Feeling awkward about meeting new people? It’s totally natural!

Feeling awkward about meeting new people? It’s totally natural!

Do you often find yourself saying “I’d like to go… but I don’t really know anyone and it might be awkward…” Yeah. Us too!

 

You’re not alone! This is a totally natural part of making new connections. And whilst it can feel really uncomfortable at times, we can learn to embrace the awkward!

 

The dread of feeling awkward is something so many of us share. In fact, it’s a fear that can actually hold us back from trying a new experience or getting through the door. As many as 1 in 4 Australians acknowledge that they regularly experience high levels of social anxiety when they’re meeting new people.

 

There isn’t really a clear definition or criteria for ‘feeling awkward’ but it’s a universal fear that we all experience in our lifetimes. Whether it’s through the process of making new friends, mingling at a party, attending a hobby group or club, networking, dating, meeting your in-laws for the first time… we all dread ‘getting something socially wrong’ and ‘not clicking’. It can become a serious phobia with devastating consequences, causing high levels of distress, racing thoughts, sweaty palms, muscle tension, panic and anxiety. Over a sustained period of time, that fear of being so uncomfortable in the moment can cause us to socially withdraw and stop trying new things altogether.

 

picture of people chatting. they look like they're pushing through the awkward!

 

But here’s the thing. We believe wholeheartedly that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of socialising. There’s no ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ at trying to make new friends. There’s just a bunch of strangers sharing some kind of experience and trying to spark a conversation, hoping that it flows and deep, deep down, hoping that we won’t feel rejected at the end of it. Fear of rejection is one of the biggest barriers to cultivating deep human connection.

 

We’ve been community building for over 12 years so trust us when we say that ’embracing the awkward’ is a natural, healthy and endearing part of trying something new in community. It shows our authenticity because building relationships isn’t a performance, and we’re not always going to have the perfect words to say. The trick is to not let it define you, to keep on practicing and keep showing up, and to remember that you, just like everyone else in the room, is worthy of being there.

 

Here are some tips to help you when you next hear yourself thinking “that sounds good, but I don’t know anyone there and it might be awkward…”

 

Self-talk

If you’ve spotted a gathering you’d love to go to but you start talking yourself out of it, try gently challenging that thought. Recognise that your mind is just trying to protect you from feeling rejected or embarrassed in the moment, but acknowledge that you’re also excited by this opportunity to do something fun and you’re curious about who you could meet there! Remind yourself that you are so worthy of friendship, that you can always go at your own pace and volume, and that you can excuse yourself to step outside any time you need to.

 

Message the organiser of the group

If there’s a key person organising the gathering you’re hoping to go to, try getting in touch with them and just explaining that you’re a bit worried about not knowing anyone. They will know how to welcome you in warmly and can help introduce you to others. One of the many lovely things community members do for each other across the Befriend Social Network is actually introduce people together who have shared interests, or who are confident chatters and curious questioners!

 

Ask someone you know to accompany you for the first few times

Being around a familiar face helps us feel safe and secure. Try asking a friend, family member or carer to accompany you for the first few times, just until you find your feet. They can help support the conversation whilst you gather your thoughts. Befriend Dungeons and Dragons Host, Harrison, remembered his first time hosting the group.

 

“My partner was just supposed to drop me off because I couldn’t drive at the time. Like, I didn’t beg… but I definitely just said please, please, please, please, please come in with me! Mostly, I just needed someone there that I knew. Once I got in, the fear didn’t go away, but it faded into the background a lot.”

 

embracing the awkward hosting dungeons and dragons

 

Prepare some easy conversation starters

You would not be the first person – or indeed the last – to have a list of conversational prompts stored in the notes of your phone. Having some reliable icebreakers under your hat can help get the conversation flowing a little so you can find common interests. You can use your environment to guide some curious questions (how long have you been doing [this activity]? Do you live locally?), or focus on light-hearted things such as book recommendations, favourite bands, movies and TV shows. You may not need this list, but having it available to you may enable you to relax more.

