maggie on May 10th, 2013 7:48 am

    I painfully relate to this. Too bad if we ever met we’d both be too bad a small talk to actually become friends. And what makes it worse is having a husband who has never met a stranger so he is also part of that crowd that’s all chatty.

  51. Lawyerish on May 10th, 2013 7:57 am

    Having spent time with you in person on several occasions now, I can say with total confidence that you don’t come off the least bit awkward in person. You are warm, self-deprecating, generous, and insightful. I am sure that after a few minutes of talking with you, those other parents would see that, too. It’s who you are.

    You know how, after Internet people meet, they ALWAYS blog about how they were sure they were SO AWKWARD and they’re dying of embarrassment over something they said or did or didn’t say or do? Well, I bet if you polled all the other people from that interaction, none of them would say that that person was awkward. We all FEEL awkward, but we’re so wrapped up in our own concerns that we’re not keying into anyone else’s perceived faux pas. Which is to say that probably those parents aren’t thinking that you’re cold or standoffish; if they’re thinking anything, it’s probably also how to break the ice with you as a new person.

    Anyway, in terms of practical advice, I’ve had to work hard as an adult to overcome a lifetime of being shunned socially and feeling tremendously awkward as a result. I have found that it just takes forcing yourself to scoot down that bench or take three steps toward those other parents and saying, “Hi, I’m Linda, Riley’s mom, and since we recently moved here, I wanted to ask you all if you knew of [a great place to get pho or whatever].” Or just pick out a kid on the field and be all, “Hey, guys — whose kid is number X? He’s a great player!” (Flattery is the ultimate ice-breaker. IT NEVER FAILS. People are usually relieved/thrilled that you took the initiative so they didn’t have to.

    The sooner you do it, the better. You WILL be happier when you’ve crossed that invisible boundary between not-knowing those parents and getting-to-know them.

    Oh, if you feel like you need a crutch? Bring snacks. Treats. Cookies. Bring a bounty of stuff to share with the other parents, lay it out on the bench and announce to everyone that you felt the field was sorely lacking in food for the parents, so you’ve brought [whatever] to share. That will get people talking.

  52. Kristin on May 10th, 2013 8:06 am

    I can totes relate, too. I am not a mom, but a very involved aunt; their mom works during the day and goes to school in the evenings, so aunt K goes to a lot of practices, games, back-to-school nights, etc.

    I hope this helps: Try to accept yourself. You are shy and that’s OKAY. You don’t have to talk to someone every time/the whole time. Sometimes, you will want to read a book. Other times, you will want to chat (and sometimes you will be successful and other times not). It’s all okay! Don’t add extra stress to the situation by criticizing yourself and going down the “It will always be this way!” path. It won’t!

    Next time, sit slightly closer to a random person or group. Take a deep breath, try to empty your brain of stupid self-doubt (haha, I know), remind yourself that there is NO SHAME in being shy, and turn to the person next to you and say, “Hi, I’m Linda.” And remember, it doesn’t have to the The Best Most Awesome Convo EVER. It’s just a convo. There will be plenty of other chances after that one.

  53. Kristin on May 10th, 2013 8:16 am

    Also, I HATE small talk and see it as a waste of time, BUT this is a “fake it ’til you make it” thing. You have to be fake-nice at first, feel people out, and see if it leads to cool-realness. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t and that’s — wait for it — okay! :)

  54. bj on May 10th, 2013 8:27 am

    OK. There’s a lot of good advice here. I’m like you, too. The “do unto others” seems particularly apt, trying to think about what you’d like someone to say to you and saying it. I know there are some folks who sit at the sidelines with nose in a book, ’cause they don’t *want* to talk to anyone, and, people often assume that’s true about anyone who is sticking their nose in a book.

    Don’t know if someone else has suggested the possibility, but another option might be to take on a role for the team that forces you to interact with others. I take photos and try to distribute them. It’s not a great solution, ’cause it let’s me avoid talking to people at the sidelines :-). But, it does mean that I kind of know people.

  55. Nichole on May 10th, 2013 8:29 am

    Another me too! It’s a good thing all of our kids aren’t on the same soccer team. That much awkwardness in one place would probably tear a hole in the fabric of the universe.

