Image: The Glow editor Jenny Valentish
When I was in my late teens, and quite, quite mad with the world, I sat down opposite a turd. This turd had been fairly freshly laid, on a seat of the London Underground, by someone even madder than me.
The culprit was nowhere to be seen, but I knew very well that in a few stops the train would fill up and I’d have to have a seatmate. Aha! I thought. But if I sit opposite the turd, nobody will come near me. Thank you, stranger.
It worked a treat! And I got the first inkling that I had a bit of a social problem.
Thankfully, I’d like to think I’ve cured this over time, but it did take some exercises that I set myself. If you’re the sort of ball of joy whose face is set to ‘wither’, and who walks around all elbows and angles, try these five things every time you’re feeling vexed by mankind.
5 ways to not be antisocial
1. Picture people as kids.
Adults are way less dislikable if you reduce their mannerisms to those of a needy child. And look how cute they are with that button nose! Don’t stare.
2. Imagine them choosing their clothes the night before.
‘Watching’ them make their choices – and pinning their hopes for the day on these choices – you can’t not put yourself in their shoes; even as they’re trying to find the other shoe in the wardrobe. (Try not to do the up-down sweep – that looks hostile.)
Not a rigor mortis smile, or the sort of smile that says, “I’d rather sit next to a turd, actually”. Smile a secret signal to someone you think needs it. Or that has great hair or something. You can even say, “Great hair.”
4. Look for the similarities, not the differences.
This takes some imagination. Don’t stare! Find something you can relate to about each person in your vicinity. They have a triangle of freckles on their arm? So do you! Gee, wonder if they trace that triangle with their finger sometimes. See? They're just like you and me… Well... just like you. Sorry - I'm NOTHING LIKE you, right?
5. See who needs help.
Is someone doddering their way off a tram? Are they about to drop something? Dart in to save the day! You make a connection and are a total hero. And then you get to leave.
How far have you gone to avoid talking to strangers?