We all fear failure to some extend. I common one is social fear.
I just travelled from Denmark to Indonesia with a few stops on the way. In the first flight I sat next to a lady. I was in the chair closest to the aisle and she sat closest to the window. So if she wanted to visit the toilet, I had to move. She seemed to have a cold, possibly just from the aircondition. She only had one napkin it seemed, so she used the same napkin to empty her nose every time. I had a new napkin that I didn’t need. The obvious thing would be to offer her my napkin of course, but I didn’t. I didn’t because I feared that she might be embarrassed or would feel disgusted because she might think it was an indication that I thought she was disgusting. But of course, I should have just offered her my napkin and disregarded the thought of what she might think of me. The important thing was that I wanted to help. Social fear held med back.
In my next flight I sat next to a Chinese girl we chatted a bit because she, ironically, needed to go to the toilet twice during the flight 🙂 She was from Shenzhen and worked in an art gallery, and had just returned from a short vacation in Bali. It was interesting to hear about her city and working conditions. She only had 5 days of vacation per year and loved travelling. I thought it would be great to now someone from Shenzhen, which is the 3rd largest city in China and a hub for ‘products’. This is were canton fair and other fairs are held every year. When we landed I thought about asking for her email. I chose to postpone it until passport check because of fear. At the passport check, she forgot to fill out the arrival card and had to go back. I had to move forward, and then I lost the opportunity. Again, caused by social fear.
The next day I needed to take a ferry. An older lady was sitting next to me. When we left her presumed husband came up to the row and spoke something in Chinese and then sat down two rows in front of us. He looked a few times back to her, and I thought I would offer him my seat so they could sit together. When he looked the first time, I didn’t say anything. The second time he looked, I offered him my seat.
On my last flight to Surabaya, I had prebooked a meal, but I was not hungry at the time, so I really couldn’t eat anything. When the flight attendants came close to our row, the guy next to me, who took up the menu card and looked. I had no intention of eating my meal, so I told him that and offered him my email. He was suprissed, offered my a cup of coffee and we had a nice chat for the rest of the flight. It turned out he importing fish products to Indonesia. We exchanged business cards and I have someone to grab a coffee with next time I’m in Singapore. I overcame my fear. And most likely because of the incidence the day before.
The point of the story
I think we all have our own boundary of social fear. We all know the type that are just walking up to people they don’t know and start talking. But they have a boundary too. If Barack Obama was standing with a group of important people, I’m sure most would get a bit shaky if they were challenged to walk up to him. So the point in this little story is that, no matter where you boundary of social fear is, you should try and push it and play a bit with it. See what happens. I bet it will help you grow, get you new experiences, and it will for sure help you expand your network.