  56. Anonymous on May 10th, 2013 8:43 am

    Be like you are online – open, observant, funny! One day, you’ll come across someone just as shy and your personality will put them completely at ease! I am so sorry you feel this way. X

  57. H on May 10th, 2013 8:48 am

    I am very shy. I have a best friend who is very shy and the only reason we became friends is because we were forced to talk to each other in college (we shared a music stand in band) and it still took a good 4 months before we were comfortable talking to each other. Anyway, we always talk about how introverts understand each other so well and feel better when we connect with other introverts but if we ever held an introvert convention to build relationships, no one would come.

    I hope you find a way to break the ice. I’ve been in this situation and managed, over the years, to build good friendships with some of the parents but the other parent always initiated the first conversation. I like reading the comments and suggestions here. I hope I find something that works for me too.

  58. Karen on May 10th, 2013 8:53 am

    Soooooo, why don’t you say exactly what your post said to one of the parents who look approachable and like someone with whom you may want to be friends?
    Anyone worth your friendship will start including YOU in conversations and after they find out your wonderfulness, they will include you in activities.

  59. Kris on May 10th, 2013 8:53 am

    Okay, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve been told I have a “kind” face, so people talk to me all the time. And I’m chunky & probably perceived as non-threatening, which probably helps, too.

    When I’m in a situation that requires small talk, I’ll make eye contact & smile at another mom; then I’ll usually pay them a compliment about something. Nice hair, cute shoes, perfect sized handbag, whatever. Or laugh about the weather & how nice or godawful it is.

    If it’s a dad I want to talk to, I’ll ask which kiddo is his & make a lighthearted remark about what a klutz my kid can be & how much he reminds me of myself at that age.

    But one small, from the heart piece of advice? Don’t try to break into the middle of a group conversation. Start with one-on-one small talk. Groups of women scare me. ;)

  60. Tupla on May 10th, 2013 8:59 am

    I have been dreading parent interactions for the whole four years of being a parent for this same reason, and now realizing that I don’t have enough mom friends, and now I really have no choice but make connections, also to help my son make friends. I can relate to all you say so much, especially to the “creeping certainty that everyone thinks I’m a standoffish asshole when the reality is that I’m pathetically eager to connect.”

    By the way, I love your blog, have been reading it for a couple years just never commented (for reasons you describe in this post :) ) but this time I just had to, because it resonates with me so much.

  61. Laura M. on May 10th, 2013 9:02 am

    Sit in the middle of everything and smile. Smile. Smile some more. And when you’re not smiling, smile.
    If you know where the parents usually sit, get there a little early and sit right in the middle of their usual turf. The first step to talking to people in person is being near enough to talk. So just get practice getting physically into the mix.
    And then … smile. Anytime someone looks at you or you at the back of their head or you raise your head to look out a the field or you blink… smile. This will invite people to talk to you, thereby outsourcing the ‘what to say, how to start’ work to them. It may change your outlook too. It’s hard to be thinking doomsday thoughts in your head when you are smiling.
    My two cents. :D

  62. laziza on May 10th, 2013 9:02 am

    I liked what Lawyerish said above about flattery being the ultimate icebreaker. Semi-related is advice – seeking advice is also an excellent ice breaker, and flattering to boot. (”Hey, I told the boys I’d take them out for ice cream after the game. What’s a great spot around here? We just moved a few months ago.”) The added bonus is they/you don’t have to think of something to say – there’s just a question to be answered. And good luck. You seem like a good friend to have.

  63. Laura M. on May 10th, 2013 9:07 am

    Sidenote to all of us are NOT SHY:
    Go talk to the people who look standoffish and are staring blankly at their cellphones!
    It seems that they want to chat but don’t know how to get started! :D

  64. Phoebe on May 10th, 2013 10:12 am

    I’ll join the chorus and say ME TOO! I’ve always been shy and super afraid of getting embarrassed. Sometimes the littlest thing can set it off. I’ll turn the reddest of reds, my face will burn, my chest gets itchy and if it’s really bad, my eyes might well up in shame. Even among friends I catch myself being extra reserved sometimes, to avoid saying something dumb. I’m trying to get better since I do not want my future kids to have to deal with the same social awkwardness and fear I did. I worry they’ll pick it up from me or that I won’t be able to help them overcome any inherited shyness. Thank you to all the people with helpful comments :)

  65. Maggie on May 10th, 2013 10:22 am

    I add my voice to others who feel uncomfortable. I think you’ve received good advice, so instead I offer perspective. I’ve been at this sports thing for five years with oldest. The pattern has been universally the same for me: oldest starts a sport with team A, I feel awkward as hell at practices not knowing any other parents, I finally get to know a couple of other parents by making myself interact with stupid light chat and get comfortable after about 2 years, then oldest moves to team B.