 

Acknowledge it!

It’s totally okay to admit out loud that you’re a bit nervous, and that you can’t think of anything to say. People respond well to vulnerability and humour, especially when it’s something we can all relate to in different ways. Chances are you’ll all have a chuckle over it and it may even break the ice a little.

 

Keep on turning up… it might get easier!

We’re not going to say that ‘practice makes perfect‘ because after all, what even is a ‘perfect’ conversation with someone? What we will say is that having the courage to keep turning up is how connection happens. Your presence matters; it makes a difference in the room, to you, and to others. Over time, you might be able to push past it and get to know someone, or, hey, you might just learn to become more comfortable with the occasional social faux pas (which is never as bad as you think it is!).

 

D&D Host Harrison offers this advice;

“If your goal is to meet new people that have a shared interest, you need to go to the places where that interest is expressed. And just, try, try to… try to just get into the building. If it helps, chances are, there is someone else in that building who’s thinking ‘I’m terrified, why am I here?’, and you might click and realise it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

 

You have the potential to make a big difference to others!

This is a story from a local community member who, like so many of us, struggled with meeting new people. They found the courage to come along to a few Befriend groups and over time, things started to get just a tiny bit easier. With that, came a new level of care and awareness that in turn, helps others.

 

“I am a naturally shy and introverted person. In social situations my default setting is to not talk. I find it hard to say hi…how are you? What’s your name? Or just to talk with people that I [don’t] know very well. While I was out and about on the street going to the shops or whatever, I would make a point not to really talk to the people who were serving me food or putting my groceries in a bag or whatever. After coming and being involved with Befriend, I started to feel more comfortable in social situations. I feel less nervous interacting with people, I am better able to interact with people in a way that makes them feel included and happy and welcome. Those skills and that awareness came about as a result of attending Befriend events. Just to be clear…I still find it difficult but I find it much easier now than I did before.”

 

We actually see this a lot – that attending something regularly and routinely not only helps someone strengthen their self confidence in different social situations, but actually helps them become better connectors for others! There’s a shared experience in feeling vulnerable that helps us recognise one another. If you’re looking for a safe space to be your authentic self (awkward warts ‘n’ all!), then you’re always welcome at any gathering in the Befriend Social Network. Groups are hosted and attended by local people all over Perth, and it’s an open invitation for you to embrace the awkward knowing you have a safe, friendly place to land. You can download our “conversation cards” to your mobile phone and lean on to them spark a chat!

 

That being said, if you find that your fear of experiencing awkward moments is really preventing you from meeting new people, then it may be worth chatting to your GP or sharing how you feel with someone who cares about you. Social anxiety can have a devastating impact on our individual and collective health and there are some great support avenues out there to help you take the steps you need at the pace that is right for you.

The Possibility Fellowship 2022

The Possibility Fellowship 2022

Proudly introducing a development opportunity like we’ve never done before! We’ve called it The Possibility Fellowship, and it’s a 12 week course that focuses on you and your development as community members, leaders and change-makers. We believe you have the potential to create real social change and we’re here to support you on that path.

 

Rich in games, theory and creativity, this journey stewards you through some big topics in an accessible, personal way. With a balanced blend of modern science and traditional wisdom, together, we explore what it means to be human, oral storytelling, gifts discovery, social entrepreneurship, recent brain research and more… all whilst working with and on your own creative project!

 

You don’t need to have “grand idea” to make the world a better place to sign up for this course – we simply start with the things you care about, and the difference you seek to make in your community, and go from there!

 

Is The Possibility Fellowship for you?

Maybe it is! Here are some questions that may help answer that question.

  • Are you passionate about growing more inclusive communities for all?
  • Do you or others close to you have first hand experience of barriers to belonging and participation?
  • Are you longing to make a difference and uncertain of the best way forward?
  • Or are you already actively engaged as a leader, policy maker, community connector, activist, scholar or social entrepreneur?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed by all the ‘problems’ our world is facing?
  • Are you looking for inspiration, hope and some fellow travellers?

