What Is Your Greatest Personal Social Challenge?

I’m interested in – no, I need – your answers to this question. Pretend it’s my life’s blood and if you don’t offer a response you kill a piece of me.

I don’t wanna die, so please don’t kill me!

Unless it’s with kindness. I think I can handle that. Maybe. I don’t know. I should stop this now lest you think I’m crazy and/or you stop reading. Either one would be utterly heartbreaking.

That’s a lie. Some would say you can’t get blood from my heart of stone. Just kidding. There’s nothing like this coming back to bite me in the ass some day in the future: “Karol, remember what you wrote that one time? Well it’s true, you’re a heartless bastard!” We don’t want that, now do we? I don’t want that anyway.

What just happened here?

Moving on …

What is a social challenge?

It’s something you do in public that pushes you. Maybe it’s embarrassing. Maybe it’s a little bit culturally unacceptable. Maybe it forces you to be outgoing instead of shy. Maybe it’s just plain weird. The main rule is that it has to be done in a social environment.

Examples:

  • Laying down in the middle of a busy walkway for 15 seconds is a social challenge.
  • Saying “hi” to 100 people in a day is a social challenge.
  • Saying “hi” to 100 members of the opposite sex is a social challenge. (Err, or same sex if that’s your ticket. It’s all good!)
  • Enticing a girl/guy to ask you for your number (as opposed to you asking them) is a social challenge.
  • OK fine, asking them can be a social challenge as well. (I don’t want to put any limits on your answers.)
  • Going to a bar/club/event of any sort by yourself (meaning, you don’t know anybody who will be there) is a social challenge.
  • Punching a cop and not getting thrown in a holding cell is a social challenge.
  • Preaching on a soap box with a megaphone at a busy intersection is a social challenge.
  • Going down the street shirtless in a pink tutu and roller skates … is very Reno 911-esque … and it’s a social challenge.
  • Starting a public protest is a social challenge.

You get the idea.

What sort of challenge will stretch a person? Expand their comfort zone until there is no longer a zone to be uncomfortable with?

Here’s a good way to come up with a social challenge: Think about what scares you. Then share it with our community in the comments. (Or tell us about what doesn’t scare you, but maybe scares other people. Or maybe just come up with whatever!)

Keep in mind: The type of social challenge I’m looking for is actionable. “Do this…” “Say this…” Get specific.

If you’ve got more than one, share them all. They can be as simple or as involved as you’d like.

If you have a personal anecdote to go along with a challenge, share that as well.

There is a reason I’m asking for this. I will personally do some of your challenges. Make ‘em good!

{ 123 comments }

Jennifer

I used to be an extremely outgoing person, until I spent 6 years with Mr. Extremely Controlling and Abusive. Since that episode of my life, I’ve found that 90% of all social situations are frightening for me (even leaving this comment is slightly frightening). However, on days when I’m in a super mood and the sun is shining I’m like I used to be – outgoing and sociable and cheerful and I talk to strangers at the grocery store. The fear seems to take a back seat to how energetic and friendly I feel. So I would say that my biggest social challenge would be having social interaction without fear or self doubt more reliably…. more specifically how about saying hello to as many people as I can in an hour time frame while walking around downtown Fargo? <– scary!

Karol

Thanks for sharing Jennifer. And thanks for giving a specific, actionable, social challenge. Saying hello to as many people as possible in an hour is good. If it’s exceptionally scary, how about just say hi to one person?

Rosa

I hear you Jennifer. I was in a similar situation a while back and yes every social situation is frightening, unless you are in one on those super confident moods. Let’s keep practicing though :)

Sam

Acting politely and appropriately instead of saying what’s on my mind or doing what I want in certain situations……Also being confident in what I say.

Karol

Thanks for sharing Sam, but the challenge is buried. What can you (or me or anybody reading) take action on? The challenge has to be specific. “Go do X on a sunny afternoon in the park.”

Gayle Thompson

I don’t shop a lot but years ago I could not go shopping without someone with me. Now I don’t want anyone with me – I want to get what I need and get out.

I learned to go to the movies alone because sometimes you want to see something and there isn’t anyone else around at the moment to do it – so I got over that one.

Don’t like to go into a group situation alone – I would rather have just one friend with me. Even if we are meeting at a restaurant or bar or whatever I want to know they are there or will be there in a few minutes. Most of my friends are very prompt – I really don’t keep relationships with people who are constantly late. I think having a cell phone has taken away a lot of that fear because now you can be in constant contact (where are you? give minutes away? okay, me too.)

I will talk to any stranger on the street – strangers don’t scare me in passing – especially if they have a dog – then I will talk to the dog.

Weird in writing this why a stranger in passing is less scary than a stranger at a party or group setting. Hmmmm……..

Karol

Thanks Gayle. I hear you on the group situation alone thing. That used to be very difficult for me until I started taking it as a challenge. Which brings me to … what specific challenge can you share with us?

Gayle Thompson

After I wrote this I thought about my last line – why am I okay chatting with people in passing? Why can I chat up anyone I come in contact with – movie ticket sellers/takers, cashiers, my post office clerks (and the list goes one) and not feel comfortable in the group solution with people I kinda know or that are friends of friends?

Last Saturday I went (alone) to a picnic of the family of my Godmother – a group of us grew up together (across the street for 20+ years) and now there are children and grandchildren. My sisters live in North Carolina so they were not there. I found myself attached to certain people who shared similar interests a bit and I had my dog and so did a few other people. But, the DIFFERENCE is – and I just realized this – when I am talking to other people in passing it is fine because TIME IS LIMITED and we are chatting about one particular thing. And then it is time to go. Chit chat and trying to figure out what to say is DIFFICULT for a length of time And, I just always feel I would rather be doing something else a few hours into it – like ho, hum, time to go now. Well, I guess I have to figure this out since I am moving across the country in a year and am going to have to make some new friends!!! Yes, I guess you are right about making it a challenge. It will be interesting to see how this turns out Karol.

