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If you consistently avoid a particular type of social interaction—perhaps professional situations in which you fear being criticized, friendships that invite disclosure of personal secrets, or any discussion that might lead to argument—it might help to do a little resistance training of your own.
Step One: Creating Your Index of Dread
Since your sociability profile is unique, your first step toward superior social fitness is research. To create an effective program, you must identify areas in which your interest is high but your confidence is low. Most of us aren't aware of the difference between inborn aversion and the fear that comes from injury or inexperience. To learn where this distinction lies in your personality, you must become both a scientific observer and the subject of your own observation.
Begin by establishing a log you can dedicate to the task of understanding your social self. If you already have some sort of calendar or planner where you list everything you have to do, use that. Otherwise, spend a couple of bucks on a spiral notebook. Take a few minutes every evening to jot down a list of things you plan to do the following day, and with whom. It usually works best to go through the day chronologically.
Now read through your list and imagine doing each activity you've planned. Picture one event at a time, as vividly as possible. While holding each image in your mind, notice whether you find yourself pleasantly anticipating the activity or resisting it. Try standing up while you do this. You'll probably find that your body leans slightly forward when you think about an event that you expect to love but tilts backward when the activity repels you.
Give each item on your to-do list a score representing your level of resistance to that activity. Let's call it the Index of Dread, or IOD. An IOD score of zero means you aren't worried at all. A score of 10, on the other hand, means you'd rather eat tacks than do the thing you're picturing. Be utterly honest as you write down your scores, and don't criticize yourself. Would Jane condemn a chimp for wanting to skip a group hooting event? Be a scientist: Just record the facts as accurately as possible.