Taking social risks

Many of us are social averse by nature. This is partly due to our culture and the way we are brought up, especially in the Asian society.

When we take social risks by chatting with random strangers or making small talks with people we encounter in our daily lives, we open doors. I speak with experience when I say that taking social risks open doors.

Opening up

I practiced as a retail pharmacist for six years and it was a platform for me to engage strangers. It was my duty to greet customers when they enter the store and approach them to offer assistance.

Being shy by nature, I initially kept these contact minimal. I do my duty and help the customers get what they want or need. I would often hold my tongue because it just didn’t feel right to me to step out of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to be rude or be made to feel stupid by saying the wrong thing. I didn’t want to be socially awkward. The introvert in me knew that I was uncomfortable with being chatty, especially with strangers.

However, there were instances where I found myself slipping into a more unguarded mood and opened up my interaction. These helped me to engage with my customers on a more personal level and established a rapport that lasted years during my professional practice. Several of my regular customers became friends.

This effect is more profound in another example I would like to bring up. I used to frequent online text-based roleplaying games. I was very relaxed and more open behind my online persona and I made quite a few friends. And those friendships have lasted for over a decade and they count among my close circle.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Why do people avoid social risks? They don’t want to make a fool of themselves. They worry about what others think of them. They are afraid of being judged. They are insecure.

How to overcome your aversion for social risks? Start by taking small steps. Talk to strangers. What harm is there in that? They don’t know you. Chances are you won’t meet them again. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe they would be amused by you. I doubt anyone would outright laugh at you unless you were making a joke, if so then you succeeded!

Living alone in a foreign country constantly makes me push myself to engage strangers. I had to build my social circle here from scratch. I constantly reach out to new people through interest groups, go out to events to meet people, or just hang out at cafes and chat with the regulars there.

I’m an introvert but my experience in retail work helped me become more comfortable with interacting with strangers. That said, being in a foreign land with nothing to lose was liberating. I was constantly taking social risks, and I was reciprocated with genuine interactions and authentic relationships.

Take a social risk today

If you avoid social risks intentionally, or perhaps you realise you do it subconsciously, why not try to take a risk today? After all, what’s the worst that could happen?