    I feel you so much right now because we just found out this morning that oldest has been selected for a soccer team he REALLY wants to play on and so my first thought was that I’m excited for him, but my second thought was “ah man, now I have to get to know a whole DIFFERENT group of parents and start over.”

    I can’t lie and say the beginning part has ever become any easier for me, but it helps to know that after awhile, I will get to know the other parents and even if we don’t become BFFs, I will eventually end up with some people to chat with for the duration of a game or practice without feeling like crawling into a hole.

    Frankly, I only kept trying at the beginning because I figured I had to be a role model for my kids – look, mom can chat with new people, you can too! Making friends isn’t that hard! (blah blah, total BS for me, but my kids don’t seem to have noticed ;-)

  66. Michelle H. on May 10th, 2013 10:55 am

    Amen on the role model angle, Maggie.

    My husband has never met a stranger, while I I never know what to say to new people. I’m sure when people meet us they think “Gee, what a nice guy! Wife’s a bitch, though.”

    But when I realized my 4 year old was afraid to approach kids in the park, and hid behind me whenever someone talked to him, I started making an effort to at least say hello to the other moms at the park. It was scary at first, but I’m getting better at it. And the kid who wouldn’t talk to anyone now won’t shut up.

  67. jo on May 10th, 2013 11:00 am

    I am the same way. I remember around 12 years of age and my best friend getting mad at me asking me why I was always so stuck up around new people. I never realized my shyness looked like that. I can’t help it then & I still can’t!

    I have even wondered what anxiety meds would do for me.

  68. Barb. on May 10th, 2013 11:07 am

    I really understand what you mean. I’m the same way. I can smile at people, and say “hi, how do you do?” and that’s about as far as I can go, because what do you say after that? I also find it EXHAUSTING to make small talk with people I don’t know, so on top of my social awkwardness I’ve got a whole other layer of extreme introversion. I do want friends… the friends I have made have all tended to be the really social extroverted type who don’t mind carrying all the heavy work of conversation. Which is fine, because I could listen to other people gabble on all day. It’s the response that I’m so terrible at. Or a fellow introvert, who doesn’t mind that our interactions are composed mostly of a companionable silence.

    My kids are now 11 and 8, involved in sports and karate. It’s taken me a while, but I have made friends, and it’s a ripple effect — you make one friend, and then you become friends with that person’s friends, and so on. Another thing I do is volunteer in the classroom. A lot. It gets me out of the house and gives me the chance to interact with the teacher, who also appreciates an adult interaction during the day. It’s much easier when it’s just me and one other adult, and we have common ground to cover. I’ve made some good friends that way, as well.

  69. MelV on May 10th, 2013 11:38 am

    Wow, its kinda nice to see all the “me too’s” on here, except I hate to think that other people have to feel like I feel. I could have written this post though you said it much better than I ever could have. Anytime I go someplace that will involve a group of adults it feels like everyone there is already best friends. Side lines, birthday parties, school drop off line, everywhere. Its exactly like your picture, group of laughing smiling inner-circle-joke-sharing people….and over here…me. What is that? Its been so SO long since I had a friend. Ive been told I come across standoffish and snobby but I think its the running loop of “everyone here has a friend already, they dont need you” that runs thru my head non-stop. Man I wish I knew how to stop that. I think I would make a pretty good friend.
    Someone in the comments said they wished we all lived near each other because we’d make a bad ass group of friends, I think I’d have to agree.

  70. Sundry on May 10th, 2013 12:07 pm

    So many good suggestions here, you guys. And ugh, I never thought about the idea that Dylan’s shyness might be the result of my own. :(

  71. pam on May 10th, 2013 12:25 pm

    it’s like you were at my sons’ tee-ball practice, because i’m the same way. need to read the other comments for some suggestions.

    and crap, my boys are shy too, but since the other kids aren’t, it hasn’t been a big deal.

