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Former Social Anxiety Sufferer Interviews Socially Confident Guy


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I’ve interviewed a socially at ease friend named ‘Eric’. He’s a great guy who went from moving to the US and not speaking any English and not fitting in, to living his dream life in Bali.

Here’s some of the gem’s he shared:

  • How he meets people with different interests
  • What kind of question to ask to find your tribe
  • A simple strategy to ask a question to make the conversation go deeper
  • Ways to make friends and make the friendships go deeper
  • Great and fun ideas to make friends naturally

Quoting Eric:

I think asking questions and listening works the best when you’re trying to meet somebody. People love talking about themselves. They don’t get that opportunity for somebody to truly listen. So the more you listen to them the more deeply they become connected to you. They’re investing in you by giving you their time and sharing their lives with you. So just ask a question, and hear who they are and what they do and what they enjoy. 



Sebastiaan: Welcome to episode 65 of the Social Anxiety Solutions podcast – Your journey to social confidence. Now, my name is Sebastiaan van der Schrier and I’m an ex-social anxiety disorder sufferer and I suffered from social anxiety for a really long time but thanks to energy psychology in the help of some brilliant therapists, I’ve been able to become anxiety free and I now feel calm and relaxed in social situations. Now on this show I interview experts from both Western traditional psychology as well as Eastern energy psychology to give you the best tools to overcome your social anxiety. And sometimes I’m interviewing some friends just as like I’m doing today. So, today I’m interviewing Eric Winkler. Winkler, someone who’s at ease socially and I’ll be asking him a bunch of questions about mindset beliefs, expectations, how to make friends and how to have a nice social life because I think we can learn something from that.

So, here’s a bit about Eric. Eric emigrated from big city Taipei in Taiwan to a small sleepy town in Missouri where he was the only Asian kid in school. Being a scrawny social outcast who spoke no English, Eric tried everything for years to fit in and he’s a fan of travel, dogs and he just had a Burning Man wedding. So, me and Eric, we met about a year ago. We were actually neighbors you know we’re both living in Bali, Indonesia and we’ve since been hanging out quite a bit working out, bulking up having some man only nights and just overall having a good time. So, I think this is gonna be fun. Thank you for being on the show, sir.

Eric Winkler: Yeah thanks for having me Sebastiaan. I’m excited to be on.

Sebastiaan: Cool. So, I thought you know since you say that you were a scrawny little Asian kid because this is you know I’m reading out what you gave to me. And you did tell me a bit about that. Maybe kick off by asking, have you ever experienced social anxiety?

Eric Winkler: Yeah, definitely. I think so anyways, definitely anxiety you’re just feeling like out of place you know like whenever I’d say I went from big city Taipei to small sleep in town Missouri’s because you know coming from as an Asian coming from a city where I belong and there’s a bunch of others like me to a place where in Middle America where there is nobody like me and everybody looked different and I was literally the only kid that was different. That was that was weird, and I didn’t really speak English, I didn’t really know how to interact with people.

Yeah. I had to ride the short bus because I went to an ESL school, English as a Second Language for a year and short bus usually means you have learning disabilities if not you know other like handicaps. And so, I was a short bus kid because I didn’t speak English which didn’t help the cause at all. And yeah, it was just it was really weird time like I went from you know I wasn’t like a cool kid in Taiwan by any means but at least you know didn’t have this other kind of issues before of really not fitting in.

Sebastiaan: Right.

Eric Winkler: So, yeah it was weird. It was a really weird time in life I didn’t know who I was at all. I didn’t know what I was doing.

Sebastiaan: How old were you?

Eric Winkler: I was 10 when I moved here. I moved to America. Yeah so, I had to take third grade over again actually and yeah, I just I was really trying to figure out who I was. I ended up getting into all sorts of different things. I started them I started hanging out with a couple kind of other outcasts kids who were really into like heavy metal and skateboarding. And that’s kind of how you know I got into all of those types of things as a kid. It was like…

Sebastiaan: You kind of feel like you need approval.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, exactly. But exactly. But it was it was a crowd of other kind of miscreants I guess but we all kind of bonded each other, it was awesome. Because you know, we although we weren’t part of the cool crowd, we were, we had our own thing going on. And eventually everybody else was kind of looking at us like “Oh, these guys are actually kind of original, you know. They’re doing their own thing and they’re very against the grain”. Well, everybody else was you know like having their parents buy them Hollister t-shirts and Ambercrombie & Fitch we were really into like Slipknot t-shirts and like saving money for new skateboards and going to shoot some.