Karol

Ahh yes … time constraints make any social situation easier to bear. Good observation.

Trần Văn Vũ

I enjoyed your point.
currend i challeng my family by us force i learn what thay like :)
Have fun

Karol

Thanks Tran. :)

Rachel

This question has been on my mind for years ever since I realized I have social anxiety. First it was walk in a crowded area where people could see me – that was a challenge. Now, years later, it’s treating everyone I meet in a day (especially cashiers) as real people and keeping my heart open. And to change the world, my biggest social challenge is to influence culture and build community – by leading, by being an example, by starting a new initiative and inspiring followers. To go into a dying culture and redirect it. To make that self-sustaining, in my neighborhood, my city, my country.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the
terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
–Kurt Vonnegut

Karol

Thanks for sharing Rachel. Now how can you turn some or all of that into a specific, actionable, challenge? Something like “Treat 2 cashiers like real people and have a normal conversation with them today.”

Markus

Spot the person you are least likely to ever talk to and go make a real connection with them. Find out what’s under the facade, especially if the facade is specifically designed to ward people off (like a tattooed pool player or emo guy with a swastika on his face in a Miami nightclub, for instance ;)

Karol

Oh man, that’s good. My inner monologue says “Ehh, I wouldn’t have anything in common with that person” often.

Jennifer

That one is awesome too because curiosity often trumps fear (at least for me).

Roy Naim

NOW this is a FUN topic.

When I was younger, I used to be an extremely shy kid. Blame it on the overweight issue. Blame it on my hearing issue. On my speech impairment. Whatever, fact is, I was shy and I used to tremble even to say “my name is Roy” because people heard all sorts of variation to my name from Ray, to Jay, to Lay, to anything but my real name.

Which only enforce the fear even more.

When I turned 13, at my Bar Mitzvah I had to give a speech. I was petrified. What will people think? Would they understand me? I know I talk funny…but OMG…I cannot do this.

Even worst, because of my deafness in one ear (mostly anyway, the left one), I was afraid that someone may correct me and I wouldn’t hear them (this fear actually when on for years and a funny yet scary story I do have to say about this)…

BUT guess what? Dad pushed me and I spoke. They laugh. The clapped. The sang. They cried. They UNDERSTOOD me. BIG TIME. Since then I was that 13 yrs old speaker who spoke to about 300 people bi-monthly. It gave me the encouragement in high school which allowed me to be the student body president and be that teen who had the solution or at least the listening ear.

I used to call pizza store to order food (I made the point to call), so I can work on speaking clearly and for the fun of it always said “Hey this is R-O-Y”, yep spelled it out for them before I even said my name. Made me laugh anyway.

I encouraged my friends to correct me on words, on speaking clearly (and this is into adulthood now) and they did. My confident grew. My loudness grew.

I can walk over to anyone now and shake their hands. I can speak to people as if I am their best friend from 10 years ago.

I have done silly things in public to push myself far. I dressed up in silly costumes to make people smile.

I purposely say things to see people’s reaction and patterns (that the NLP in me).

I have sang in public many times even with my…blooper worthy auditions.

I have cold called people just to get hung up on.

I have started protests (not riots) on matters that were important to me.

I have challenged leaders, those who have a bigger “name” than me.

I recently spoke out in public about how I am an illegal alien (came here when I was 4 and yet, I am not legal).

All these things came about with support of course. My working with kids with cancer and other chronic illnesses definitely helped me stretch myself as you start doing things sometime just to see them smile which is worth it.

I start doing things like this because I often feel it is my social responsibility to do them as people do look up to me to lead, so even if it makes me cringe, for the sake of the people, I push.

Does that many I am fearless? Hell no!!! Everyone of those things cause a sensation within me that freaks me out. But I do them and I get in the zone.

Only thing I have to do is run shirtless….BUT, until I finish losing my weight, for the sake of humanity..not happening too soon :)

Karol

Thanks for sharing Roy. :) Now, from all that, what social challenge would you share for someone else to make an attempt at?

Also, do you see what you did here? “Only thing I have to do is run shirtless….BUT, until I finish losing my weight, for the sake of humanity..not happening too soon” :) That is the specific type of social challenge I’m talking about. It’s not for the sake of humanity. It’s fear. Fear is where growth begins.

Roy Naim

You are totally right!

As I was typing at it, I let it go but was thinking, is it really humanity or is it fear?

Funny enough, about a year ago there’s an article in a running magazine/or perhaps it was on a forum, about running shirtless and how people begged in there saying..don’t do it if you don’t have the”guts” for it.

I agreed naturally as I was scared to take off my shirt in public, and even at the pool.

So perhaps that is a challenge for me.

And for others, hmmm, all depends who they are I guess.

Karol

Running shirtless in public is a great social challenge. It kinda scares me as well. :)

steve ward

I have challenged leaders, those who have a bigger “name” than me.
same here Roy

LAH

Here’s one I haven’t been able to resolve myself: When I see a homeless/mentally ill person on the street panhandling, I’ll give money, but I don’t engage. It is partially a safety issue (I’m a woman), but also a social discomfort and not knowing what else to do. What I’ve never been able to bring myself to do is to maybe take the time to have a conversation with them, find out what they truly want or need, and see if I can be of some practical assistance. There’s your challenge…

LAH

Karol

Thanks for sharing LAH. I’ve never given money, but I’ve attempted engaging and offering a meal. (Oddly enough, the meal offer is almost never accepted.) This is a solid challenge.

