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30 Things Only An Only Child Would Understand

30 Things Only An Only Child Would Understand

Due largely to the rising costs of raising children, single child families are on the rise in America and other developed nations, with some 18% of families in the U.S. having only one child, a figure which has doubled in the last 30 years. This means that more children in this generation will experience the joys and challenges of being raised in what comedian John Hodgman affectionately calls the “super-smart, ultra-shy narcissist club.” As an only child myself, here are 30 things that I know to be true about growing up solo.

1. We don’t all match the stereotype

We have heard it all before, only children are spoiled rotten little brats… well, guess what, so are a lot of you “normal” people, and you don’t hear us complaining about it all the time. Not all of us are completely self-obsessed.

2. We prefer to avoid conflict

We didn’t grow up with a sibling to torment or to be tormented by and are therefore naturally averse to peer conflict.

3. We are often voracious readers

Without the existence of a built-in familial playmate, we had to find other ways to occupy our time and add some people, albeit imaginary, into the cast of characters in our lives.

4. We love to hang out with big families

In much the same way that a visit to the country is an exciting and novel adventure for a city dweller, observing the dynamics and inner-workings of a large family is enjoyable for only children.

5. We tend to be closer to our friends

We treat our friends like the brothers and sisters that we never had. We are not satisfied with casual acquaintances, we want the talk-for-hours-on-the-phone-every-day type of buddy.

6. We don’t mind being alone

Have you ever seen someone eating at a restaurant or going to a movie by themselves. Guess what, they are probably having a great time, ordering or watching whatever they want. Only children are completely comfortable being alone.

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7. We like having people in the background

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was invite a bunch of people over my house and then hang out by myself in another room, reading or writing. While this may seem like extremely anti-social behavior, I simply enjoyed having people in the background that I didn’t need to directly interact with.

8. We are old souls

As the majority of our interactions outside of school are with adults, we tend to be a little more mature than our peers and, as such, we act older than our age.

9. We know exactly why we are only children

Every only child eventually gets “the talk” where our parents explain to us why they didn’t provide us with a sibling. In my case, I was a late in life, accidental birth. The whole conversation feels like an apology. It’s awkward.

10. We had imaginary friends

In fact, our imaginary friends had imaginary friends. We crafted elaborate narrative exchanges with these figments of our overactive imaginations and had a great time doing it.

11. We are less prone to PDA

We didn’t grow up being constantly touched and, as such, we tend to be a little more reserved with our public displays of affection.

12. We are less likely to want kids of our own

We do not have fond memories of our siblings growing up alongside us, so we are not inherently drawn to recreating those times.

13. We are a little sensitive

We didn’t grow up being ribbed and constantly picked on. We never built up the emotional callouses needed to live in such a cruel world, so we are often a little sensitive.

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14. We are not likely to throw a punch

…but we often wonder what it would be like to get into a real fist fight.

15. People automatically think we are weird

Telling people that you are an only child is like saying you were raised in a cult, you get a range of looks in response, that span the gap from mildly surprised to outright disgusted.

16. We are not great at sharing

Our things are our things and our food is our food. We didn’t grow up having to share and are therefore not very good at it.

17. We are drawn to other only children

Three of my closest friends are also only children. It’s a little like a private club.

18. We think we are the atypical case

Regarding those three close friends, I feel very strongly that they are all much more stereotypical “only children” than I am.

19. We are obsessive

Without the distractions that siblings provide, we tend to get deep into our hobbies.

20. We are always trying to please our parents

This carries on well into adulthood. We feel a deep need to make our parents proud, mostly because we were our parent’s sole concern for the entirety of our formative years.

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21. We love attention

We grow up never having to fight for attention, in fact, we probably received a little too much of it over the years. We are used to being the focal point in social interactions and that is not an easy thing to give up.

22. We talk to ourselves

And sometimes the conversations are pretty engaging.

23. We have overbearing parents

It’s not their fault, we are all they have, so it is only natural that they would become a little controlling.

24. We are a little bummed out that we won’t be aunts and uncles

Unless we marry into such a situation, we will never have a little niece or nephew to spoil.

25. We don’t always play well with others

Only children sometimes have difficulty operating as part of a team because they did not engage in the same type of group play that other kids did.

26. We don’t always remember our childhoods accurately

We lack a secondary record of our childhood. We have no one to ask if the exaggerated version of events that exist in our heads actually happened.

27. We used to pretend we had older siblings

Mine was a globetrotting college-aged sister with red hair and a fancy car… I genuinely have no idea why.

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28. We are not competitive

We often lack the overwhelming desire, that so many have, to turn mundane events into opportunities for competition. Don’t get me wrong, we like to win just like anyone else, we just typically prefer non-competitive activities.

29. We saved our parents a lot of money

Children are extremely expensive, in fact, it has been estimated that the total cost of raising a child often exceeds $250,000 by the time they reach 18.

30. We are just like everyone else

So stop bringing it up all the time! We’re sensitive about it.

 

Featured photo credit: boy in mumbai slums / pushkar raj sharma via flic.kr

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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