One of my favorite parts of being an artist is engaging with people. If you’re the introverted type, you probably tend to avoid social situations. It probably feels more like a burden than anything. Promoting your work is part of the gig so how do you master social situations if you’re just not the type? While I’m good with people, I would call myself a selective extrovert. When I’m at work, I am very social and love to do so. When I’m at home, I relish my quiet time. You’ll never catch me at a party on week ends. As an artist, I pick and choose which social functions are better suited for me. Introverts can master social situations. You can have the best of both worlds and be successful as an artist
The Art of Starting Small
I get it, socializing is exhausting. I am a personal trainer and 99% of my job is social. I’m accustomed to many people and many personalities. When I first started as a young woman, it felt daunting to have to deal with people. How did I get past that? Practice. Over the years I’ve developed self confidence by learning how to interact with different people.
If you’re merely the type who feels socially awkward, the good news is you can help yourself. Learning how to engage with people takes a bit of trial and error. Don’t be intimidated and practice the art of socializing at your own pace.
The Art of Practice
If you’re aware that you’re uncomfortable in social situations, the good news is you can change it. When I first started my art career, I was overcoming panic attacks. It was also during the covid pandemic, so I was definitely out of practice. The thought of being in a loud room full of noisy people was enough to send my heart racing. Deep down I knew that if I wanted to have an art career, I needed to get comfortable with it again.
Being an artist means interacting with the public in some capacity. Start small. I put myself in situations that would help me face that fear. I started to attend my Port Perry Artist Association meetings. I also joined local art courses at Meta 4 Gallery. It was what I needed to get myself comfortable with groups again. We also shared something in common so it made conversation easy.
The Art of Positivity
I won’t let fear dictate my success. When fear takes over, it takes away from the present moment. I choose to enjoy the moment instead. The average person is nervous in social situations. When fear is dictating your success, then it’s imperative to learn how to manage it.
Positive self talk is an absolute must. In my experience, “the anxiety voice“ can shout quite loudly in these instances. I learned that this voice was actually my fear and doubt talking. When I have a moment like that, I feel afraid but I remind myself that the moment passes. I take deep breaths and quietly tell myself, “I am okay. I can do this.” I’ve employed this technique many times with great success.
I always find the positive in social situations. Even if I’m a little uncomfortable, I make a habit of giving compliments. I try to point out something unique about that person. “Oh, I love your hair.” It’s a great ice breaker and has a nasty habit of making someone smile. Instead of feeling anxious and tense, I start to relax and so does the other person. Making someone smile is a great way to alleviate the tension. Practice pointing out the positive and offer a compliment.
Start in a small group situation. It’s much less overwhelming and a great way to practice socializing with unfamiliar people. This allows for a positive experience and in turn develops your confidence.
The Art of Conversation
This is a learning experience and therefore mistakes are inevitable. When I first started in the fitness industry, I was definitely more shy than I am now. I lacked knowledge and experience. I also had a hard time selling memberships because I had no confidence. What changed? My confidence improved because I gained experience and knowledge. I can now walk up to anyone and start a conversation. It takes time and practice like any other skill.
I firmly believe I can be successful in every social situation, even if I’m the odd one out. I’m very comfortable in chaotic situations because I’ve had practice. I was at the Port Perry High School 150th anniversary on May 6th. It meant talking to a lot of different people of different age groups. In the age of social media, we forget the simple gesture of looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand. Basic social etiquettegoes a long way because no one seems to do it anymore.
Here’s an example of what I do:
- Look people in the eye and smile.
- Introduce myself. “Hello, my name is Lauren and this is my art work.”
- Learn the person’s name (unless they are wearing name tags)
- Shake their hand if comfortable “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mary. How is your day going today?”
- Listen 10-15 seconds before responding. (It shows you’re listening)
- I ask basic questions. Did you grow up in the area?”
- Listen 10-15 seconds before responding
- I make general feedback statements, “You grew up in Port Perry. I’ve lived here for twenty years. I hope you’ve had a chance to reconnect with old friends.”
- At this point Mary tells me a brief story about growing up in Port Perry. We now share something in common.
- Offer a compliment, “That is a wonderful story Mary. Thank you for sharing it with me. I love Port Perry as well, it’s a great place to live.”