Luke

Amazingly enough, it’s the strangers on the street that I’m great with. When it comes to the new people in our lives we can be who we want to be because they don’t know us as anyone else. Older friends and family like to keep us in boxes and resist us changing. Action: Take at least one person in your family/friends (preferably the one that you don’t see eye to eye with, or that holds you back), and sit down with them to talk about your passion, who you are, what you stand for. If you’re overly ambitious talk to them about their passion, and encourage them to move forward with it. As I like to say, go ahead and be “that” guy or girl for a day, the one not afraid to encourage those around them. One person, one hour, at least once in the next week.
-Money where my mouth is, tonight giving a presentation to 6 family and friends on marketing, what it is, how to use it, and why I believe they can be remarkable. I’ve delivered this to many strangers including a room full of 55 uninterested high school students…yet I’m more nervous now.

Karol

Thanks for sharing this Luke. I’ve actually done this and pushed family/friends often.

As for people who hold me back? They aren’t in my life: http://www.ridiculouslyextraordinary.com/avoid-the-unhappy-and-unlucky/

Carrie

Well once you wrote “think about what scares you” I got hooked. That’s easy and my list is pretty huge but here are ones that just fly off the fingertips. Oh, and since I am recently divorced they are very much related to my reality TODAY and maybe next month they’ll all be different. Plus I’m a woman and we like to change our minds allot. Since coping is the greatest form of flattery I will just copy your format and go with that, here goes:

Going to any event alone and sitting by myself (Awwwwwkward, yet my married friends are all busy and I have no single ones yet)
Making and keeping eye contact with a stranger to try to initiate a conversation (and not appear hard up, easy or just plain creepy)
Uh, honestly, getting undressed with someone for the first time, enough said – Ugh! (you said fears…)
Singing Karaoke (I love the people who have the confidence to do this)
Changing my career and doing something more rewarding/fulfilling (when the regular paycheck is so necessary and comforting)
Writing a blog when I feel I have so much to say (but not schooled in writing and if no one read it would I be disappointed?)
Worrying I will die without passion having been in my life (hitting restart is horribly hard)
Swimming in salt water with all the underwater creatures

I could go on and on but I think I’ll leave everyone else some room. Plus like I said I know I’m pretty one dimensional right now in life. Next week another new list!

“Carrie”

Karol

Thanks Carrie. You’ve got some good ones. Karaoke is actually one of my favorite social challenges. It took me a long time to get over my fear of karaoke, but now I do it every chance I get. I push others to experience the thrill of singing badly in public often. :)

As for not being schooled in writing? I don’t know a preposition from a transition from a pronoun. OK, that’s partly a lie. The point is, I wasn’t school either and English was actually my most difficult subject in school. This should help: “Nobody gives two rats fucking in a filth-caked gym-sock whether or not you have a degree.” – Chuck Wendig in “250 Things You Should Know About Writing” For more Chuck check out http://www.terribleminds.com

Jeanne

Fear of embarassment has kept me from doing countless social challenges. For years, my desire to do/try/be something new and different was accompanied by, an early 90s Adam Sandler yelling, “They’re all gonna laugh at you.” Luckily, as I get older, I worry less and less about being laughed at, but the concern is still there. I sometimes I feel like I should just stand in room and let 100 people point and laugh at me, so I get over the fear.

Karol

Haha! to this –> “I sometimes I feel like I should just stand in room and let 100 people point and laugh at me, so I get over the fear.”

What’s the process for making something like that happen? Flyering the streets? “Wanted: 100 People To Point & Laugh At A Fellow Human!” :)

Isaac Dudek

Challenge: tell someone you just met/hardly know an intimate secret, possibly something that nobody knows but you. Bonus points if you’re able to do this without making the conversation go totally awkward (how fast can you build sufficient rapport?).

Karol

Wow! Love it. Thanks Isaac.

Olivia

-Travel alone
-For one day wear an outfit that is not your style at all
-Take somebody dancing
-Show somebody you don’t know that well a poem or short story you wrote
I am usually embarrassed to show the world the things that I am good at. For example I can dance tango but I find it hard to tell a guy I like that I can dance it… Also I write a lot, but have not shown many people for fear that they will not like it.
I like Isaac’s challenge :)

Karol

“Show somebody you don’t know that well a poem or short story you wrote” – I like this. Even scarier, for me, is showing somebody I know.

Thanks for sharing Olivia!

Natalie

I always thought that going somewhere (mostly cinema, concert or any cultural event) alone should be a social challenge for me, but since I’ve tried, it turned out to be such a pleasure.

Now the biggest social challenge I’ve got is speaking/writing english/german in public. Because of the great gap between my ability to understand and my active skills, it always feels like there is a normal intelligent person inside of me, who have no control over my mouth/hands/brain and can only look and listen helplessly to all this rubbish I produce.
Answering to your question is a challenge.
Small-talk with a native speaker is a challenge.
But worse of all is to talk about some serious complicated ideas with a real person who is important for me.

Karol

Thanks for sharing Natalie. Speaking in public is a top fear for many people. Like most things, it takes practice and your challenge can be very small. Toastermasters International is a good organization to get started in a small and supportive environment.

Susan

Okay, Karol, since you asked, no, begged: my biggest social challenge is keeping a conversation going, especially when I am with just one person. At social events I find myself gravitating to groups so I can just stand and listen instead of coming up with something to say that will fit into the conversation. I guess the action here is: Go out for coffee with one friend at a time once a week to practice keeping a conversation going. And, at the next social function (there will be lots of these in the near future as school is starting), go up to someone who is by themselves and start a conversation (I’d want someone to do that for me!) Yikes, scary!

Karol

Going up to someone who is by themselves in a social atmosphere is a great challenge. More people need to do that! Thanks Susan.

Jamie Sutcliffe

Hi Karol. I hope this helps.

