Practice Makes for More Positive Experiences
Dating after divorce presents different challenges for each person. For those who aren’t gifted at approaching strangers or engaging in and elevating conversations to a meaningful level, the requirement to put themselves out there to meet people can seem like a huge challenge. And for those who are more comfortable with conversation and new people, a previous marriage and divorce can cause those skills to rust a bit. In either case, practicing outside of the dating arena can make for more positive connections once you’re within it.
The first step to overcoming this challenge is to realize you’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 15 million people in the nation experience social anxiety disorder. And 40 to 45% of adults categorize themselves as shy. There’s a good chance that the person you’re trying to engage in conversation is feeling awkward or shy about it too.
A second step to overcoming this challenge is practice. Decide to engage everyone who is willing in conversation or interaction as you go throughout your day. That means opening a meaningful dialogue with the person sitting across from you on the bus, the cashier at the grocery store, or the neighbor you normally only wave at.
This type of practice provides many benefits:
- It fosters your emotional intelligence, which helps you manage your emotions while reading and understanding the emotions of others. Engaging people across all aspects of your life — no matter where you are or who they are — builds your emotional intelligence muscles so you’re able to read and understand people in different environments and situations.
- It reduces doubt. If you’re regularly engaging new people in conversation with increasing success, you’re less likely to doubt your capabilities when it’s go-time during a date.
- You learn to ask meaningful questions. All your practice helps you test different kinds of questions and build up a meaningful bank so you can tap into other people’s passions and interests easier.
- You build organic conversation skills. Regular practice teaches you to guide conversations in an organic and engaging way. When you can do this without thinking about it because it’s become like muscle memory, you can enjoy the discussion and participate in it wholeheartedly.
Seeking out conversations throughout your day for the purpose of practice can be rewarding and even fun, but remember to keep boundaries appropriate. Some practical rules to follow include:
- Being sure the person in question is a willing participant. Watch for body language or statements that might mean they want out of the conversation, such as telling you they need to be somewhere else or angling their body away from you. Some people don’t want to move past basic chit-chat to a more meaningful conversation, and you should respect their wishes.
- Don’t get so caught up conversing with practice people that you forget to pay attention to obligations such as work or existing relationships, such as family and friends.
- Never put yourself in danger or risky situations to seek out a conversation.
For some people, simply putting themselves out there and opening the door to conversations creates a smooth path to being comfortable on a first date. Some individuals simply need to get back on the bike again to remember how to ride it. But know that everyone is different, and your journey may require more practice. That’s okay. And you don’t have to be perfect before you start dating.
Remember that we’re talking about building, rebuilding or simply improving social skills in the same words you would use when talking about practicing for a sporting event or training for a marathon. Keeping that metaphor in mind, it’s important to:
- Practice regularly. Marathoners run several times a week, if not every day, to train for an event.
- Don’t try to run the marathon first. No one runs 26 miles during a training session — and certainly no one starts with the full marathon. Be aware of your own strengths, weaknesses and energy levels. If you can only talk to one new person every few days, start there.
- Keep the end goal in mind. The point is to make yourself more comfortable putting yourself out there on dates. Eventually, you do have to take the final step and put all your practice to work for this purpose.
Think of three meaningful and appropriate questions you could ask a stranger during a conversation that might spark a meaningful conversation. If you need to, write them down so you can remember them. Then, put them to work the next time you have the opportunity.
By Molly Blue Wilder