 

In a nutshell…

Here’s how The Fellowship unfolds over the 12 week period.

  • An introductory weekend intensive to deep-dive into exploring who we are, why we’re here and some gentle introductions to some of the underpinning theories behind The Possibility Fellowship
  • 5 face-to-face gatherings coupled with creative activities to complete in your own time and guest contributors
  • One extended session midway through where we’ll share a potluck dinner and reflect together
  • An invitation to meet with your small group between sessions for mutual support, learning and creative play
  • The final weekend gathering is a festive celebration! Graduates of The Possibility Fellowship share the fruits of their explorations through dialogues, mini-workshops, storytelling, or in other creative ways, offering a window into your vision for inclusive community

 

 

Image description: Consulting workshop

Image from “Reconnecting Lives”, a collaborative learning event co-hosted by Befriend.

 

Is this in-person or online?

This course is in-person over the course of 12 weeks, with sessions held at The Platform on Adelaide Terrace. We aim to have no more than 18 people on the course.

Between sessions you and your fellows are encouraged to catch-up online or in-person, so you can deepen your thinking and dreaming together in a supportive environment.

 

Meet Peter and Nicola, your hosts

Peter and Nicola are Befriend Hosts and Thinking Partners at Befriend. They’ve been nurturing the idea for The Possibility Fellowship for some time now and are excited to invite you to join them on this adventure. Both Nicola and Peter are Warm Data Lab Hosts certified by the International Bateson Institute in Sweden, and in the last year, have introduced the Befriend community to a number of warm data lab conversations!

 

Team page peterPeter has experience in business, government and academia. He is a warrior for social justice, freedom and human potential. He has a PhD in Transformative Studies from California Institute of Integral Studies and awards from Murdoch University and the Australian Government for outstanding contributions to student learning.

team page nicola

Nicola has a passion for nurturing authentic relationships and safe spaces in which people can open their hearts and minds and reflect together on what matters. She has Diplomas in Community Services and in Conservation & Land Management and is a graduate of Storytelling Beyond Words, at Emerson College in the UK. She has Master Facilitator certification in the Core Gift Discovery™ process.

 

Questions?

If you have any queries, concerns or you’d just like to know more about the next Possibility Fellowship (2023), you can reach out to Peter or Nicola below.

Peter le Breton | 

Nicola-Jane le Breton | 

 

The Final Showcase for the most recent Fellowship; a glimpse into each unique project!

We’re thrilled to showcase the Final Weekend Program from the September – November 2022 cohort of Possibility Fellows. This program details the unique projects each Fellow has been nurturing, and offers you a glimpse into the things they are compelled to contribute to community.

 

This co-designed program accompanies our final weekend ‘presentations’, held at The Platform on 26-27 November. This last gathering is a chance to come together in community, to celebrate the journey we’ve all been on as individuals and as a collective, learn from each other and of course, graduate as a Possibility Fellow! This final weekend showcase is by invitation only.

Please email if you have any questions about the final weekend or you’re inherently curious and supportive about the work any of these wonderful Fellows have been up to!

 

 

 

“How do we think our way through the messes we’re in when the way we think is part of the mess?”
– Nora Bateson

Five observations from an unexpected isolation

Five observations from an unexpected isolation

We’re learning to live, work and play with COVID-19 in our community here in Western Australia. Inevitably, for many of us, this means periods of isolation.

 

Befriend’s Community Manager, local Vic Park resident and board game enthusiast Dave recently spent 10 unexpected days at home with his family, after one of his children tested positive. Whilst it wasn’t without its challenges, he ended up having an unexpectedly humbling time, largely thanks to the efforts and care of others. Here are five things Dave observed about community life, from his home-isolation.