Little kids have a lot to teach us about social challenges. They’re often fearless with people, whether they know them or not. Here’s how you can act like a child.

Don’t step on the cracks before lunch. Walk along the top of walls (maybe only the short ones) until dinner. Sing your earworms all day long. Ask strangers the questions no-one wants to ask them but everyone wants answered. Let your boredom show.

Watch the children in your life for more ideas. They really don’t care much what you think about what they do until they’re told, taught or learn to care, for good or ill. It’s a good way to discover what is authentically you and what is just social conformity.

What is my Greatest Personal Social Challenge? Perhaps it’s posting my thoughts publicly on the web in my own name. Like this. Right here.

Thanks for the challenge and the opportunity!

Karol

I love this: “Walk along the top of walls.” Besides the literal act being a bit of a child-like social challenge, it’s a great metaphor for living on the fringe. :)

Thanks for posting your thoughts in public with your real name Jamie!

Candice

I relocated to Atlanta almost 2 years ago, and while my fiance knows lots of people here, I only know his friends. They’re awesome, and I love hanging out with them, but I’d also like a group of people to call my own :-)

I’m lucky enough to work from home and homeschool, so meeting people during the workday isn’t likely to happen. I’ve threatened to go to a raw food meetup for some time, but I’m SHY and the idea of walking in there alone is daunting, to say the least.

My social challenge is to go to the next local meetup and actively engage in conversation with at least 1 person. Maybe I won’t meet my new BFF, but it’s a start.

Karol

I like it Candice. It’s definitely important to have our own friend(s) separate from our intimate relationships. And going to a raw food meetup will probably be very comfortable once you get there. Barring every other differences you might have, you all have something very unique in common.

Maggie

I always like the guy in the green body suit at sporting events. Marathons, hockey games, etc. He makes everybody laugh and is fun but that outfit is pretty revealing and you’d have to be ok with lots of attention and using lots of funny gestures and stuff. So it would be a fun challenge to wear a green body suit somewhere and do funny things and engage with people.
If you don’t know what I mean, it’s this:
http://www.hellogreenman.com/

Another social challenge for me has always been promoting veganism. It would be really scary for me to sit at an information table or hand out flyers or samples of vegan brownies or something and try to talk to people about being vegan. I would be scared they would judge me or argue with me. But I think veganism is important so I would probably be willing to do something activist like that for the cause. Sit at a vegan information table in a busy spot in town….that’s a social challenge.

Karol

Wow! I wasn’t aware It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s greenman has become so rampant in society! :)

Actively promoting veganism in public is a great social challenge. Let us know how it goes. ;)

Gaelle

Ah, the kind of things I love :) I have a few in mind, but then I went through some already.

- To go into a mosque and sit down for a chat, either with the imam or with some people who just came for prayers / socializing. It’s incredible the lack of knowledge we have about Muslims, and still their warmth is amazing as well.

- Ask a homeless if I can pay him lunch or dinner and sat down with him and chat about life.

- Tell someone in the street that I find him attractive. I’ve started telling women when I think they are beautiful, because I feel safe. But going to the other sex involves a different context.

- When I have to eat alone for lunch, spot another lone eater & ask if we can share a table & talk instead of being alone in our corners.

Just my 2 cents :)

Karol

Thanks Gaelle. Lots of great ideas here. I especially like this: “When I have to eat alone for lunch, spot another lone eater & ask if we can share a table & talk instead of being alone in our corners.”

Andreea

A challenge has been for me always to be myself, express myself without feeling judged. This has been expressing itself in so many situations, from personal interactions, to choosing what to do in life. I think that this desire to be myself and free of being myself created the situation for me to move clear on the other side of the planet away from my home and family. These days it is manifesting in almost a fear of speaking in public.

So the challenge would be for me to stand in front of 50+ people, and present a workshop. Just saying that sounds exciting, but scary at the same time.

Great question Karol :)

Karol

That’s great Andreea. You can easily get started presenting by joining Toastmasters International. They have local chapters almost everywhere. Not sure you’ll get 50+ people right away, but it’s a great start.

Anel

Hi Karol,

I’m on day 18 of a vow of silence – which isn’t that odd, except that most people do it in privacy; they go on a retreat or somewhere private to do it. I have done mine “semi-retreated”. I live in a small town, but I have had to take my car in to be fixed, I’ve gotten a new internet line installed and been to visit various of my friends during the last eighteen days. What has been really interesting about this way of doing it, is watching how different people deal with this “uncomfortabe” and new behaviour pattern. Some people simply carry on like nothing is different, some get angry or pissed off. Some think it’s stupid, some laugh. I’m sure the whole town is talking about me by now! All n all, it’s been an interesting social experiment, more than anything else. I hope that helps! Anel

Karol

This is fascinating Anel!

And it gives me an idea for a social challenge of my own: “Get a girl’s number without speaking.” I can’t even fathom what that looks like right now.

steve ward

i’ve got a women attention (im talking about Really focused attention) without saying much just using body language. Hmm i could see her giving me her phone number that way

Farnoosh

Hmmm. So many things, Karol. I am not shy or anything but I would not do a million things in public. I guess drawing attention to myself on purpose for any ridiculous reason would be a “social challenge” :))
Let me see ….there is something I really want to do but I never would. Going up to people with annoying children and tell them just how much their children’s awful behavior in a restaurant or an airplane disrupts others and if they even are aware of it and if they care and why they should not be so oblivious to their children’s behavior in a public place. :)

Gaelle

Oh my god, YES! That would be an awesome (and probably frown upon – by the parents) one :)

Karol

hehe …

I think if you approached it differently (less blame/vitriol) it’s quite possible to make this happen without much or any social awkwardness. :)

Gayle Thompson

I agree with Karol. Some people are jerks and don’t care but the majority of parents with children who are acting out are stressed, exhausted and at their wits end. If you go in with a little compassion – acknowledge that they are (must be) having a difficult day – see if you can help (some people are really good at this) ……. sometimes you can make someone’s day. Just my thought.