  72. Phoebe on May 10th, 2013 12:32 pm

    I already posted about my experience and mentioned that I want to get “better” so my future kid(s) won’t have to deal the same way I did. BUT I do not think a shy kid is a result of learned behavior from a shy parent. I think sure there is some nurture that might come into play, but I am certain that I got my shyness from my parents the same way I got my eye color. Nothing can be done, but try and make it easier for them someday by learning how to overcome/ deal with shyness now.

    And also I want to say that I’ve seen shy kids that come out of very extroverted families and I wonder if that must be tough for the kids and the parent since they can’t relate super well to each other. If my kid ends up hiding behind my leg around strangers at least I know what that’s like from their perspective :)

  73. willikat on May 10th, 2013 12:53 pm

    I have to small talk sometimes for a living. I used to dread it. Until I realized that people are dying to connect–almost all people. Just even venturing out in the smallest of ways–commenting on the weather, complimenting someone on their hair/outfit/child’s manners, you name it–will get the ball rolling. Find the most extraverted person to do this with (people usually assume this is me although I just cope with my semi-introversion by talking a stream to hopefully deflect any awkward silences). They will respond with enthusiasm. If they are like me, and they like you, they might even use my line, which is “We’re friends now, right?” or “So, I want to call you.” Or “Do you want to be friends?” Sounds second grade, but I swear to God it works every damn time. I even said it to our pediatrician after a long week with jaundice, when she called me with the results for the 40 frillionth time. (She was like “This is Dr. G., etc.” And I was like “Oh, I know, you’re in my phone. We’re best friends now.”) Ever since, every time I see her now, she says “Oh hey, best friend!” I actually am secretly terrible at small talk and get nervous about rejection but this is a no-fail method. I’m not even kidding. And it goes to show you how desperately adults want new friends but can’t bring themselves to make them.
    Also I know I’ve said this to you before but if you lived nearby I would make you be my friend. You have so many funny observations and interests…you have a lot to offer.Once you start doing it, it gets a little easier. I promise.

  74. Brooke on May 10th, 2013 1:24 pm

    A lot of this hits home for me. I dread small talk particularly because I have a ten month old daughter and I always get the, “Is she your first/only?” question and then it’s awkward because my first baby died when she was born and suddenly I’m THAT mom with the dead baby and I have to either change the subject like it’s no big deal when it’s the hugest thing that has ever happened to me, or I have to try to navigate how it matters and hurts but we’re still quasi-normal people, blah blah. So a lot of time I avoid conversation because I don’t want to make other people and myself feel weird.

    That said, I have been making myself be more social and I can usually talk about other people’s kids or ask questions and ask for advice (even if I don’t really need it). I also find it easier to exchange e-mail addresses first–like, “Oh, would you e-mail me that restaurant recommendation?” (or for purposes of getting the kids together or whatever) and then after a couple of e-mail exchanges, I sent an e-mail that said, “Can we be texting friends?” which is totally lame but the other person said yes and now we have a normal text-and-call friendship which is kind of a big deal since making friends post-college or post-grad school is actually super hard.

    It also helps me to remember that everyone just wants to be liked, so instead of worrying about whether everyone likes me, I try to think about whether I’m demonstrating that I like them.

  75. Peggasus on May 10th, 2013 1:25 pm

    I didn’t read all of the above comments, but I, too, have been there. We moved to our previous town when my older son was in 3rd grade and the younger one was just under 3. I just went to parks, and did stuff at school: Cub Scout den leader, reading mom, Arts in the Classroom, became hot lunch chairman at the school, etc., and made lots of friends.

    Then we moved again seven years ago when the younger one was beginning high school, so those options were not available any more. I don’t know how big your town is (mine is about 5300), but small towns are a tough nut to crack. I still, after SEVEN FUCKING YEARS here, do not have one single person I could call and ask to come over for a glass of wine or to play golf or whatever, and I have tried. The people at the one local grocery store are nicer to me than anyone else I’ve tried to meet.

    Hang in there.

  76. Foodmomiac on May 10th, 2013 2:07 pm

    I am often the same way and was dreading being by myself with no friends during all of Max’s hockey games. So… I volunteered (via email) to be team manager. I introduced myself to everyone via email and was then forced to interact as I collected funds, shared game information, etc.

    It was honestly the very best way to meet people b/c it forced them to come up to ME. Not sure I would do it again (OMG so much work), but it always kind of taught me how to meet the parents and gave me more confidence. Now that baseball season has started, I’ve found myself being a lot more chatty and less nervous.