 

  1. Simple “every day” invitations matter

Some of the loveliest invitations and offers came from our neighbours and friends who tried to enrich each day for us in a small, kind way:-

  • I’m heading to the library, are there any books you’d like to borrow? We can leave them on your porch!
  • I’m at the grocery store, do you need anything?
  • I’m heading out for a coffee, would you like me to grab you a takeaway and drop it off on my way home?
  • I’m taking the dog for an extra-long walk around your way, shall I drop off some board games?
  • I’ve made way too much dinner, would you like me to run some leftovers over?

We found that people often utilised the routines and spaces that already existed in their life and just extended us a thought. It was these types of simple “every day”  invitations that were so meaningful and helped us feel so included.

 

2. People are kind and love to help

Don’t be frightened to ask for help (from people you know, and people you don’t). Part of being human is looking after one another in times of need. And that help, more often than not, comes with no expectation at all… there’s mutual reciprocity in just knowing you’ve made someone’s day. When a neighbour dropped off some treats for us, they said it would cost “one cuddle with the cat, which has been paid for, in full”. We saw that people genuinely wanted to help in their own unique ways because they took joy in it.

 

3. Creative connections made our week

Being plunged into isolation definitely doesn’t have to mean no contact with the outside world (although taking time to connect with yourself is important, too). We relied heavily on technology to keep us connected to our friends and family, and we actually used the time we had to have longer, richer conversations, because, well, we had nothing else to do! We also enjoyed:-

  • Plenty of waves and smiles from passing neighbours
  • A magic show performed through the window
  • Friends calling us on the phone for a chat whilst they stood outside our home
  • Handwritten notes and cards
  • “Verandah drinks” with the neighbours over the road

No idea is too big or too small, no gesture or invitation is unnoticed and your creativity is awesome!

4. Your empathy means more than you think

We were so warmed by genuine, heartfelt offers of help, support, empathy and warm-wishes. It’s not about monetary value or gifts, or even about the practicalities of those offers of help. Just knowing people were there for us if we needed anything was more than enough.

 

5. All connections are important to nurture (but particularly your neighbours!)

We were so appreciative to hear from so many different people in our lives – colleagues old and new, family, neighbours, people who lived far away, people we spoke to often, people we don’t speak to regularly… connections with people can run deep, and be long-lasting. Check-in on your friends, co-workers, the folks from your old book club and your best mate from high school – you never know who might love to hear from you that day.

 

We’re lucky to have a close knit hyper-local community right on our doorstep, but we also acknowledge that we’ve really made a conscious effort to nurture those relationships over the years. We’ve knocked on doors to introduce ourselves, posted ‘connection cards’ out with our contact information, shared lemons from our tree and created a space for our street to connect digitally on social media (which makes it really easy to stay connected and ask for help!). Those gestures are important, simple and authentic and that active commitment has really helped us get to know some amazing people.

 

We’re all likely to know, or live near, someone in isolation over the coming weeks. Some questions we’re left wondering;

 

  • How can you be there for your community right now?
  • How can you actively cultivate stronger relationships with your neighbours? (these connection cards from Red Cross are lovely and ready to print!)
  • What gifts, gestures, hobbies or acts of kindness could you share with someone in isolation to make their day?
  • How and where can you ask your community for support if you’re in isolation?

 

We know it’s not always easy but we’re here to listen and learn from you, and perhaps even help you spark new connections – whether that’s in your own community or through the Befriend Social Network. As always, get in touch if have questions, an idea to bring people together, or even if you’re curious about how you could get to know your neighbours. Dave would love to share some of his experiences with you – reach him at .

Case study: City of Kwinana

Case study: City of Kwinana

We are a non-profit social enterprise based in Perth, Western Australia who exist for one single purpose; to foster inclusive, welcoming communities. We love to work in partnership with like-minded organisations and people who share our mission, and work together to change the way people think about community and their roles within it.

In 2017, we were given the opportunity to spark a partnership project with the City of Kwinana and Dept Communities (Disability Services), targeting the broader Kwinana community, with an emphasis on residents at risk of social isolation/exclusion. We were invited to bring the Befriend Social Network to the City of Kwinana, empowering local residents to contribute their skills and gifts to their local community, share what’s important to them with others and create welcoming social spaces in which everyone can participate.