Yeah, man. So, that was that was that. English ended up getting much better you know like things kind of started turning at one point like probably four or five years and do it. But yeah, it was a like I said there was it’s hard to fit it in little America when you’re when you don’t speak English, when you’re a scrawny little Asian kid.

Sebastiaan: I bet. Yeah. It’s been, yeah, I’ve worked with quite a few clients who have a story like this. You know, either they came from abroad and they moved to a different country like typical story in fact or a lot of people as well that you know they had friends in their previous school and they went to a new school and they didn’t get their friends along and now they were outside of their comfort zone. And even that because they already kind of had a you know propensity to social anxiety or more vulnerability to social anxiety because if you know childhood stuff.

Now, all of a sudden, they’re in this environment and they don’t know how to deal with it and now they’re you know misfits. They don’t fit in, they can’t talk to people and whereas they’re you know nothing was going on before now they’re in this new school and now they have social anxiety and now they don’t have friends and now they’re like “Oh, I don’t have friends. Everyone’s noticing that I don’t have friends. This is not good” and then it gets worse and worse and worse and it just kind of starts there for quite a lot of people. So, you know, good that you’ve, you found something that you could you know where you could kind of fit in, right? Like the skating and then the music and that’s good.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, definitely. I mean it wasn’t easy it was like a lot of I don’t know, I used to get in like fights all the time with kids and all of that. And I think that kind of bonded me with these other guys as well because they were kind of in that same circle of like troublemakers.

Sebastiaan: Right.

Eric Winkler: And so, I guess in some way of being like a bit of an outcast then labeled me a troublemaker and that’s where like all of these kinds of rebellious heavy metal skating, you know, going against the grain activities came in. And that’s where it all bonded together. So, yeah.

Sebastiaan: Because there’s also a particular… Not that I necessarily recommend this but there’s a particular status that comes with getting into trouble like…

Eric Winkler: Yeah, oh, yeah.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, when I first went to middle school you know it was cool to get kicked out of class. So, I got myself kicked out of class within a couple of days and now is like “Awesome, Sebastiaan got kicked out of class” and that’s then the story that goes around like, “Oh, you must be badass”, right? You get a particular reputation which can be helpful, right?

Eric Winkler: Right.

Sebastiaan: It’s interesting how that works with yeah, with status. Yeah.

Eric Winkler: Yeah. But that’s also kind of like a little bit short, short-sighted in some ways too, isn’t it? Like for me especially I was kind of you know I would get in trouble and all these things but then I kind of became like the kid that parents warned like their kids about, you know. It was like I you know it wasn’t, it worked to an extent but then like you, at some point I also had to kind of reinvent myself later on in high school, so I didn’t want to be the troublemaker kid, you know. And that’s even harder to get out of and I didn’t even really get out of that in high school. It took me until like after college really when my friend’s parents saw me you know doing better things than I was doing for them to kind of accept me and realize that I wasn’t that kid anymore growing up. But yes. So, I don’t know if it’s like I don’t know I don’t think that’s maybe a recommended technique to be getting in trouble and doing crazy things.

Sebastiaan: Listen to Eric, tip number one. Plus, you get into trouble at some point, you know. It’s fun in the beginning but then when that becomes your stick and you get in trouble all the time, they almost get kicked out or you can get kicked out of school and you know it’s not good. Plus, it’s a way, you know, you are kind of seeking approval and that’s not good to start with. Anyway…

Eric Winkler: Well, I think there’s also… Yeah, I mean like I’ll think like definitely later on. I mean you can also kind of see where a lot of people do that in other ways like in kind of self-destructive patterns, right? Like you can kind of see where like people would want to involve themselves and like lots of partying and drinking and this and that. In some ways that’s like kind of the troublemaker thing and then you become like the party guy, right?

Sebastiaan: Absolutely.

Eric Winkler: And so that’s like in many ways the…

Sebastiaan: Who would take the most drugs and…

Eric Winkler: Exactly.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, not good.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, and you’re like creating like that façade for yourself at the end of the day and you know we all know people who have been that or been that person ourselves at some point. Again, it takes some a bit of time to reinvent yourself and you know become somebody else.

Sebastiaan: Definitely.

Eric Winkler: You know, so, it’s strange.

Sebastiaan: Because what is, what is a quote on quote cool in middle school or high school like you know up to age 16 is very uncool when you’re older. It’s the opposite.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, I could get into a fight now. I would curl up just cry if I ever got into a fight in public. I would be so embarrassed.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, exactly. All right. So, let’s see. Right. So, let’s talk a bit about mindset. So, when I had social anxiety there were all sorts of thoughts in my mind of things that I was worrying about, you know,

“What are they thinking of me? Oh, what if this person doesn’t like me? Or what if I do something stupid and I embarrass myself. Oh, I’m gonna meet this person for the first time, I better make it a good impression because this impression is gonna last and if I mess it up then I’ll forever be…”. You know, all this kind of freaking nonsense that makes you totally crazy coming just from deep insecurity inside of myself.”

