In which I initiate a conversation with a stranger.

So I’m trying to do more things that land in what is called “the growth zone”. The growth zone is the area just outside your comfort zone that will cause personal growth.

We went on a cruise this month (!) and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to stretch into my growth zone. I did quite a few things that I don’t normally do during this trip, and one of those was talking to strangers and people I don’t know very well.

My husband is really good at striking up conversations with new people, but for me this is a skill that is often negated by my shyness. My tendency to be ultra private compounds things even further. Often when we meet people he gets the conversation going then I chime in with a punchline or a story and pretty soon all of us are laughing.

But on my own it is an awkwardly different story. Like awkward as an artform.

So back to the cruise ship. I was determined to practice talking to people on my own. Everyone in our party was clustered around the three-hand poker table and through my boredom of watching chips and cards shufflle across a felt-top table, I noticed an opportunity.

I ambled over to the bar by myself and slid into an empty seat. I turned to the lady next to me and struck up a coversation- yes, totally borrowing my husband’s lines- by asking her who she was cruising with and if she’d ever cruised before.

Yes, she had cruised before and this time she was here with her husband. I mentioned coming with my family then listened politely while she hashed on about husbands and kids.

Sensing drunk beligerence approaching, I steered the conversation back towards the trip. What excursions was she doing at port?

I was both really excited yet on the fence about checking out the Mayan temples of Tulum. It could be the experience of a lifetime or I could condem my family to excruciating boredom while everyone else in our group lived it up at the beach. Maybe she knew something about them.

Instead she’s like,
“The Mayan temples, huh? When my husband and I get off in Mexico, we’re gonna find us some prescription pills. That’s our excursion.”

I’m not sure how my husband would’ve handled that, but I just nodded politely and asked her what she was drinking. Then I ordered one from the bartender and soon excused myself back to the safety of three-hand poker.

Everyone asked me where I’d been and I told them. They all laughed at the absurdity of my conversation at the bar.

But later, at the Mexican port, there was totally a place called Deli and Drugs. As we passed it on our way to the t-shirt shop, I wondered if my barmate was holed up in there with her hubby, filling up on Reubens while they filled her bottles with pills.

Does the idea of talking to strangers terrify you or enthrall you? If it is your thing, what kind of tips and suggestions do you have for an introvert like me? Although it made me feel awkward, unsure and uncomfortable, I will say one thing: it made a hell of a good story.

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