Shanna Mann

I’m a pretty confident and outgoing person. But, I have a tendency to overdress because I *love* clothing as costume. Not hugely overdress, but just by wearing a cute pencil skirt and a blouse, I immediately outshine every single person in … well, pants. Not that they’re not all dressing nicely. But I stand out. And it’s too late to change.

So my biggest challenge is *working it* when I’m dressed to the nines, because the ONLY thing worse that being one level dressier than everyone else, is being ashamed of it. You have to really flaunt it, and be casual about it at the same time– it has to really be *you*. Own your look, is what I’m saying. Even when I wish that I lived somewhere that Thursday night dining entailed a silk blouse and lipstick.

Karol

That is very interesting Shanna. I can’t relate because I’m never the best dressed. I usually shoot for worst dressed. ;) (Maybe my challenge should be to shoot for best dressed!)

How do you turn this into an actionable, quantifiable, challenge?

Shanna Mann

Well, if you have to manufacture the opportunity to be the ‘best dressed’, I suppose that’s a challenge in itself.

But at the least, the challenge would be to dress in such a way as to catch the eye, and then hold yourself with power and poise. If that’s too easy then the challenge becomes to be confident and poised but also *approachable* :) Far too easy to be haughty and ‘too cool for school’ otherwise.

Karol

Yes, manufacturing the opportunity would be a big challenge on many levels. I’d need go clothes shopping. On my list of favorite activities, breaking a toe is higher on the list than that. Which maybe means I should do it? :)

Rosa

I used to be terrified of talking to people, for so many reasons.
I started waiting tables just to force myself to talk to strangers, it was so terrifying I could not even eat before work and I would shake with fear on my way to the restaurant. Then I would rehearse what I was going to say before walking up to the table!
But in the end I think I earned more than tips, I earned the ability to go up and talk to people. Heck I even asked a certain blogger to marry me!

I find it challenging to go up and talk to or even maintain conversation with people whom I feel are out of my league.
Also being able to carry on the conversation in a group, usually I just add to it.
Love these types of articles :)

Karol

Wow, that’s great Rosa. Getting a job waiting tables to get over your fear of talking to people = getting paid to expand your comfort zone!

“I find it challenging to go up and talk to or even maintain conversation with people whom I feel are out of my league.” I think everyone can relate. What has helped me is to remind myself that we’re all just human. We all have basic needs. We all feel love, eat food, get angry, mess up, and feel self conscious (at least sometimes). It’s not fool proof, but it helps.

Rosa

“We’re all just human” Thanks Karol, I will keep that in mind.

Young,
it sucks but the alternative of not talking to people and staying isolated sucks even more :(

Young

Wow, that’s exactly my situation as well, Rosa.

Jakub

Once when I was in Polish scouts (“harcerstwo”) there was that challenge to gather 100 photos of ourselves with different girls (but you know – not any type of photos, hugging one) in less than 24 hours.

Or hitchhike while pretending to be speechless.

Or you are standing at the front of a giant building (with apartments/flats, not some company) and friend says “Okay, You have 5 minutes to wave me back from that window… 7th floor, 3rd from right. Go!”

Or borrow a car from unknown to you person for a whole day without any ID number giving and such stuff – anonymously – just set a place where to leave it after 24 hours. With all the keys and documents needed. My friend actually did it. Not as a social challenge though, he just really wanted to drive some kind of a car and saw it in one city. Yes, THERE ARE such awesome people with cars.

We usually had a lot of “in less than 24 hours (kinda social) challenges” – like get a free flight, drive a fire truck for free, jump with a parachute for free etc. All of those involved a lot of talk (and sometimes social engineering) with various people.

And usually we did them. It was a matter of honor after all ;)

Karol

Harcerstwo! I was in that for a brief period of time. There’s a camp in the thumb of Michigan called Bialowieza (obviously after the forest in Poland) where we used to go regularly when I was younger … for harcerstwo and just to go.

These challenges are awesome. Thank you Jakub.

Michele

As a photographer, I always carry my camera around and frequently see interesting people that I would like to photograph. I sometimes do it surreptitiously, but it would be so much better if I could go up to a stranger and ask them if it was ok to take their picture. So far, my introverted tendencies have prevented me from taking advantage of many opportunities but I know it is something I need to work on!

Karol

Michele, I always wondered what photographers did as far as this goes! Is it standard practice to shoot and not ask for permission? Or is there no such thing as standard practice? I’m obviously not a photographer.

P.S. Just read a few articles on your site and am really enjoying it. Subscribed!

Michele

Street photographers often don’t ask permission, but it limits how you can use the shot (without getting sued!). To sell the photograph for stock (like I am trying to do) you need a to have them sign a model release or sell it as editorial instead of commercial. Thanks for checking out my site!

MJ

Mindfully listen – that means open posture, eye contact, lean forward, relax, no extensive talking back, 100% focused on the other person. No answering cell phone, thinking of to do lists, or wondering about what to make for dinner. This one thing will change all your relationships and life. Wanna know how to get a person interested…this is the secret. Try this for one week – let me know what happens. Try it with your kids, your spouse, your partner, your friends, your enemies, strangers, coworkers, everyone.

In general, talk less. If you are doing above…the other person should be talking at least twice as much as you are.

We cant control how we are treated but we can control how we react to it. When I am being treated poorly in my job (high public contact) or in public customer service types of situations – I use the million $ dollar beaming smile – it is amazing, when you bathe a crabby person in light and smiles – it changes them and their reaction. Often (but not always)- the attitude melts right in front of you and if that doesnt happen it at least confuses them! Observe what happens. Do this every time you go in a business or store.

