On Feeling Drained by Social Interactions

March 11, 2021

Social interactions often leave me, an introvert, feeling drained. The last time I experienced this was at a farewell party surrounded by friends. The organizer had requested that everyone bring food to share, so I opted for a French baguette and assorted alcoholic beverages like vodka and tonic, Kenmore whiskey, and ginger ale. I chose these Western-style items to stand out, but they remained untouched by the end of the party. This left me questioning whether I should feel ashamed for not conforming to the cultural norms of Hong Kong, where people typically prefer Chinese food.

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During the event, my friends engaged in small talk, discussing topics like favorite foods, workplace quirks, and other random matters. I mostly stayed silent, not because I'm unfriendly, but because I had nothing to contribute. For example, if the conversation turned to gaming, sports, or Western music, I was out of my depth, given my lack of interest in these subjects. I found it exhausting to sit there for an hour, nodding in agreement, pretending to be an engaged listener.

To counteract my social shortcomings, I could consider changing my lifestyle to become more outgoing and diverse. More social outings could enrich my experience, allowing me to share stories about activities like wakeboarding. Broadening my circle of friends would expose me to interesting anecdotes, and staying informed through books and news could add depth to my contributions in conversations. Otherwise, if I continue leading a monotonous life—staring at a computer screen day and night, eating the same meals, and never stepping outside my comfort zone—my social interactions will remain unremarkable. Being open to new experiences and adopting different perspectives can enrich my life. Having a range of hobbies, such as rock climbing, kayaking, coffee brewing, or wine tasting, can offer me more to talk about and connect over.

To mitigate the draining feeling I experience during social interactions, I need to improve my conversational skills to avoid awkward moments. It was an eye-opener to realize that some people can become the life of the party without revealing much about themselves. They skillfully steer conversations by acknowledging and commenting on others' remarks, asking questions, and giving genuine compliments. Although I've read numerous self-improvement books on building relationships, I've yet to put these techniques into practice. While reading about these methods is encouraging, applying them in real-life situations can be daunting, which is why I've hesitated.

In both my personal and professional life, mastering the art of relationship-building, connecting, and establishing rapport is crucial. If I can learn to derive energy rather than fatigue from social interactions, my overall happiness and success will likely improve.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn