Here are a few common reasons why conversing with opposite gender may lie outside of our comfort zone:
Will I be judged? – Being judged is something we find discomforting in every interaction, be it with a friend/family/colleague and so on. It’s all the more pronounced when it comes to someone from opposite gender. Lack of familiarity and willingness to make a good first impression makes it difficult for us to overcome this fear.
Lack of Self Confidence- When a person evaluates themselves as inferior to others be it in terms of physical attractiveness, conversation skills, social conduct, it makes approaching the opposite gender an arduous task. They might not be able to open up easily which might translate to awkward silences in the conversation, stammering or nervousness. They might constantly undervalue themselves which further makes it difficult for them to let their personality shine.
Lack of Awareness of Shared Interests- If a person is more introspective, not very talkative or prefers solitude and the other individual lies more on the opposite end of the spectrum – bubbly, social and outgoing then it might take more time and effort to open up to them. We generally presume difference of interests of both the genders.
Pressure of making a good first Impression- Making a good first impression is a pressure that we all have faced in social interactions. This is a very commonly used adage by Will Rogers, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. This adds to the pressure where we think that if we do not make a good first impression then we wouldn’t be able to face the person again or get another chance to interact with them as they might have already formed an image about us.
Gender sensitive remarks- It is imperative to take into account that there are certain unspoken rules of social conduct that one needs to take into consideration and play an important role while interacting with the opposite gender.
Lack of Exposure- A lot of people might find engaging with the opposite sex as a discomforting experience due to lack of exposure to such interactions. For example- If a girl has studied in an all girl’s convent school then she might find herself in unfamiliar territories in her initial conversations with boys and vice versa so lack of exposure renders fewer opportunities to meet and converse with a member of the opposite sex and understand, internalize and experience the dynamics of such social interactions.
Societal Imposition of Rules- There are certain implicit rules that are ascribed by social and religious institutions for conduct with the opposite gender. For example – In case of religious celebrations and auspicious occasions there is a segregation of seating areas for males and females in places of worship. In conservative and traditional areas, women and men have to follow certain rules while interacting in public spaces or they are faced with disapproving glances or bear the brunt of being the subject of gossip.
OVERCOMING FEAR OF INTERACTION WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX
First Impressions- We often forget to pay heed to the other common adage that is ‘Do not judge a book by its cover’. Many times our first impressions of other people might change over time as the bond deepens and we might end up surprised by the other qualities and traits they have which might not have come to the forefront in the initial interactions.
Making Assumptions- Some people take time to open up and let in the others and this hesitance might be misperceived as conceitedness which curbs the communication process. Interaction starts by giving the other person a chance and we might end up with special meaningful bonds that we might end up cherishing for a long time.
Circle of concern and control- How others perceive us is not in our hands so we can only focus on the steps that we can take to build a bond with others. There would be some people who will like us, and some won’t. We cannot ensure that every person that we approach would match our mental wavelength, despite of the gender, and that’s universal.
Rehearsal in front of the mirror- Rehearsing the conversations in social scenarios where one usually gets stuck or becomes blank can be a step towards overcoming lack self-confidence. We can’t expect an overnight change but this technique has been proven to aid in improving self-confidence. When we practice being self-confident, it soon becomes second nature.
Practice with close ones- We can work on the fear of interaction by starting with family members, cousins or relatives who we are comfortable with and then further move to acquaintances till we feel that we have achieved a level of confidence where we can approach unfamiliar people. Getting to know someone deeply from opposite gender of the family may unearth our apprehensions of the same.
Both the genders have the same apprehensions so if we let our hesitance and insecurities hold us back then we won’t be able to further the process of communication. We often forget to be kind to ourselves if we end up in a social situation where things might not have turned out as well as we expected them to but we have to understand that it’s human to err and we do not have a control over how others might evaluate us based on their subjective yardsticks, irrespective of whether we put our best foot forward or not.
Let’s use our differences to build the bridge of communication.