Stop talking about the past. Its the lowest form of communication. Make connections today that matter. past stories, past connections, past experiences- honesly, its boring to listen to. If someone tells you a story – let them have the moment, dont respond with one upping with your own story. Keep your communication in the present.

Normally, I am a lurker on this site – but this engaged me. The reason there is so much contention in the world is because we are contentious – we can change that one person at a time. Lets do it!

Karol

Thanks MJ. We could all probably learn to talk less and listen better. :)

I’m confused about how to keep communication in the present without referencing the past. Conversations are discussions about our experiences, no? If we are just experiencing something there’s not much to talk about. There are only so many ways to say “Whoa, this chocolate is tasty.” I fully agree the “one upping” story is lame, but am I missing something?

MJ

No, you’re not missing anything…I was very unclear with what I was saying. Conversations about our experiences I look at as story telling. Sharing information, history, culture, feelings – all great. What I was referring to about talking about the past – is when the past shared experience is the only experience with who you are talking with. The most extreme example of this would be high school reunions! When people get together and all they talk about are remember this and remember that….I say have new shared experiences in the present.

Karol

Ahh, understood. Thanks for clarifying MJ.

Dea

Man, you were super dramatic when you said that if I dont answer I would be killing a piece of you hehehe but I guess it did work ;)

I might have had problems being social when I was a kid, but since I was 15, I am dealing super great with any challenger.

Meet up with strangers is easy
Talk about myself is easy
Hug strangers is easy
Deal with different cultures is easy

I found out that while traveling it was even easier. People dont know me and they wont see me in the next day. So being silly in front of people would be fine. So I feel that I could say and do many things, except being totally naked. But even dressed up with something sexy and walk around in public, I have done it.

The truth is that, all this scares me a lot, but it has never stopped me from doing it. Accept who I am and learn how not to judge people from who they are, helped me a lot. And for me it was like that, one day I woke up and decided to give a first step dealing with my fears. I was 15 and went study theater. I have never been the same…

Karol

haha, it did work, didn’t it. :)

That’s awesome that you’ve been able to acknowledge stuff that scares you and still take action. It’s something I try to work on and it’s the main point of getting ideas for social challenges.

Vance Woodward

My biggest social challenge is being myself in group situations. The problem is that, IN a group of people, I listen, don’t talk. I feel embarrassed about my views. I feel like the other people would ridicule my views. I feel like nothing I say would really affect anybody. I feel these things even though I know they’re not really true. So, my social challenge is talking about my beliefs, and being myself, in face-to-face situations. I’d like a little balance.

Incidentally, I can write about my views just fine. In my blog, I write about my beliefs, the technological singularity, philosophy, embarrassing anecdotes from my life, and I think that my content is unique and highly valuable. I even like talking in front of people, so it’s not a stage-fright thing. But there’s something about exchanging views face to face that makes me clam up and listen.

Karol

I don’t think there’s a problem with listening and not talking. And keeping your opinions to yourself isn’t a bad thing either. Depending on the situation it can turn into a useless “I’m right, you’re wrong” conversation. Those never go anywhere and accomplish nothing positive for any side involved.

At the same time, if somebody is infringing on your beliefs sometimes you do need to take a stand.

Renee

This may sound terrible but here goes.

My biggest social challenge is telling my friends with kids that I. REALLY. DON’T. WANT. TO. HEAR. ABOUT. THEIR. KIDS. At all. Those of us without kids find it uber mega tedious to have to devote any attention to the little spawn that they find so precious. To me, not so much. There are millions of them. Not so special.

There, I said it! :-)

Karol

Oddly enough I feel the same way, but there are caveats.

I don’t want kids and I think it’s kind of selfish to have a lot of kids. Just like it’s selfish (among other things) to *buy* an animal instead of adopting one of the millions of available adoptable animals.

I also get incredibly frustrated with lots of kids around. Like when I was at Disneyland a few months ago and it was just crying mayhem.

That said! I love kids and I usually get along with them well. Last week I was playing with my friend Baker’s 3 year old in the middle of downtown Asheville. Jumping around. Spinning. Running. Whatever. It was fun and I’d miss having those experiences with my friends’/family’s kids if they didn’t have them. It’s a weird dichotomy and I’m not sure how to reconcile it.

Renee

I agree. It’s not the kids per se…..it’s the parents. And only certain ones. (I’m sure Adam doesn’t fall into that category.)

And as I said in my earlier email, I’m glad you enjoyed my fair city! :-)

Rosa

I hear you Karol, I love kids, I am just not sure I want any of my own. I cannot seem to find enough good reasons to have them.

steve ward

Jennifer, said it best that even leaving a comment is scary for her same way with me. Im a introvert in most cases, add emotions, fear’s etc and it can become a mess really fast

action step one: MAKE it a game, this works good if you want to flirt with a woman or a man. I will say something like “Oh hello XXX i’ve never had a banana split or maybe Chocolate can i have a taste?” (referring to there skin color) i usually simile cocky at her.

this can work on most stuff btw, Another thing i have had problems with is talking with people most of the times saying hello is hard to do.

Action step two: DO at lest one thing that scares you a day, so what does that mean well I call,contact,email,etc at lest one person, group, place a week.

for instance: im looking at Argentina as maybe a place to have a second home so im looking up people to talk with about that

i really need to work on my sentence structure =P i will leave you with some mark twain quotes

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.
Mark Twain

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
Mark Twain

Karol

Steve, making it a game is a technique I have definitely used in the past. In other words, playing a character. Thank you for sharing!

Paz N.

One of the greatest social challenges I did was mostly for necessity. The same day after having surgery at the dentist (not a wisdom tooth, it’s a bit complex to explain) I had to do a lot of things like going to the drugstore, buy icecream, take a taxi, etc. but I couldn’t talk properly and it hurt when I did it, so I resorted to write notes to communicate with others.

