Every once in a while, you happen onto something that makes you appreciate just how hard life can be. On those occasions, you realize how much more sympathetic you can be, how much more helpful you can be, and how much better you can make other people feel as they make their ways through a world increasingly full of strife, grief, and social interaction.

When I realized how tough life must be for a college professor and professional speaker (who moonlights, presumably from the comfortable confines of the Duke University campus, as a marketing strategist, presumably in the harrowing halls of commercial business environs), it made me start to understand how much tougher it must be for people with morbid fears of public places, for whom the simple act of leaving the safety of their homes is the source of terrifying torture.

That, of course, made me consider it the least I could do to share a couple of the techniques I’ve refined in the process of overcoming my own senses of social awkwardness and introversion:

  1. As you enter a room, walk up to the first man you see holding a drink, slap him on the back as hard as you can, and exclaim: “God, Herb! I haven’t seen you since we roomed together our first year in college!” That will create the opportunity for you to appear humble when you apologize for mistaking the stranger for Herb. And it will create the opportunity to appear helpful as you wipe the stranger’s drink off his suit jacket. (Make sure you’re carrying a clean hanky for this one.)
  2. Dampen a paper towel. (Put the damp paper towel in a ziplock bag if you want to be sure your own clothes stay dry. And use one of the cheaper brands of paper towels. They tend to be stickier and less absorbent.) As you start to mingle, subtly drop the paper towel on the floor. When it sticks to someone’s shoe, approach the person discreetly, take him gently by the elbow, and whisper in his ear, “I don’t mean to be indelicate, but I can’t be sure if that’s a dryer sheet or a hunk of TP stuck to your shoe.” One of two things will happen: He’ll get outraged and defensive, in which case all attention will be deflected from you. Or he’ll be instantly grateful and adopt you as a lifelong friend and confidante.

While there are many more helpful hints in my forthcoming book, Making Your Way in the World Today Takes Everything You’ve Got, the two above should get you through almost anything.

It’s a jungle out there. But you’re not alone.

Image by geralt, courtesy of pixabay.com.