by James Brinton
Have you felt unsure of yourself, shy, lonely, or that you simply didn’t fit in? Most of us have felt lonely in a crowded room, whether it be at a family reunion, party, church service, or conference. Do you notice others around you talking, laughing and connecting at these events and wish you could do the same? It can be difficult, especially if showing up required courage and vulnerability in the first place!
You might not believe it, but even those who seem to be well-liked or popular encounter feelings of self-doubt or loneliness too. Here are some ideas to take with you to the upcoming Affirmation Conference to ward off the loneliness that might come. Try a few at your next event!
- Take 2 post-it notes. On the first, write your greatest fear or emotion going to the conference. On the second, write your greatest hope for the event. After writing both, physically crumple up the 1st and throw it away.
- Let your 2nd post-it note become your mantra for the event. Write a mission statement for your attendance. Why are you attending and what do you hope to accomplish? Hang it up in your hotel room to see each night.
- Invite a friend to attend with you or look at the attendance list and select a few people you have met online—make sure to connect with them.
- When in large groups at the conference, talk to people on the peripheral of the room. They are people with stories waiting to be heard. People love to talk about themselves! Think of a few meaningful questions to ask. For example, “what brought you to the conference this year?” or “Have any take-away moments from that last session?” Go beyond the boring, “where are you from and what do you do?”
- Start by introducing yourself. Don’t wait for others to introduce themselves. Each friendship is started by an introduction.
- Before the event, find something interesting in the host city that you would like to see and could enjoy alone or in a small group. At the right time, step out and enjoy a small adventure
- At mealtimes, find a table that is half-full. Ask if you can sit down and start by listening to the conversation that is in progress. Usually, the dynamic and conversation will change as more people join to fill up the table. When you want to excuse yourself, say something like, “its been great to meet you all; I’m going to mingle a bit more” and then leave. I’ve found that during meals people seem very open to having new people join the group and conversation.
- Remember that when people start looking away during breaks in the conversation, they are usually signaling that they are ready to end the conversation. When that time comes, say “It was nice chatting, (insert their name). I’m off to my next session!”
- Speaking of names: Pick a couple of people you meet over the course of the conference and call them by name when you see them again. You’ll be surprised how positively people react when you remember and use their name.
- Invite a couple of new acquaintances out to dinner or to check out the neighborhood around the conference center if you find yourself with time for a break. Everybody likes a little fresh air that requires only a small commitment of time.
- Volunteer to help beforehand or when you arrive. I’ve made deep, lasting friendships with people I’ve volunteered with. They have a high level of investment in the success of the event and other people. Service provides opportunities to talk to people without feeling forced or awkward. It can provide opportunities to talk with others beyond social chit-chat that can become draining over several days.
- Step out and take a break—visit the bar, freshen up in your hotel room or swimming pool, and visit the vendor tables. I’ve found that sometimes the coolest people hang out in the hallways!
- Before the conference, find a trusted friend or family member whom you can call at any time during the conference to “check in” and receive positive affirmations.
- Bring a journal or sketchbook to use, a favorite book to read, or some music with headphones to keep you centered when needed. Use any strategies to keep you focused and positive—meditation, breathing, self-affirmations, and prayer.
- If you want to do something social after the evening ends, keep your eyes open for groups that might be forming. Ask people if there is anything fun going on after the sessions.
- Check your expectations at the door. Be open to what you might learn, what types of interactions you may have, and be present to the moment (easier said than done, I know!)
- Take advantage of opportunities to room with someone if you are attending alone. You may end up making great friendships.
- Last but not least, head to the dance floor when you hear one of your favorite songs. Even one dance can lighten your mood and reveal your true self!
Affirmation is a diverse group coming together for a good time and I hope to meet you at our next gathering!