It felt really strange and embarrassing each time I was in front of a person and instead of telling them what I needed, I handed them a piece of paper with the reason on why I’m doing this and some precise instructions to follow written on it (I was thankful I didn’t have to go to the bank, who knows what would have happened there).

It was an interesting experience though, because the variety of reactions I received from people when I did this. Some were speechless, others just looked at me without knowing exactly what to do, some were really kind, others to avoid trouble called another person to attend me and so on and on.
I tried drawing happy faces on some notes and sometimes they smiled too.

Karol

I am convinced. I’m definitely adding “don’t speak for X amount of time or X activity” to my list. I think “Withdrawal a large amount of money from the bank without speaking” is a must on the list. :) Note: “Need $10,000 right now.” haha!

Paz N.

Oh nice, wish you patience and imagination!!

Jessica

Sing a song in the middle of a crowded sidewalk (you can keep moving). This one has been on my list for awhile.

Best experience I had in college: we were studying the philosophical concept of deep ecology. It was a small class, and a visiting professor read out prompts while we walked slowly around each other until she said stop! And then we had to stand and face the person nearest us, with our eyes closed for ten seconds, then we were to open them and stare directly into the other person’s eyes for 60 seconds. These were near-strangers. It was by far the most intimate, soul-baring experience I’ve ever had in public. It took me waaaay out of my comfort zone and made me fully realize that everyone is a *person* with their own pain and joy and stories to tell.

Don’t know how to make this one actionable. :-)

Karol

I like it. :) Can it be any song or should it be something specific, like Britney Spears? :)

I’m not sure how to make the eye gazing actionable, but I like that one as well.

Gayle Thompson

Since I answered early on I have been notified when there are new answers and have read all of them. One thing I have learned by reading all of these replies is to take your fears and social challenges and make it a game. Also, not take it so seriously – there tends to be a theme here – and a good one! I think you are right – if you can make it a challenge and a game and be kind to yourself in the process (in other words it doesn’t have to be a win/loss situation) you can move ahead and face your fears. And, fear is honestly one of the main things that holds us all back.

Karol

This right here –> “it doesn’t have to be a win/loss situation”

That’s a great way to look at it. We might mess up and fall flat on our faces, but nobody is keeping score. On the other hand, and more likely, we’ll probably learn a lot and whatever the challenge we’ll likely feel it wasn’t so challenging after all.

Lesley

Tell people what you’re grateful for the moment it happens. Even if you don’t know them or like them.

Karol

Interesting, considering the article I’m posting on Tuesday called “Grateful.” :)

I like this idea.

Lesley

I’m going to pretend that you wrote that simply bc of my suggestion here. Ha. Thanks – I am grateful for your blog and that people like you not only exist, but succeed.

Karol

Well thank you Lesley.

Pranesh A.

To practise difficult yoga postures in a park on a Saturday evening…

On a serious note, to teach one illiterate person how to read and write would be my social challenge.

Karol

Hi Pranesh, actually “yoga postures in a park” is a social challenge and teaching an illiterate person how to read isn’t. :) Although commendable and challenging, it’s not social.

paurullan

I do not know if this comes into your definition of social but every week get to know and have a coffee with someone you admire. Ask her about her projects, how she got where she is and what would have done differently from the past five or ten years.

Karol

I don’t think that qualifies as a “social challenge” but it’s definitely beneficial. :)

Jeremy

This is fun, good stuff Karol!

As I thought about answers for this, I remembered doing an experiment last year and immediately grabbed last years notebook to look at my notes:

“OUT OF THE ORDINARY ACTIONS OF THE WEEK”
- 9/1/10 – start using the locker room with “military showers” instead of private ones at work (not as akward as I was expecting)
- 9/9/10 – wear red pants to work (got lots of comments and funny looks)
- 9/14/10 – take a random day off, delivered flowers to my wife at work by surprise, spent the day at the library and park in reflection.”

that was a great few weeks pushing my limits, the experiment came to an end when our first child was born later that month. I think I was motivated to do this primarily by Tim Ferris, but I’d be surprised if some of the motivation didn’t come from you as well somehow, Karol.

Some ones I’d add today include:
- a day of silence, no talking for a whole day (really trying to be more focused on being reflective these days, still trying to “ship” but also making sure I have time to stay centered in an era where everyone is preaching GTD and SHIP!)
- Making it more of a habit to always bargin for prices when applicable. (cars, garage sales, professional services)

as a side note, i’m a bit of an introvert, so doing things that are not necessarily “social challenges” are still challenges for me, for example walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation. I will do this occasionally, but wold like to continue the practice of getting better at it.

Karol

Hey Jeremy! Now that I actually think about it, 4 Hour Work Week had some social challenges in it, didn’t it?

The red pants thing is funny. In high school I was a metal head. Instead of dressing like a total metal head I wore khakis or black slacks along with my metal shirts. For some reason I thought it was a huge deal at the time. :)

The X amount of silence keeps popping up. I’m going to do some kind of variation of it as well.

Chris

Hey Karol!
Here is a challenge: Keep an unusual conversation going as long as you can! Someone calls you up with a wrong number, strike up a conversation. Homeless man has a book recommendation, talk about it (actually happened to me!). Some one mistakes you for a friend, become their friend. Any conversation that start where it would socially acceptable (or even expected) to back out of it, don’t!

On a more personal note I have a very hard time talking to people about my problems or when I am having a hard time. Even with people I care about and that I know care about me I will do near about anything not to tell them if I am upset or why. A challenge for me would to me to talk to someone when I am upset rather than cutting people out of that part of my life.

Dea

Excellent Idea Chris!!

