A very popular accepted notion, first made by Aristotle, says that "MAN is a social animal". Most of us would agree to this small yet powerful statement made by the great Greek philosopher. We are indeed in the habit of forming and living in groups and communities. Staying away from our other fellow members of the society is a task restricted only to the few holy men who have renounced this world and stay either in the mountains or in deep forests.
Yet another quote by the famous actor and film maker Al Pacino goes like, "My first language was shy. It’s only by having been thrust into the limelight that I have learnt to cope with my shyness".
Now, the reason I quoted the above two great men must be clear to you. They clearly state two facts:
- Man cannot live in isolation. He must have a social set up in order to lead a fulfilling life.
- Each and every individual, despite his physical or mental condition is shy by nature. It is only with practice and continuous dealing with other fellow beings one is able to overcome his/her inhibitions and shyness about oneself.
Now, keeping the above firmly in mind, it becomes easier to mingle with people in any kind of set up whether it is a formal or an informal occasion.
But since blindness is considered a handicap by most of the people, including the visually impaired themselves, both the parties, (i.e., the sighted and the visually impaired), despite their natural urge to interact with each other, shy away further. This is partially due to the inherent shyness and rest due to the awkwardness of the ‘perceived’ situation. But a positive outlook, good communication skills, and a strong belief in oneself can make you as much capable and productive as any other sighted person.
Let me share this real life case to make my point:
A visually impaired person who lost his eyes at the age of 24 in an accident and whom I briefly know has beaten all odds in life to become a very successful entrepreneur. He has to attend several group meetings for his work. According to him, he does not in any way feel that, his ‘not being able to see things’ is an impediment in attending to his day to day affairs, including such gatherings or group meetings. In fact, over a period of time he has learnt to solve any issues that might crop up during such occasions. For example: He always takes a trusted friend or a colleague for such meetings to assist him with any written matter that needs to be read and discussed. Once is a while he does goof up like while being introduced around and shaking hands, but of course any sighted person might make the same mistake as well. And moreover, he has learnt to make good use of his wit and effective communication skills to overcome any embarrassing situation.
Another very talented and inspirational personality, a visually blind lady who has achieved seemingly impossible feats and is equally successful today in her field, shared few practical tips to successfully initiate and hold meaningful conversation during social gatherings or group meetings.
- Believe in yourself 100%. There is no doubt that you are as capable and smart as any other person in the room. Disability is in the mind not in the eyes. In fact, your being visually challenged is an advantage as it makes you use your other finer senses which can guide you even better than a person with a set of eyes that can ‘see’ but not necessarily ‘feel’.
- Always come to the party well dressed. Take help of family members to choose the appropriate dress and make sure you use a good perfume and mouth freshener. They work wonders for your own confidence levels as well as attract people to you naturally.
- Make sure you are early or at least punctual for the occasion. This will help you get familiar with the surroundings and settle your ‘shy nerves’ a bit.
- Request your host to introduce you around. Keep a smile on your face and as much possible a straight look, while you are being introduced. Also encourage others to interact with you by saying a witty line or two, while you are being introduced. Humour is a great ice breaker. So you may try using some jokes or clever ‘one liners’.
- Be natural in whatever you say or do. Each one of us has something unique about us, which is beautiful and attractive. But this is only visible to others when we are our natural selves. So no need to imitate others.
- Social drinking is also a good way to socialize with others. It is one ritual which makes even the most reserved open up happily in a friendly manner. I am not saying that drinking is a must. But if you enjoy it then it is a good way to make yourself feel at home amongst other men or women. But always be cautious and do not overdo it. Even having a mock tail instead of the hard drink can equally do the trick.
- Another very important thing to keep in mind is to be updated with the latest happenings in your own surroundings and the world around you. This way you can initiate conversations, engage in discussions, and participate in the whole communication process.
But most of all remember that the occasion implies there is a need for all (including you), to come together. And (as many of you might have experienced), 90% of the people in such gatherings are shy or trying to protect their shyness with conversations which might or might not be intelligible or meaningful at all. So go ahead and add in your own flavour to it and enjoy the whole experience. I am sure you will come back home satisfied and in the process winning one or two ‘like minded’ friends.