Here’s what happened.

Image description: Befriend ukelele group

The Objective

A partnership project between the City of Kwinana and the Disability Services Commission began in February of 2017. The programme was funded for one year with an intentional, strategic focus to find, engage and activate local residents to make Kwinana a more welcoming, inclusive and connected place. On a micro level, this would look like small, ‘every day’ social gatherings, led by the Kwinana community. On a macro level, however, this network development project would begin to change the dialogue around inclusion and increase the whole-community effort to enable connection to flourish for everyone, particularly for residents who may be more vulnerable to loneliness than others.

The Significance

Human beings are social creatures with an innate need to belong. But establishing and maintaining new, meaningful relationships can be challenging and many of us can find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely. There are lots of circumstances that can disrupt our social circles unexpectedly; we move to new countries or cities in search of new opportunities, we end long-term relationships, we change careers or have big things evolve in our lives that create the need to form new connections. For some of us, cultivating new relationships can be particularly tricky due to our diverse abilities, experiences with mental ill-health, social anxiety or a multitude of other factors that result in increased isolation.

Loneliness in our communities is having a devastating effect on our collective health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Studies are now discovering that our level of social integration (the frequency with which we interact with various people in our lives; saying hello to our neighbours, having a brief discussion with the barista who makes your coffee, engaging in a polite chat with the person who delivers your post, having dinner with some friends, etc.) is the biggest determining factor of how long we are likely to live. It is this pivotal aspect of our health that impacts us far greater than obesity, diet, whether or not we smoke, how clean the air is that we breathe and the frequency with which we exercise.

Befriend’s existence is built on the understanding that the size, strength and quality of one’s social circle can significantly help individuals to discover more about themselves, explore how they relate to others and find new ways to contribute.

The Befriend Social Network

The Befriend Social Network has been strategically designed as an easy-access opportunity for local residents to be their own catalysts for change, creating community-owned welcoming spaces for any adult in Perth to participate in a shared social experience.

The project required someone ‘on the ground’ who was passionate about connection, the community and social inclusion. This person would need to be both a do-er and a thinker, a listener and a collaborator and be that perfect, unique blend of being equal parts analytical and creative. Thankfully, Befriend met local Kwinana resident Jodie Papiccio, who took on the role of ‘Community Builder’ in the local area.

Image description: Befriend volunteers and staff at info stall

 Jodie’s primary role was to encourage, support and activate local residents to build a grassroots movement of togetherness through social participation and develop several relationships with community partners who could serve as a referral pathway into the network. Jodie was encouraged and supported to use her gifts of hospitality (and scone-making), and her local networks through the school, sporting, family and local government networks to find, engage and activate other local residents who shared her passion for making Kwinana a more welcoming, connected place.

Two years later, we met Inger Ward; another local resident who shared Jodie’s passion for community, connection, and contribution. Inger began her Befriend journey as a Host within the Kwinana Social Network and was quite the social butterfly! When an opportunity came up for Befriend to expand our work in the local area, in stepped Inger, armed with her ukulele and her strengths in story-telling, to support the continued flourishing of community-building activities.

Over the next three years, Jodie and Inger have supported their fellow neighbours and residents to develop the confidence, skills and tools to start up and run their own social/interest groups and clubs, connected together as a local inclusive social network.

Image description: Befriend knitting meetup

The Impact

After the initial grant ended with DSC (February 2017 to January 2018), the City of Kwinana stepped in as a funding partner for the following 6 months, having witnessed for themselves the impact and success of the project within the community. Shortly after that, the Department of Communities supported our work as part of their Empowering Communities programme. This abundant strategic support has enabled The Befriend Social Network to continue its growth in Kwinana over the course of four years, reaching an estimated 9,000 local residents who between them have spent more than 3,000 hours connecting with one another through fun, participatory and inclusive activities. Jodie and Inger have been supporting the growing strength of the community with the help of talented volunteer community champions who have developed a number of valuable roles within the project, including co-Hosts, skill-sharers, promoters, newsletter-creators, social inclusion ambassadors and social media whizzes.

