John Leonard an audience of one.

About Projects Now Archive

Being public

I’d not often describe myself as introverted, in fact most people I know might not do so. Even so, every day I have a slight pulse of anxiety when I consider talking to new people. I have no idea why, and I thought writing out the reasons and challenging them as I go would be a good exercise in understanding myself a bit better.

Some background - I work in a field where meeting new people is a regular occurrence, and occasionally I have to deliver presentations too. I’ve always experienced some anxiety when giving presentations but that’s entirely normal. Show me a person who doesn’t experience that dab of fear before a public speaking engagement and I’ll show you someone who is hiding it very well. I also write content for technical proposal responses that requires me to summarise facts from a wide range of people into a summary and set of documents that can lead my professional skills and knowledge to be challenged. I have very rarely been challenged or found myself wanting.

When I have to meet clients, I invariably have a great time and get on well with them. I like to think of myself as a people person. In all these instances, I’m talking about something that I know well - my job and my field of expertise. I’m even generally happy to admit when I don’t know something and then I’ll move heaven and earth to find out the answer; it benefits me as well as the person who has asked the question.

Before this comes across as a puff piece that’s designed to blow up my overstretched ego, I’m just setting the tone here. I’m considerably more nervous when meeting people socially.

The underlying reasons are clearer to me now I’m writing it out. In work, I am on solid ground of professional ability. Socially, I am more hampered. I don’t drink, smoke, or follow football, so three easy start topics for conversation are gone straight away. As I’ve written before, I’m not very good with my memory especially when it comes to peoples’ names, so that is a difficult starting point. I often resort to calling people ‘mate’ rather than going through the mental leaps required to recall their name.

As I sit here and write this, I’ve realised that the majority of social situations I find myself in end up very well. I can’t really recall a situation where a social faux pas was committed. As with other things I do, I suspect that the fear of the problem is greater than the impact of the problem itself. Is this, perhaps, the normal consideration for a lot of people?

There we go - exercise done. Writing things out is a way for me to understand how my head works, rationalise my way of thinking, and set out all the worries in a single place to understand how they work in context. For me, it’s clear that the worry is greater than the actual situation and I’m better when I talk about work than when I talk about football. Perhaps I need to find something else to talk about.