Last week’s comfort zone challenge had me going to various stores trying to talk to strangers. It did not go well.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on why I couldn’t complete this challenge with flying colors. Then, it hit me. You can read about that here.
My neighbor April and I were talking last Wednesday night when she asked me if I wanted to go to a jewelry party that her daughter Joanne was having (a direct marketing party, like selling Tupperware – except this was jewelry).
Normally under a situation like this I would run for the hills, or at the very least, come up with an excuse and say ‘thanks for thinking of me, but…..’ Parties like these always make me feel like I have to make a purchase and I have more than enough jewelry already. Plus, mathematically speaking, it was clear to me that I would not know 80% of the people there; certainly these two things were enough to increase my anxiety level 7 or 8 notches.
But this time I said, ‘thanks for thinking of me; I’d love to.’ Oh, boy. What did I just agree to?!
My plan was this: I decided that I was going to allow myself to worry about this as much as I wanted – but only two hours before the party. Every time that anxiety ball started forming in my stomach, I reminded myself that I could think about it – even obsess about it…but not until 4:30 PM on Friday. It was hard to keep redirecting my thoughts, but eventually my mind agreed to save the big ole’ ball of stress until Friday evening.
Friday: 4:30 PM
As I curled my hair and put on my makeup (hey, I needed to pull out the ‘big guns’ for this challenge….this was no supermarket, after all) I let my mind go wild with thoughts of standing all alone by the taco dip or worse yet, following my neighbor around all evening like a lost puppy. I paced the floor for a while and then decided to test the theory that if you pet a dog, your blood pressure will go down. I think I came close to rubbing all of Brulee’s fur off.
Friday night: 6:25 PM
My husband sees me watching for April at the front door. He gives me a pep talk. Says I’ll do fine.
“Don’t forget to smile,” he says. Check.
“And whatever you do,” he adds, “don’t stand like that.”
I look down and see my arms firmly crossed across my chest.
“That makes you look like you’re on the defensive.” Double Check.
Friday night: 7:00 – 9:45 PM
I walked in and everyone was waiting for me. They all clapped when I took off my coat and complimented me on my hair and my fabulous sense of style. Three people fought over who got to fetch me a drink and I spent the rest of the night throwing my head back in laughter as everyone around me lined up to talk to me, even for a brief moment.
Friday night: 7:00 – 9:45 PM (OK, OK…..what really happened)
I smiled; I complimented Joanne on her lovely home; I grabbed a bottled water from the kitchen, and I made sure that every person there knew my name. They didn’t have to remember it; nor would I be hurt if I wasn’t spoken to past the initial, ‘nice to meet you.’ That wasn’t the point. The point was, I was not invisible and I was reaffirming that thought every time I said, ‘Hi! I’m Ellen.’
I will admit, it wasn’t an easy crowd. Everyone there knew each other. Their kids all played together and everyone was from the neighborhood, so you can imagine the things they all had in common to talk about – things that didn’t include me. But that was really OK. It didn’t matter. Because I did succeed in talking to two of these women past our standard introduction. They didn’t leave after a minute of small talk. They stayed because they wanted to.
I smiled, felt confident. I gave compliments on hair and clothes; I asked how they knew Joanne. And I did one more thing that worked like magic: I asked them about themselves. People love talking about themselves. You just have to remember not to ask too many questions – you don’t want to appear like you’re interviewing for a job as a stalker.
When it was time to go, I made sure that I didn’t forget the receipt for the pair of earrings I’d just bought (you really didn’t think I’d get out of there without making a purchase, did you?), let everyone know how nice it was to meet each of them – and we left.
It wasn’t until I got home that I felt really and truly proud of myself. The party itself wasn’t bad compared to the anticipation of it. I think if I can get over that part, I may just have this whole thing figured out!
So, success this week’s challenge and I’m glad! I’m more than ready to move on and attempt something that I should have started doing 20 years ago. Something that could have changed the entire path of my career. You’ll find out what that is and whether or not I pass or fail……next Thursday. See you then.