How To Avoid People

April 6, 2016
So, Rachael and I live on a campus where more than a hundred foreign teachers work. Like us, a large percentage of these teachers live on campus. The chance of running into someone we know on our way out to do anything is very high. I can be social when I want to be, but there are some moments in which I just don't want to talk to anyone. In typical introvert fashion, I'd much rather have a real conversation with someone than to try to force small talk with people I barely know. I started to feel bad about my anti-social tendencies and asked Rachael and my close friend Scott if they ever felt how I did because they are both extroverts to the max. The two of them are truly two of the most outgoing people I've ever met. To my surprise, Rachael told me that she has avoided people a few times, and Scott told me that he wants to be better at avoiding people because he often gets sucked into conversations he doesn't want to have. We are not terrible people, but sometimes it just gets to be too much, and I'm sure many people here feel the same.

I told Scott that one of my great talents in life is avoiding people and that it's a true art form to be mastered. Last week I started training him, and he passed his first mission which was to walk from the main gate of our campus all the way back to our apartments without stopping to talk to anyone. I almost fell in a hole trying to stay off the main path back to our place, but it was worth it so Scott could pass his first test, ha ha ha.

At any rate, here are my best tips! This is not to be taken 100% seriously, but I'm guessing you've gathered that by now. However, I'm not going to lie; I have done most of these!

1) Duck into a store/hiding spot when you see people you don't want to talk to coming your way. Lauren and I did it when we saw two people from school on a Sunday night. It's not that we didn't like those people--we actually did!! It was more that we were feeling sick, had no makeup on, and we just wanted to get our errands done, so we didn't want to chit chat. Here's how it went down...Lauren: "They're coming!! Shall we go into that fruit store?" Me: "I thought you'd never ask!" 

2) Keep your pace when passing someone if you're already in view. You can be polite with a smile and a wave, but if you slow down, that signals you want to stop and talk, so keep on going at your normal speed.

3) Get a bike. I don't have a bike yet, and didn't think I wanted one, but I feel like if I had one I could just keep pedaling and pass up people left and right. Hmmm...A bike is sounding better and better!

4) Take the path less traveled. Scott showed me a shortcut to get to our apartments, but I think we like it for different reasons. Scott's reason would be because it's shorter, and if you're this far into my post, I think you can guess what my reason would be. Since it's not paved, people on bikes do not go that way, so there's less of a chance of running into someone. It's also rather dark at night, hence why I tripped and almost fell into a small hole. 

5) Shush your loud friends or lower your voice if you're being loud. Me: "Scott, you are ruining your first lesson being that loud. You will draw people in with your laughter!" 

6) Cross the street or take an alternate route. No one is going to want to cross our busy street just to talk to me, so this one has worked!! Escape while you can! This is not to be confused with #4, take the path less traveled, although you might end up on such a path when going another way. "Cross the street or take an alternate route" is for when you are already spotted, but "Take the path less traveled" means you go a way you know others don't go on as often in order to avoid being seen in the first place. 

7) Do not make eye contact. Scott will say he doesn't want to talk to someone, and then look right at them, which acknowledging that he saw them! If you don't want to talk to people, pretend they're like a solar eclipse and don't stare directly at them. 

8) Put your headphones** in and wear shades. That's right--dull or pretend to dull those senses so that way it looks like you "wouldn't hear" someone calling you. When I want to say hi to someone, I won't bother if I think they won't hear me. Also, I don't even have headphones here...I'm failing Scott as his Avoidance Instructor.  **You can substitute the headphones for ear muffs in the winter if you want.

9) Do not engage. I know this sounds simple, but my pupil will not want to talk to someone and then HE will initiate conversation. Of course, others will respond and converse like normal people. They aren't me, after all! 

10) If you're going to play with fire and walk without your ears being covered up, then you're going to have to keep an ear to the ground. You'll want to listen carefully to everything, so that way you'll be able to know where in what direction the distant chatter is coming from and like number 6 suggests, go a different way. Number 1 may also work to your advantage here.

11) Act busy. If you're in Starbucks and don't want to converse, pull out your phone, start typing on your laptop, or stick your nose in a book. Unfortunately, these ideas are only semi-effective. 

12) Change your pace. I saved this one for last because if you've read this far, I assume you've read my other tips and now have some knowledge on how to avoid others. I know what you're thinking, and it isn't, "Wow, Lisa has gone off the deep end and needs professional help for her social anxiety asap." Instead, it must be, "But Lisa, you told us already in #2 to keep a steady pace, and now you're telling us to change it? Say what?" Well, my friends, you should consider changing your pace when you see others from far away but they haven't seen you yet. This tip is also for when you hear footsteps/various other sounds. Changing your pace is especially useful when stairs are involved. If I hear someone behind me walking up the stairs at a faster rate then I'm going, I know I need get a move on!

Sadly, I am not perfect at the art of avoidance, and you won't be either. Sometimes the inevitable happens, and you are sucked in and forced by social norms to interact appropriately. If this happens to you, do not panic. Bite the bullet, make some conversation, and know that this too shall pass. My top suggestion in this situation is: Do NOT mention future plans if you do not like the person you are talking to. Is it just me or are people that you just find "blah" skilled at inviting themselves places with you? Another suggestion would be to act like you're in a hurry...You're not necessarily lying because you are in a hurry...to get away from them! ;) Even though this goes against everything I've just written, I do have to say that sometimes when I'm trapped in a conversation with others an amazing thing happens...I realize that I don't mind it so much and actually start to have fun. Imagine that!

Are you a fan of small talk or do just prefer to socialize with people you already know?
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