Attitudes And Dispositions Towards Socializing That Are Easier Said Than Done

A common theme in people skills advice is to tell the reader to have a certain attitude or disposition and that the right actions will flow from that. The problem is that it's easier said than done for someone to think or feel a certain way. You can't turn that kind of thing on or off like a switch. Some seemingly simple mindsets require years of the right experiences to form.

Here are some easier-said-than-done attitudes and dispositions that I've seen over and over. For the record though, I realize that the "Just think x instead of y" element is unavoidable sometimes when giving advice. Some of the writing on this site falls into it as well, though I do my best to focus on concrete knowledge, skills, and actions as opposed to, "Hold this attitude and everything will fall into place."

"Don't care if people reject you"

You see this is advice in regards to making friends, dating, and sales. It's valid in a sense. You should strive to reach a point where you don't take every rejection personally. As this article is trying to say though, it's not something that you can just read and go, "Okay, now I don't care if people turn me down. Sweet." It takes time to overcome your natural human aversion to rejection, especially if you're coming from a place of being more sensitive to it than most. Acquiring this attitude usually involves developing a respectable level of overall confidence, some firsthand experience getting rejected so you can build up a tolerance to it, and some real successes to reinforce that the rejections are ultimately worth it, and that you still have things going for you despite how some people react.

"Don't care what other people think"

This advice is given to try to instill confidence and courage in specific situations, or in general. One context I've seen it used in a few times is that someone will express a fear of taking a certain social action, and a more naturally confident person will reply with, "It's no big deal. Just don't care what they think." When you first hear advice like this it can falsely seem more simple and profound than it really is. Soon enough you realize it really isn't that easy. I mean if it was we'd all be totally confident by the time we were nine. There's a difference between intellectually understanding you shouldn't care what people think and truly internalizing that attitude. It takes a long string of experiences to get to the later point. The process is similar to getting comfortable with rejection.

"Don't care about that thing. It's not as important as you think it is."

For example, "Don't care how many Likes that photo you posted got" or "Don't care about how popular you are in high school. In five years you'll look back and realize it doesn't matter as much as you thought it did." It's true some people get too wound up about numbers on their social media accounts. It's true that your high school years aren't as make-or-break as you can be led to believe they are. However, when you're neck deep in a context that encourages you think something is Life or Death, you usually can't just realign your opinion of it in two seconds.

"Just be confident"

I often see confidence written of as the single magic key to interpersonal issues. "No, no, forget all those conversation tips. Just be more confident and you'll be fine." or "Don't work specifically on problem X, just be more confident and everything will turn out okay." There's some truth to this. If we were confident all the time we'd tend to naturally do more of the right things, but no one can just "be confident". It's another trait that has to be built over time. I write more about it here:

Increasing Self-Confidence In Particular Social Situations
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"Genuinely like other people"

Another 'single key' disposition. The thinking goes that if you genuinely liked other people then you'd naturally perform the behaviors that allow you to make friends and cause people to like you in turn. Reasonable enough, but easier to say then actually do. If you're a more reserved, choosy type of person at this moment, there's no button you can push in your brain that will instantly make you feel warm and loving towards everyone you meet. Maybe you can get yourself to think this way for a few days, but after that you'll revert to your default settings. Over time this mindset can be cultivated, but it involves interacting with lots of people and coming to appreciate their qualities firsthand. Even then, you may never totally overcome your inborn tendencies.

"Be truly interested in other people"

A classic piece of conversational advice. Be interested and you'll have good conversations with people and achieve easy rapport with them. True enough if you feel this way. Though if you're not interested, you're not interested. You could not be interested because you're not feeling it on a particular day, or because of your overall personality and preferences.

I think this one is a little easier to achieve than the others, but it's still not an overnight fix. One thing is to more quickly try to dig up what makes other people interesting. Another time-honored piece of advice is to be familiar with a decent range of topics. That way when you meet someone new you'll have an easier time hitting on something you both can talk about and can relate to each other over. It's much easier to be interested in people under those circumstances.

"Don't be outcome dependent"

The idea behind not being outcome dependent is that we feel nervous or pressured in certain social situations because we're emotionally invested in having our interactions go a certain way. People will tell you not to stress about attaining any particular outcome, and instead to just socialize with people for its own sake and see where things go. If you end up having a nice conversation, great, but if not, that's okay too. The catch is deep down we know if we still care about reaching a particular outcome. A student during her first week of university can try to tell herself she's just going to chat to random people at see what happens, but on another level she's fully aware she wants to make friends and have people like her, which may understandably make her anxious.

"Don't experience that negative emotion/state"

"Don't be depressed." "Don't be nervous." "Don't be shy and inhibited." "Don't be unsure of yourself." Everyone who's experienced these negative states has had people tell them to simply not feel the way they are. If that's all it took they wouldn't have the problem in the first place.

Often inherent in this is underestimating the strength of certain conditions. Like someone may think of true depression as being comparable to that time they were bummed out, but then their friends dragged them to a party and they felt better. Or they'll confuse social anxiety with that time they were hesitant to talk to some new people at a business function, but then they took a deep breath and went ahead and they were fine.

"Don't do a certain thing, there's no logical reason to do it"

"Don't be afraid to talk in front of a group because nothing will likely happen." "Don't be shy because people aren't really out to judge you." "Don't be afraid to invite that person out because your fear is caused by a cognitive distortion." Just because you intellectually realize that your behaviors are illogical, it doesn't mean you can always easily change them. Fear and anxiety aren't rational. They respond poorly to logical arguments.

Also, as I've mentioned in other articles, gaining insight into how your problems work can be very useful, but it won't magically fix anything overnight, and can sometimes cause a deceptive charged up feeling that ultimately doesn't amount to a whole lot.

Most advice if you think about it

Really, most advice is easier said than done. It's one thing to read something. It's another to apply it. I think sometimes people have this unrealistic expectation of some advice where they think all they have to do is read it and they'll instantly be changed. Most advice isn't like that. You've got to take what you've read and try it out and take the time to get the hang of it in real life.

And that's that. Overall, don't feel bad if you get advice like this and it doesn't work for you. There's no reason to think it should transform you overnight, or that there's something wrong with you if you can't follow it.