Shelley Widhalm

The Art of Communicating

In Artists, Communication secrets, Fitting in, Party, Shyness on January 30, 2011 at 8:13 am

I went to an artist’s get-together Friday night and, to my surprise, talked with people almost the entire time. Usually, I find a spot where I look like I’m okay being alone, that way I can be shy and still try, at least somewhat.

I told the artist who hosted the wine and dinner party – I had interviewed her for a features article – that I do oil painting as a hobby. I told her that I’ve been taking classes for four or five years, but I have never sold any of my work. She invited me to her get-together, which was attended by 25 to 30 people, telling me that maybe I could make a connection or two.

One woman I talked to who is in her 50s said she was incredibly shy as a child, just as I was. I told her how I’ve had to teach myself social and communication skills by reading books and, of course, by observing and learning, something I didn’t know how to do as a kid. She said a friend told her that one way to make conversation is by asking questions. She said I was good at that, inquiring about her life and her work. Being a reporter forced me to be more outgoing and taught me how to ask questions to keep a conversation going.

I stayed until 9:30 p.m. and, originally, had planned to go to this new nightclub for this week’s get-out-of-my-comfort-zone challenge. I couldn’t believe myself, but I said, in my head, I’d rather finish this book that I’m reading, and I didn’t want to go to bed late. How silly is that? I said, hey, I can put off my challenge because I did not actually set a time frame around it.

And then I congratulated myself for spending a whole evening talking, and furthermore, I stopped at this Art Lab downtown on Thursday night, where I also talked the entire time. But does that really count if I was talking to people who I interview?

I felt nervous as I walked up the stairs to the artist’s loft for the party, not at the Art Lab, because it felt more like work, even though instead of a pen, I had my dog with me.

This week, I’ve also bee thinking that it’s easier and more comfortable remaining in my shyness shell. I like it here. But I set up this challenge, and I can’t quit. So I’ll have to suck it up and put myself out there. Here I come, slow as a turtle.

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