  77. Angella on May 10th, 2013 2:12 pm

    1. Read Quiet. Please.

    2. Move here. JB and Matt can hunt together and we can do all of the kid-related stuff.

    3. Just pretend you’re me and can’t stop talking? ;)

    Love you, lady.

  78. Annie on May 10th, 2013 2:56 pm

    I find this surprising too. I always thought you would be a cool, fun, and funny friend. I hope you can use some of these suggestions to help you. There has GOT to be one woman in Eugene who is friend worthy!

    Good Luck, you deserve adults friendships.

  79. Nancy on May 10th, 2013 3:50 pm

    I’m right there with you — I always feel so awkward! I have found that people LOVE to talk about themselves, and they LOVE to talk about their kids, so if you can come up with a couple of starter questions to break the ice you can lead toward those things and get them chatting! The hard part is remembering week-to-week who you’ve chatted up before, and TRY to remember what you hear. There’s some great advice here and I’m going to practice some of this stuff myself.

  80. Emily on May 10th, 2013 5:35 pm

    Ugh. Just substitute “daughter” and “ballet class” . Oddly comforting, though, to find out I’m not the only one that goes through this.

  81. Andrea on May 10th, 2013 6:00 pm

    It’s been years since I’be done the soccer/baseball with young kids thing. But I do know that we were on the same teams with some of the same families for years. Just being a familiar face made the second season so much easier. Baseball ruled our lives for much of the year for almost 15 years. At the end, I missed the other families we “grew up” with. They were never my best friends, and we never hung out together when our boys weren’t on the field, but we were always social through the games and through tournament weekends. I started taking pictures of all the kids early on. Who doesn’t love a picture of their kid on the field? That helped break the ice too. I took pictures of everyone (parents too) and at the end of season required pizza party gave everyone a CD with the pix on them.

  82. Koa on May 10th, 2013 10:03 pm

    Um, dude. I live in Eugene, and I totally, totally want to be your friend. I think you’re hysterical and just about my evil twin. Well. I might be the evil one. Let’s hang out. Park? Cocktails? I have a 4 year old son, I recently started writing a mama blog with a couple of hysterical gals, one of whom is a huge fan of yours and all but dared me to find you and be your friend. I love dares. I’m pretty outgoing, I’ll totally make the first move. Frankly, I’ve been a stay at home mom for 4 years now, and I’m a little bit bored with kids and moms who don’t find their kids to be bizarre. Also, I think Eugene is THE WORST PLACE EVER to make cool friends. And I’ve lived here for a long time. We can compare notes. When you’re not shy, like I’m not, you just say it like this – hey mama, let’s go out, what do you say?!

  83. Melissa on May 11th, 2013 4:29 am

    So, I read this and thought…I wonder if she’d like Koa. Koa who, when I found out she lived in Eugene shortly after you moved to Eugene I told HAD to read your blog and keep an eye out for you and be a complete fangirl loser if she saw you, in my place since I’ll never be in Oregon.
    Then Koa commented before me. :)
    I feel the same way. I never know what to talk to other parents about. I recently hit it off with a preschool director and wanted to befriend him and his wife and had no idea how to proceed. I kept thinking that if he and I were single and I wanted to date him I’d know what to do…but friendships as an adult? I’m clueless.

  84. Lisa on May 11th, 2013 6:52 am

    I’m not a parent, but I can totally sympathize with you & all the other introverts/shy folks commenting here!

    - I second the recommendation on reading Quiet if you haven’t already. I read it & felt so much better about being an introvert. Our society doesn’t give enough value to this trait & yet it is mostly the introverts that are quietly changing the world. You need to not feel bad about being an introvert. We are made to feel that way growing up- I can’t tell you how many times as a kid people thought I was “stuck up” or some other awful thing, when no- I just hated small talk. Still do.

    -What helped me as a teenager is that I went to a high school which was exclusively for geeks, tech nerds & art nerds. I still would not talk in class ever ever ever, but I had some great friends & felt free to be my unique creative self & that experience still helps me today as a 38 year old creative professional

    -I “cured” myself of shyness by going to graduate school in another state. There are less expensive ways to do this & I don’t recommend what I did necessarily. I was totally out of my comfort zone, away from everyone I knew & loved. It was a really competitive, cut throat program to boot. I had to learn to swim in a pool of sharks, and oddly enough, this is what taught me how to talk to strangers.