- At the conclusion of the conversation I say, “It was lovely to meet you Mary. Thank you for your time. Have a great day!”
The conversation doesn’t have to be any length of time. I try to find a commonality between myself and the other person. I try to keep eye contact and smile because it shows I’m paying attention. You’ll also notice my language is positive. I try to avoid saying, “umm” or “like” between sentences because it shows a lack of confidence and professionalism. If you notice this habit when you speak, take a deep breath instead and then continue speaking.
The language you use can make all the difference.Practice these simple techniques and you’ll find your confidence will improve. Don’t forget a “please” and “thank you” is always appreciated.
Dress for the Part
I’m not one to dress up super fancy for special social gatherings. I am a no make up kind of gal and I usually wear a basic pony tail. At my art openings, I opt for a very simple blazer and jeans. I feel less like myself when I’m decked out in fancy garb. It’s not about pretending to be someone you’re not. As a professional artist it is important to radiate that attitude of confidence. I find when I’m being myself, I am much more relaxed and comfortable with others.
As a personal trainer for 20 yearsmy uniform is sweatshirts and pants. The uniform is appropriate for the job but also exudes professionalism. I know my job and I’m good at it. You can take yourself seriously without needing a suit and tie. Confidence is something you should wear no matter what you have on.
The Art of Doing it your Way
I do not frequent social situations unless they are on my terms. You’ll never see me at a party outside of work. Having back to back appointments at the gym is exhausting. The last thing I want to do is socialize more during my personal time. I tend to go home and change in to my painting clothes and start on my next piece of art work.
I chose to apply for a gallery space in late 2021. I had plenty of time to prepare and work on adding more pieces to my series. I had my art show “Old and New: Buildings of Port Perry” in January 2023 at the Kent Farndale Gallery. I had the option of hosting an opening reception or not. Since it was a dream of mine to have my own show, I decided to go for it. I saw at it as an opportunity to engage with my community.
My opening reception was three hours long. During that time, I spoke to a hundred or more people. It was a lot of talking in a very short time. It’s not something I’d recommend if you’re just starting to develop social confidence. I was prepared so I could handle it. After the event was over, I was physically and mentally exhausted. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was a dream come true! During the quiet moments of my art opening, I sat back and watched others. I could sip on my water and grab a snack. It helped keep my energy and focus up.
Here are a few techniques that helped me:
- Bring lots of water to sip on.
- Bring something to eat
- Take a minute to breathe.
- Take a break when you need to.
- Stay positive.
- Ask for help and bring a partner or spouse to fill in for an hour.
You can have a successful art opening if you know what to expect. Being prepared ahead of time helps to alleviate any stress on opening day.
The Art of Making Connections
The one thing that helps me feel at ease in a social situation is knowing I’m not the only one who feels nervous. It’s very common to feel a sense of anxiety when approached with these situations. Don’t feel as if you’re alone! Artist or not, it’s so typical to feel this way. As a selective extrovert, I pick and choose the situations I want to participate in.
When you take time to open up, people feel more comfortable relating to you. You’re only human! Sharing your time and experiences with others is a fantastic way to further your art career. I’ve made some amazing new friends who help support my journey. Good people are out there but that means putting yourself out there as well. While it may be a little scary, the right people will come along. It’s okay to come out of your shell one step at a time. Positive change happens slowly but surely.
Choose which opportunities are best for your art career. Don’t be afraid to take a chance! The best opportunities in my life came from me approaching others. The importance of networking can benefit your art career. Forging long term connections is in your best interest. We have clients that have been at our gym for twenty years. Why? I’ve learned in business that when you take the time to care, people remember. Not only do they remember, but they tell other people. This is how you develop a good reputation in any profession.
Becoming a selective extrovert is a practiced skill. You can learn tools to help become more confident engaging others. Much like art itself, it means making mistakes. It’s important to practice and gain confidence. Engaging with others means promoting your art and nurturing long term relationships. This can only help to further your art career. When you put your art in to it, there’s nothing you can’t do.
About the Writer
My name is Lauren Walker and I am “The Artist Within”. I am a professional artist and freelance writer in Port Perry, Ontario. I use the love of my small town as inspiration for my work. I believe the only path to follow is the one you create.