What do you think that other people think of you now?

Eric Winkler: That’s a good question.

Sebastiaan: Is it even something that you ever consider?

Eric Winkler: You know it’s funny because I actually I’m not exactly sure if I think of what others think of me. I think about how I want others to think of me more so than anything. It’s one thing like for me it’s one thing to… It’s one thing to have somebody be like “Oh, Eric. He’s the fun guy or whatever”. That’s that to me especially lately hasn’t been much on my mind whereas I want to project like a certain image onto other people now. Like I have this thing where I want people to you know see me as a successful entrepreneur and these types of things. And that’s actually been driving me crazy more so than like actually what people think.

Sebastiaan: At least is in your control more though that I mean the other side the other thing is totally outside your control. Here you know, you can put on some nice clothes or show up at the right places or talk a big game or whatever.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it’s I think I think of when I was a bit younger I cared a lot more of what people thought of me. Especially when you know, especially like when I was going in college I’ve really wanted people to see you know I was majoring in the right things that was going to be successful later on. In high school when I was younger than those age, I don’t think I had… I wanted to create a more rebel image as we talked about. Later on, I wanted to create a more positive successful you know “This guy is going places” type image. And I think I was probably quite good at doing that you know.

Now, I think I’m craving that kind of same thing, but I want to be recognized. I have like a thing with recognition where I want people to recognize me for a certain thing and that’s probably like a like a mom thing because my mom is always you know what comparing me and doing that type of thing. And yes, I guess it’s for me it’s more of a validation than actually what people think. So, I don’t know if that answers your question but…

Sebastiaan: Yeah. But does it make you feel insecure?

Eric Winkler: Yeah for sure. I mean like in some ways definitely, you know. Especially like where we live where there’s so many people who are like crushing at doing what they do, and I always wonder like how did that, like what did they what have they been doing that I’m not doing. And in some ways that that is like my anxiety where I think of other people and I see them like working very hard doing these things and I’m like “Well, how could I get there and what am I doing that’s not up to par?”

So, that’s kind of my biggest like anxiety and fear behind this whole thing. Because I want to fit in you know with like this community of people crushing it where I’m like just starting to you know my business and starting the things that I’ve been doing, and I see other people who are 10 years ahead and I guess I’m kind of comparing myself whereas you know maybe I shouldn’t compare my beginnings to their middles. So, yeah…

Sebastiaan: Yeah. But even though that’s the case and you know, nice that you’re comfortable and openly sharing that, right? I mean so-so pretty common where we’re from.

Eric Winkler: Right.

Sebastiaan: Where we’re living, but, yeah…

Eric Winkler: But this isn’t… This isn’t probably something that I would share like I honestly with other people like besides you and maybe a couple other people I probably wouldn’t say this too much because I did… I wouldn’t really want people around to hear like something like this. So, it’s kind of a strange thing.

Sebastiaan: Well, things we are getting to scoop.

Eric Winkler: Right.

Sebastiaan: Let’s hope that this isn’t going viral. Anyway, so, yeah, but even though there is that insecurity because I just want to point out to people listening this like yeah, even though someone is comfortable socially that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any insecurities because there’s this perfection image that is projected onto other people and people with social anxiety typically tend to think,

“Oh, I have so much issues. I’m the toughest case around and everyone else is perfect. Look at them. They’re always happy”. And that’s not really the reality.

Everyone has their own, their own shit going on and yeah if you look at their Facebook pages it does look like you know everything’s perfect, but I know a lot of people that post a lot of nice things on Facebook and they’re not, you know, they’re not doing all as well as Facebook portrays it. Right, so…

Eric Winkler: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely. And I think that a lot of people are like that you know they create their façade as well and they want to portray their image. I know that like for me personally I’m probably, I’d probably do it just for my own ego in some ways, you know. And I’m like for my own validation and I probably don’t do it as hard as others. I’m sure I’ve seen a lot of people around who really try and create this magical wander sparkly lifestyle but I always you know when I chat with them it’s, it is a little bit different. It feels different. I don’t know if it really is different, but my intuition says otherwise. There’s definitely a lot of that around. Exactly. Yeah.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, how is it for you to meet people? Is that something difficult is that something easy?

