The Fear of the Circle of Familiarity

I recently attended a rather awesome event put on by the Northern Ireland Design Alliance. It was called The Design Question, and dealt with asking, and trying to answer, a series of questions that related to what we do. It wasn’t a large event, and felt like it was much more personal. It felt great.

It was also a little daunting for me. The Design Alliance is a rather friendly group of people, both those running it and the members. This meant that people were able to talk to each other on a first name basis. I felt like the odd one out because I don’t know these people that well.

Social Circles

Google+ Circles - Sometimes it feels like this

Google+ allows users to filter friends into circles. Sometimes it can feel like this at events too. It’s not an intentional thing, it’s an unfortunate consequence of familiarity. When everyone seems to know everyone else, it can be very offputting to the new guy.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. At the event itself I surrounded myself with people that I already knew. I slotted myself perfectly into a social circle I’m already a part of. How can I get to know the people around me if I don’t put the effort in to do so? I’ll talk a little more about this shortly.

When I talk about this, I don’t mean to say that the event was in any way exclusive. The organiser, Sara Graham, did try (quite hard) to get us to chip in, and we eventually did. The people at the event were very social as well. Talking to them individually was great. Talking to them as a group was scary.

Facing Your Fear

Fortunately not all fears are this life threatening

Facing something that unnerves or scares you can be quite difficult. It wouldn’t have the impact on you otherwise. I did speak up towards the end of the event, but it was on the question I was least comfortable answering. Whilst I’m comfortable with what I said, I feel that I should have spoken up during an earlier question.

Events are a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and make connections. I didn’t. Neither did the people I sat with for the most part. Whilst some of them didn’t know each other, I knew almost all of them and was able to quickly make introductions.

I can’t help but feel that I should have made a point of trying to introduce myself to people, to try and make new connections with people involved in similar fields to myself. Sure, I might not always succeed, but if I never try then I will never succeed.

Going Forward

In a way I’m appreciative that I was able to attend the event. Whilst I might not have contributed a lot, or networked a great deal, I did learn a lot from those around me. I also realised that I need to push myself to be more social at events. So I’m glad I learnt that at this event.

Why? I have the pleasure of attending this year’s Build Conference, which runs over most of this week, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to change my ways. It’s also an awesome event, with awesome people both speaking and traveling here to participate.

Last year I was able to meet some pretty awesome people. I hope to do the same this year. If you see anyone standing looking awkward, feel free to approach them and strike up a chat. They’ll probably appreciate it.