It’s become almost impossible to track, but by our estimations, there’s been over 8,000 community gatherings since the project’s inception, ranging from social sewing to coffee catch-ups, to ukulele practice, to board game nights! Community members report that they feel a greater confidence in connecting with people, feel a great sense of belonging in their local community, and have more opportunities to sweeten their social life.

Over 60 local residents have laced up their Hosting bonnets and proudly step into the role of regularly initiating welcoming social groups, both online and in-person. As a community, they showed enormous resilience during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, hosting fun digital gatherings over Zoom to stay connected and continue sharing social experiences with their groups. Without Hosts being brave enough to take that leap of faith, leading the way and putting the invitation out there, the network simply wouldn’t exist. We’re just the support act.

The project is supported by an effective partnership network, with over 25 Kwinana-based organisations acting as referral partners.

Ultimately, what we’ve seen over the course of 4 years is an evolution of the community, led by the very people living and playing in it. Community Builder and local resident Jodie says “I don’t really have any one favourite moment from this whole process, rather a series of moments that lift my heart. They seem to happen most often when I attend an event and see people who otherwise might never have met, I see them engaged in conversation, sharing a laugh or helping each other”.

If you’re looking for a partner for a place-based community development project, then reach out to Iain for a chat on or learn more about how we do what we do, just here. We’d be happy to explore our shared purpose with you!

How do I make friends in Perth if I’m introverted?

How do I make friends in Perth if I’m introverted?

You want to meet people, form friendships and feel less alone, but you think that your introverted nature is an obstacle to achieving that?

In a society mainly designed for extroverts, you can think that somehow being quiet and introverted isn’t the right way to go, and that more extroverted personalities have it easier when it comes to interacting.

First, stop undermining your introverted nature! It’s not better or worse than being extroverted! In the world’s history, a lot of transformative leaders and creatives have been introverts. Studies estimate that a third to a half of the population are introverts, so there’s a lot more of you around than you might think!

According to Susan Cain, introversion’s not about shyness, which can resemble fear of social judgement, but is rather about how you respond to social stimulation. Ok, it’s not an absolute science but extroverts favour stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their best when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.

You must understand that being an introvert is not a barrier! You do have things to offer to create a connection with a fellow human being. The key is to be in the right zone of stimulation and to understand the implicit rules of social interaction.
How do you make friends as an introvert?

To build relationships, we need to have a positive social engagement, which is always easier if you’re in a valued social role.

“Social roles locate people in social space, structure the ways a person who makes a particular contribution usually shows up and acts and signal what others can expect from them in that role.

Social roles identify the different ways that people relate to one another, belong to each other, count on each other, and are responsible to each other. They point to the ways a person can contribute and make a difference in other people’s lives.”

We all know it’s easier to be in a comfortable social setting, but have you already asked yourself why you feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a given social situation?

The keys to social interaction and overcoming social isolation

You’re much more at ease when you’re in an environment where you can share your passions, interests, knowledge and abilities.  That’s because you’re interacting around something you value. You being interested makes you interesting!

  • Let’s say you are crazy about Friends. You going to a quiz night around the TV show’s great because you’re knowledgeable about it. You can throw around some Friends inside jokes to fellow fans! Isn’t the best way to start a friendship?                                                                             
  • On the contrary, if you go to a chess night and know nothing about the game, it can be harder to talk about it with players for example. You might need to make more efforts to understand what’s going on and adopt the expected behaviour. You might find yourself in a situation when you’re just an observer and you’re not participating. And that’s not something you want to happen! 
Find local events that you’ll love and will suit your interests, even if you feel socially awkward!

If you ask yourself where you can go, don’t worry any more! Befriend’s got you! You can find our events on Facebook and on our website. We’ve got a bunch of different events from crochet knitting to scavenger hunts!

If you don’t find anything interesting there, why not become a host and propose your own event around something that you’re passionate about?!!