    -Another thing that helped me was on recommendation from a teacher from that high school I went to that I remained friends with & still talk to today. He is also a hard core introvert & told me teaching helped him. I became a teacher & took his advice. Teaching is like acting- you put on a persona & that same persona can work in these small talk situations.

    So yeah- some sort of immersion- close your eyes & jump in the shark infested waters experience might help you, or if you get the opportunity to stand up in front of a class & teach or present something or act on stage- sounds kind of crazy & it’s terribly scary at first, but trust me, it works. Because I did these things to myself, I can now talk to almost anyone at the large corporation where I work. I still sit back & wonder how I did it.

    There are times when I totally let my natural shyness wash over me, though- I helped set up for a presentation last week for over 100 people at my company. Had no problem chatting w/my bosses beforehand, but when it was over & we broke for wine & cheese- I hugged the wall, had a half a glass of wine, put it down on a table & quietly left the room to go home to my husband & my cats.

    Good luck- you can do it! My last paragraph made me think of something else- one other tactic I do to get around small talk & awkward socialization at things like that- I volunteer to help. If you’re busy setting out chairs, getting equipment together, manning the av booth or taking photos, you’re too busy working to talk! I do a lot of event photography at work & it’s a great way to feel like you are contributing without it being agonizing!

  85. Julie on May 11th, 2013 8:42 am

    Loose the book – it isolates you! Watch the game and you’ll get to know the names of all the kids and start cheering them on – eventually the game itself will be the ice breaker.

  86. Anais on May 11th, 2013 8:31 pm

    Loved your reference to Calvinball. :)

    Not a parent, but I too am very socially awkward at times and constantly feel like I’m sticking my foot in mouth and making an ass of myself.

    I always feel super embarrassed doing perfectly normal things in front of others, too. Like dancing. My coworkers danced up a storm at our company Christmas party. I tried to dance like I wasn’t feeling super self-conscious, but then felt like everyone could tell that I was super self-conscious so I felt like an idiot with all eyes on me and just stopped dancing. The anxiety in these situations nearly kills me. I hate it. I sympathize with you.

  87. June on May 11th, 2013 9:37 pm

    I am terrible at meeting people, esp when said people already seem to have a long history with each other and I am the New One. My husband is even worse at starting up conversations, so if we’re going to make any adult friends in town, it’s up to me.

    But what works REALLY WELL is to do volunteer work. Then you meet a bunch of people and you naturally have a common thing that you have to talk about – the work you are doing together – and then personal stuff, etc, will start to flow later. The major con of this strategy is that it is a huge time suck – time away from your work, your kids, your exercising/hobbies/relaxing – so volunteer in binges or moderation. I don’t know how to make the leap from volunteer-friend to friend-friend (ie, someone that you might call up on the phone just to chat or rant about your kids or go shopping with).

    I just moved again (to a rental last August and then to our new home 3 weeks ago), so it’s time to start again. Now that the weather is getting nicer, the neighbors are coming out, and we’ve been introducing ourselves like mad. I try to make jokes, laugh, apologize for my kids’ terrible behavior. I secretly (or not so secretly) write down everyone’s names as soon as I can, or otherwise I will totally forget them.

    My oldest starts kindergarten in the fall. I’m bracing myself for school volunteering. I’m trying to gather up the courage to find and attend another knit-night group. Another mom of twin boys gave me her name and number last December, and I still haven’t worked up the courage to call. (And she never called me, either.) Sigh. Why is it so hard to get friendships off the ground and running?

  88. Käthe on May 12th, 2013 7:08 am

    I love that everyone else is shy, too! I thought I was the only adult left who hadn’t mastered small talk.
    Two things I’ve noticed:
    1. Say hi right away, every time. It’s super awkward for me if I haven’t said hello and then five minutes later… Now I say hi? No… 10 minutes later… Now? Just weird. Arrive. Say hi. Sit down. See what happens.
    2. Just walk up to someone and say, Hi, my name is ____. This happens TO me a lot and I’m always thinking what? why are you telling me your name? But then I have to respond in kind and it gets the ball rolling. Pretty smart.
    I figure my kid is shy because I’m shy. It’s not my fault, but it’s not helpful to her for me to not be a good example either. I often think about how to be a better person so she sees a better example.
    <3 you can do it!

