I was always an introvert. My mother told me that, as a child, I would cry when someone else tried to carry me, even if that someone was a relative. Apparently, even then, I had an aversion towards people.
Not too long ago, I found something out about myself that caused many pieces to click together. Through a series of articles I read, I realised that I had something called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and that I would be considered hypersensitive to stimuli.
This made me think back to my childhood and it all made sense to me now why I was so distressed over loud noises, bright lights, and strong smells. I was particularly stressed out by the feeling of sand and any textures that reminded me of it.
So with this ‘perfect’ combination of hypersensitivity and a preference to be away from people, I didn’t have much of a social life. Come to think of it, I still don’t have much of a social life now.
Most of my friends know me to be very private, particular, and prone to sullen-ness. It’s a part of me that has stressed my relationships with others. As a result, I am grateful to the friends who have stuck around despite my less-than-stellar behaviours.
Now, because of my lack of ‘fruitful’ social interactions, I wasn’t very good at them. I would inadvertently say the wrong thing or behave in the wrong way in a given situation. I didn’t know how to carry a conversation or ‘make friends’. Truth be told, I didn’t feel much inclination to do so either, which adds to the problem of having too little practice.
Essentially, I would be what you’d call a nerd, highly focused on exploring certain topics, but having very little interest in social life or people in general.
Learning to Socialise
Now, when I got to secondary school, I was very much the same person. However, there was now a pressing difference: where the opposite gender was once an annoyance, they were now of interest.
You can probably see how this is going to be a problem. A lack of social skills isn’t exactly attractive.
And, in those teenage years, acceptance and friendships become very important.
I figured that I had to learn to be better at this social thing if I was going to not be an outcast. So, I got to work on it.
I read books on etiquette and social graces, small talk (I still have that book), body language, and so on. Because of the surge of energy you have in your teenage years, interacting with people wasn’t very difficult either.
As I practised and made the mistakes, I changed. Very drastically, actually.
Practice Makes… Better
Because I had joined drama as my CCA, then called an ECA, my circle of friends outside of my classmates consisted of a hugely uneven percentage of girls. And I have to tell you that having so many female friends is the fastest way to hone your social interaction skills, because they are simply so much better at them than guys are. Fact.
Within a year or so, I was a completely different person. I wasn’t Mr. Popular and I continued to maintain fewer, relatively close relationships rather than many loose ones, but I never lacked companionship or friends.
Mastering The Social Dance
There have been quite a few people who came up to me at different points of my secondary school days and asked why I seemed to be with a different girl every day. Again, these were mostly my drama friends. We were close. Very much so, and I learned a lot from them.
By the time I was 16, Sec 4, I had become a confident, eloquent, self-assured person. I had experience in live stage performances (at least one major one every year for 4 years) and I had a great social life.
It was around this point that I realised how important it was to know how to forge and maintain relationships with other people.
I went on to Polytechnic, and I did relatively well there. Friendships were easy to forge, and people seemed easier to get along with.
The Results of Poor Discipline
My newly-honed social skills came with a set of unexpected problems. Being suddenly interesting and attractive to girls made it easy for me to get into a string of bad relationships.
One in particular resulted in me obtaining a restraining order against her. It may seem funny now, but it wasn’t at the time.
Not having learned my lesson, I got into another one after I got out of National Service – another bad one. At the very least, I was conscious enough to not be in one during NS.
When this one ended, on a sour note (no surprises there), I decided that women could not be trusted and I cut myself off from all romantic relationships.
I certainly had a huge part to play in these relationships that went bad, but I wouldn’t have said so then.
Tempering Knowledge With Wisdom
Though there was the occasional exploratory date here and there, I didn’t get into another relationship. I was jaded from relationships and had no interest in wasting time and money on another one.
At this stage, I realised that charm and charisma were powerful tools, but can easily get you into trouble if you don’t learn to harness them properly.
I got to learning more – about emotional intelligence, psychology, influence, communication skills, and relationships – especially how to have and maintain a good one (in case I ever bumped into the right person, which I doubted).
The more I learned, the more I realised how messy everything I had was. I resolved to clean things up.
Forging a Better Life
And then, in 2011, as I started work with a company I had just joined, I met someone on the company-sponsored cab to the office. We didn’t really talk that first meeting, but things improved in the coming months.
We had problems, hang-ups from our pasts, communication issues, and all sorts of things in between, but I put all the stuff I had learned to use. This was the ultimate test, wasn’t it? Learning about relationships, communication, emotional intelligence, and all that? What good is all the knowledge in the world if it doesn’t give you the result you want?
Long story short, she is now my wife.
So if you think that introversion is an excuse for you to have poor relationships, I’m here to tell you to find a better excuse.
My Life Today
Today, I am an author, a speaker, trainer, coach, and consultant. I focus on ONE key area: Introvert Communications.
Why? Because I know how difficult it is for an introvert with poor social skills to try and survive in an increasingly social world. I went through the hard knocks, the poor relationships, the pain of feeling that I had no-one to share with, but emerged stronger than I could ever have imagined.
You can, too.
You didn’t read all of this by accident. Something in my story caught your attention because you identified with it.
Tell me how I can help you get from where you are to where you want to be.