Mingling. There’s a part of me that would rather have my toenails pulled out than mix with strangers making small talk. Strangers are OK if I’m speaking in front of a group of them but one-on-one? Aaaahhh!

By nature, I’m a bit of a lone wolf. Left to my own devices I would move from home to office and have few dealings with other humans (other than my beloved clients and husband). I enjoy people that I know but rarely seek them out. It’s usually the other way around. Seems to be the way I’m wired.

As a coach, I know I can mess with my wiring. I can teach this slightly older dog new tricks. My new personal project? Expanding my comfort zone by putting myself in uncomfortable situations interacting with strangers. I get that icky feeling in my stomach just writing this.

Last month as I wondered where I might find strange humans, an invitation arrived via email. Perfect, I would attend the re-opening of the main house at New Directions for Women (an organization I resonate with). I added it to my calendar.

The day came and part of me was really looking forward to the opportunity while another was slightly nauseous and dreading it.

For the first hour, I was supremely uncomfortable. I saw little groups of outgoing people laughing and talking while I was dwelling on my discomfort and replaying the old story, “I’m not good at this. I’m out of my league. I hate small talk. There’s no room for me. I don’t know what to say.”

I got sick of myself and my poor-me-story and went off in a corner to call my husband. I opined my plight for a bit, then declared that I was ready to restart, saying, “My intention is to hang up the phone and deeply connect with others one person at a time.”

Small talk is not my thing, connection is. So my solution was to try to avoid small talk and get into connection as quickly as possible. I scanned the event and looked for people standing alone, looking uncomfortable, then zeroed in on them. I decided to be real (go figure), saying: “This mingling thing…I’m not sure it’s for me.”

Something about that opening line was my ticket right past small talk into deeper connection. The people I encountered after my restart began sharing somewhat personal things about themselves enabling me to ask follow up questions and get curious about their lives. I got to share a bit about me, too.

I could hardly believe it, but I actually enjoyed the remaining hours of the event! Who knew?

So often we (I, too) get stuck in our old stories about how we are or always have been. These stories may very well be outdated.

We also get mired in the idea of how things are (ex: mingling = small talk) when that doesn’t have to be true at all. We have the power to rewrite just about anything.

Where are you stuck in your story or limited by “how it is” out there?

What can you do to pop the lid off those (wo)man-made limitations?