  89. MizzM on May 12th, 2013 11:38 pm

    Wow. This is so weird to me! Your “internet persona” just oozes coolness and you come across as the “most popular girl in the room” that everyone wants to call her friend! I have been reading your blog for years, but rarely comment because I always thought you were “too cool” and “too popular” to care about anything I had to say! I’m one of those annoying extroverts who desperately tries to make small-talk with total strangers, wanting so badly to make new friends, and then feeling horribly rejected when it goes nowhere, always thinking it was something I said or did, so I go home and berate myself for being an “unlikable person.” Maybe it was just my approach and LACK of shyness foisted upon someone who wasn’t prepared to reciprocate? I dunno. Despite being an extrovert, I’m still lonely and probably even MORE desperate for social interaction than you. I’ll keep trying, now that I know that maybe it’s not just ME, but LOTS OF US who are insecure and tentative about forging new friendships. All I can say is it is SOOO much easier when your kids are little and involved in activities attended by other parents. At least you have multiple opportunities to “meet and greet.” My kids don’t play sports and ditched Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts long ago, and I feel more isolated than ever. I spend a lot of time reading “Chick-Lit” and resenting all of these books about long-term female friendships, when I have none that resemble what is portrayed in these books. Why do you think so many women Blog? Because the internet provides a forum for other women to respond and interact with supportive, editable comments in an anonymous way they would never be brave enough to do in “real life”! I have Blog Friends who probably know more about me and “my angst” than any of my “real life friends.” I think you need to really READ your comments and recognize that every random person who commented here could be just another soccer mom, neighbor, classroom volunteer, etc. ALL of us are awkward and goofy and tongue-tied and unsure of ourselves–wouldn’t it be great if we just let that go and realized that the other person reaching out is no different and just trying to connect? We are GROWN WOMEN. Accomplished, talented, unique, smart, hilarious, creative, and, most of all, KIND. Women are KIND. We need to GET OVER our stupid high school insecurities and STOP rejecting people just because we are afraid of rejection. First of all, it’s actually NOT likely to happen, and second of all, even if it did, WHO CARES? You still have your spouse, your kids, your family, your dog, whatever.

  90. Katie on May 13th, 2013 6:15 am

    Oh, do I feel your pain. And if you ever find a way to get over that first step, please share. I’ve moved three times in seven years and while I logically know it takes times to make friends, well, three years at this most recent location seems like a long enough time to make friends, but the only friends I have here are my boyfriend and two dogs.

  91. Maggie on May 13th, 2013 7:23 am

    I just want to pipe in as a totally, non-shy, can talk to anyone person. First of all, I have a VERY shy child, so please don’t blame yourself for your son’s shyness. Secondly, I feel for you and so wish our kids were on the same team so we could chat it up! It will encourage me to seek out the shy parents now, because I often do feel like they are being standoffish, so I am glad to know I could be totally wrong about them.

    I am grateful to get this little bit of insight to my own child. I don’t want this to be a problem her for her whole life or I at least want to help her get some skills to use when she is feeling super shy. It is so hard for me to comprehend how she feels since I am the complete opposite, so thank you for sharing your experience. If you have any advice for me on how to help my child (and what not to do), I would greatly appreciate it!

  92. birdgal (another amy) on May 13th, 2013 11:12 am

    Hi, my name is Amy and you’ve just described my life. I am horrible at making that first connection, even though I really WANT to. And, you’ve just moved, which I can’t imagine would be easy on ye old social life. I’ve lived in the same place nigh on eight years now, and I still have only 2-3 close friends in the area. I’m starting to get to know more of my daughter’s friend’s moms, which is nice, but man is it a looong process. Anyway, here’s my fist bump to you for sharing and hoping it gets easier with time :).

  93. Mary Clare on May 13th, 2013 11:42 am

    Thanks for sharing! It’s insightful to see the perspectives of other introverts. If only we could all get together – in, of course, small intimate gatherings of 3 people or less. ;)

  94. Her Ladyship on May 13th, 2013 12:31 pm

    Trust me, everyone feels awkward too, and it is the worst to have to approach people. I have to do it all the time for my work and what I find is easiest is approaching someone who’s also by themselves versus a big group. 9 times out of 10, the other loner is super-relieved that someone approached them and open to talking.