Karol

Hey Chris, that’s a good challenge. To make it actionable/tangible/quantifiable: get into an unusual conversation with somebody and stay at it for X amount of time. This way it’s on you to get into the unusual conversation instead of putting it to randomness.

Chris

Haha indeed! All of those could be switched around that I way. Call random numbers, purposefully mistake someone as a friend, be homeless but defy expectations, and have fun with it!

Karol

I like it. :)

poch

Don’t laugh now but spending is my challenge presently although I don’t really need to buy anything. It’s just that you feel unsecured. Lack of cash is actionable and yet your options are always limited and almost not favorable.

Karol

Challenging, but not a social challenge.

Q

- Go out for a run in high heels. (Bonus points if they are red hooker heels. And you are flailing your arms uncontrollably as you run.)

- Quack at figures of authority.

- Wear a short dress on a windy day with no underwear, then have a good laugh after you inadvertently flash people as you walk down the street.

- Climb as high as you can – trees are good if you’re outdoors, but if you’re inside try counter-tops or the refrigerator. If anybody asks, say you like the view.

- Hide under tables or inside dryers (if you can fit – I can!). Why? “It’s cozy in here.”

- Walk up to strangers and tell this classic joke: “Knock knock!” (Whose there?) “YOUR FACE!” Then laugh manically as you run away.

- Drive 5 miles an hour through classy residential neighborhoods with your windows down, blasting gangster rap.

Karol

Thanks Q. Some hilarious suggestions. :)

Ben

Social Challenges eh?! Considering I’ve only recently dropped enough weight to leave the ‘Obese’ category and am not the most well endowed gent in the club, the thought of Skinny dipping terrifies me. My physicality is one of my biggest insecurities, so something like this hits right to the core.

My social challenge would be to head out to a pool/lake/ocean and go skinny dipping with friends who haven’t seen you naked!

Just writing that freaks me out :P

Karol

Do it Ben! :)

Dawn

One of my biggest fears is having to give a speech in front of a crowd – even a small gathering. I’ve never been comfortable giving presentations in front of a class even though I pursued a teaching career. Weird, huh!! I’m in awe of people that stand up and speak at funerals or, even harder, sing at a loved one’s funeral. That seems like way too much pressure for me yet people do it and think nothing of it. Personally, any kind of public speaking would be a huge social challenge for me.

Karol

Good challenge. Actionable step: join Toastmasters International. Local chapters are almost everywhere.

Claire

I default to not making eye contact with strangers. I’m not shy and scared of talking with them, I just don’t like that awkward moment of acknowledging each other and wondering if something should be said or done. So I’ve learned to not make eye contact, and if I do accidentally, to drop it immediately so there is no ‘moment’.

So making intentional and lasting eye contact with strangers would be a big challenge for me.

I mean, what if a guy would have asked me out but assumed I never even noticed him?! What a waste! :)

Karol

It’s not just you Claire. Earlier this year I read a book called The Power of Eye Contact and it talks a lot about this. We’ve all become afraid of making eye contact with other people.

So yes, this is a great challenge. To make it specific: Make eye contact with X people today.

Claire

And now that I’ve read your ‘Living on Impulse’ post… Another of my defaults is when people ask me to do something randomly I say no. It would indeed challenge me to say yes every time I can instead!

Karol

This is a great idea as long as the people you’re saying yes to don’t know you’ll say yes. I did a “say yes” experiment last year that didn’t turn out well: http://www.ridiculouslyextraordinary.com/radical-inclusion-say-yes/

Claire

Yeah it would need to be something only I knew. One problem I’ve noticed though is that if you always say no people stop asking, so I’m going to have to ramp it up myself I think!

Hmmm, you’ve got me thinking now……..

Karol

Claire, I know exactly the position you’re in. I used to say “no” to everything until people stopped asking. It’ll take some time and pointed effort on your part, but it can be rectified.

Chris

Here is another one. Try joining the Free Hug Campaign! Grab a sing that reads “Free Hugs” and give x (or as many people as possible) a hug.

Planning on meeting up with some people tomorrow to do this at the Farmers Market, I must say I am surprisingly nervous (does not help that I have no idea if anyone else will be showing up). So if I am on my own I guess it shall be a good challenge for me!

Karol

Free Hugs is awesome. Have fun!

Pamir

I love pushing my self in social situations.
One time i went into Arby’s and asked for a big mac and didn’t say i was kidding untill i asked about 4 times. I got some good laughs.

I had never seen a car go thru wendy’s drive thru in reverse, so while my friends were in the car, i took initiative and ordered + payed in reverse.
The wendy’s people didnt find it too funny for some reason but everyone in the car was cracking up.

Karol

Haha! Pamir, you are my hero of the day. :) Thanks for sharing.

John Smith

Sit through a popular movie in a theatre with your eyes closed the entire time, Not asleep. When I did this, I recieved a good bit of flack from some of my friends with me about why I would pay $10 for a ticket and then not even watch the movie. This Challenge wasn’t as much about what people would think of me, but to allow me to understand what it would be like to “be blind” in an everyday situation. I still had a good time, I had to use my imagination a bit more. It was essentially like a really good audio book or radio story. I now have more appreciation and respect for someone who is blind. By the way, it is really hard to keep your eyes closed the entire time.

Challenge: Go to a theatre to “watch” a popular movie with your eyes closed – as if you are blind. Explain what you are doing to any of your friends or strangers that may ask. Then Reflect upon the experience.

Karol

Thanks John. Nice idea, although nobody in the theatre would notice I had my eyes closed so it would be more of an internal experiment than an external social experiment.

You might like this: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/600219258/blindside-the-audio-adventure-video-game It’s a video game called Blindside; no graphics. 10 days left to fund it. I did as soon as I heard about it a couple weeks ago. :)

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