  95. Robin on May 13th, 2013 12:59 pm

    I wish I lived near you, I would totally chat you up!

    I’ve moved so many times in my adult life that I now have no trouble approaching random people at the park and being like WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND? YES YOU WILL.

    I thought for the longest time that self-confidence would just suddenly appear out of nowhere, and I only realized recently that it’s something I have to practice. There are plenty of times when it’s awkward and you strike out, but then there are times when you really hit it off with someone and it’s easy and brilliant.

    I don’t believe in shy! Don’t box yourself in!

  96. telegirl on May 13th, 2013 2:11 pm

    I hope you’re still reading. I agree with some of the others about not having your book out as it sends off all sorts of wrong signals. We started our first venture into sports with kindergarten soccer. I do not consider myself shy but I can be self-conscious (who isn’t?!). I have a suggestion for you that will keep you busy and keep you involved. You are an amazing photographer; take pictures of the practices and/or games. If your team is like ours, we use a website for our team (BonziTeam) and I post all the pictures there.
    I started taking my Nikon 35mm digital camera to the games and I take pictures of *all* the kids. I also am having a great time doing it. As I am taking pictures I can compliment the nearest parent on their son’s/daughter’s skills or ask them a question and then the conversation starts. If you start feeling awkward, you can always excuse yourself to get to a better vantage point. It’s less of an intense interaction. Baby steps. :) At the end of the season, I plan on putting all the pictures onto a CD for each kid and give them at gifts at the last game.

  97. Jess on May 13th, 2013 2:49 pm

    God, yes. This. So very much.

    My oldest is nine. My next 8, and every year, every season, it’s this awkward thing where I have to watch my language and not joke about inappropriate things and its just so hard.

    I have no friends. I’m so lonely it’s physically painful, and it just makes me want to go out and meet people. But I’m not good at meeting people. I can’t seem to keep friends. Women confound me. I always feel the end of the conversation drop off like a cliff.

    Parental chatty waters are treacherous to navigate.

  98. Sarah on May 13th, 2013 3:26 pm

    I don’t know if you’re even still reading these comments but just wanted to say, you’re not alone. I thought having kids would help me get over my shyness and I guess it did, to a certain extent, but I am still so far from where I want to be! My kids are small and I too get so freaking lonely I could cry, and I can’t seem to force myself to do anything about it….there’s a nation-wide mom’s group chapter in my city and by all accounts it is THE place to make new friends. Lifelong besties!!! But it would involve me walking into a room in a rec centre full of babies and moms that I don’t know and I just cannot make myself. I get jittery and upset just thinking about doing it. I HATE that about myself. I hate that I probably come off as aloof even though inside I’m all “talk to me! I’m nice! I like you!”. It’s horrible. My older son went to preschool this year and the teacher’s raved “the moms all become close and are going for coffee together by December!” Well, if they are they aren’t inviting me, because I am not friends with any of them. And some seem really awesome and nice and like I’d get along well with them. It actually makes me sad when they all stand around chatting and I silently slink back to my van.

    OK so uh, not very helpful comment!! Just wanted to say that I get where you are coming from 100%. And I am writing down all the great advice you’ve gotten here to use for myself :)

  99. Ally on May 14th, 2013 10:11 am

    Wow, i can’t even get through all the comments, but it’s amazing to see how many other women have such similar experiences! I often feel the very same way. But what I find most frustrating is what someone else wrote – that even when I can strike up a really good conversation and really hit it off with someone, it never really goes further than that. I wish it would go to the stage of leading to a CLOSE friendship with another parent, someone i can call up any time just to chat, or to drop by, etc. I’ve lived in my town for 6 years now and I feel like I have yet to make friends like that. :(

  100. Suburban Snapshots on May 14th, 2013 5:11 pm

    I don’t have anything to add that I’m sure someone else hasn’t already said, but if it helps to know, I do go out of my way to notice moms looking alone and uncomfortable, and to ask a question or 2, not because I’m the most awesome person ever, but because I was the lonely gymnastics mom, and now I’m in the chatty group that won’t shut the eff up.

  101. Ange Hasson on July 3rd, 2013 9:14 pm

    accept yourself for who you are…oh and read Quiet by Susan Cain…i so wish that our sons played soccer together! but alas, i’m thinking that as you live in the US and i live in canada, that’s not going to happen! now, if my own self could just listen to this little piece of advice!

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