Eric Winkler: It depends. It depends on whole of commonality we have. And I actually, I kind of create a lot of I’ve made a lot of friend groups throughout my years, different friend groups from different interests. And I personally have quite a few interests really bizarre things that I get into. I have like this a knack for going into some weird rabbit holes on Wikipedia and Reddit where I’ll just read for hours and hours and I’ll learn about some really bizarre things that ends up actually coming up really handy whenever I’m meeting people.

So, like I’ve started reading into like psychology. I’m eats like a psychology person like years later and I’m like, “Oh, so, I read this thing this one time and I’ll talk about this thing that we have like these commonalities”. I don’t… I think the only time I really have difficulty is when it gets a little bit when people especially here where we live anew but when people are a little bit too, yeah, especially when it’s a little bit too, I don’t know spiritual and woo-woo and things that are a little bit outside of my comfort zone.

But for the most part I haven’t had a ton of problems meeting people. It’s more like staying connected with them. You know, it’s like, “Well, where did we have this commonality? What can we talk about?” Yeah. And figuring out what kind of things that we’re both into. Because oftentimes you know, I’m usually nice to everybody, everybody’s nice to me but at some point, it’s like a bit superficial. So, then do I really want to continue this relationship with them or not?

Sebastiaan: Right. You know, it costs time to develop deeper, deeper friendships, deeper relationships. And you know, there is the superficial that is there in the in the beginning. You’re not instantly gonna say, “So, tell me what’s your life? Well, both of us, you know. But typically, most people will initially say, “Hey what’s your life purpose?” Or you know, start talking about some deep stuff.

Usually there’s the social thing is like, “Hey, how’s it going?” and you know and there’s the superficial which kind of leads you into a deeper relation if you find that you have commonality and you know you get along well. You just have that click with someone then just things, you know, things go well from there. What’s that like for you? I was just thinking who’s that. Is that Gina or is that…?

Eric Winkler: Some guy. Yeah. So, what’s that like for me, you know, I find commonalities and all sorts of different ways of people. I just ask questions. I just love listening to what people say and do. Not so much I, you know, there’s of course the “How are you?” and “What do you do?” but I also love kind of asking like “So, what do you like to do?”, you know. And that says a lot about a person how they spend their time. Yeah, “What do you do for fun?” you know like one of my favorite camp questions like “Do you like camping?” because that for me that’s a check I love camping and I for me that that says quite a bit about a person because I think that in a situation where you know just a few people go out into the woods and just like being away from technology and be away from the distractions and starve your, you know, starve your distractions. And you’re in a space where you can really you know, get to know each other and being a little bit of hardship as well.

I think that having you know, getting out of myself out of like kind of a nerfed lifestyle where everything is padded, and everything is easy, and food and water is just around the corner, you know. For me that that has something very profound. So, it’s one of my favorite questions like so you know like, “What do you like doing? Do you like camping?” And it’s such a strange thing but it really works. I learned so much about people from it. And yeah, it’s just great. I’m trying to think what else. Yeah, I think that really just and there’s so many things nowadays that you can find commonalities with because we’re also connected. You know, like the with the with the birth of the internet like we’ve never been so connected and, so I think everybody in some level is connected it’s just figuring out what level of connection that is. And then do you want to pursue that.

Because I mean I have some people that you know we are you know we can talk about marketing together because it’s not what we do but really like we are more connected through woodworking because I’m weirdly loved like the smell of freshly cut wood and working with my hands and doing things like that. And those are like the type of things that we talk about and yeah.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, it’s a brilliant question actually when you think about it. It’s like, “Hey, I’m into camping not many people are into camping, but I really dig people that are into camping for reason I see. So, this is just my question you know, and this is what I ask people.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, it’s like finding your tribe you know.

Sebastiaan: It’s fantastic to see to get a feel for people, you know.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, absolutely.

Sebastiaan: I also like what you said earlier, you know. I’m just nice to people and people are just nice to me. It is that simple, isn’t it?

Eric Winkler: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely think I mean you get what you put out into the universe, right? Like if you, the more you put out the energy that you know you’re you know that you’re feeling closed off that you don’t really want people to interact with you, things like that. You’ll definitely receive that back to you. Like people can tell like people can see that and they can sense it. The more that you put out there that you know, you are happy smile even just a smile. Smile go such a long way and it’s like you know having a happy tone and the way that you look at people. Even when you’re not feeling happy, even when you’re not feeling confident or you know, anything you know fake confidence, fake you know, like happiness is better than no happiness and confidence. So, you might as well just try it. And I really think that’s kind of how like that’s where I started like as a kid. Like I would just kind of fake it until I you know became it and just you know, it kind, it worked.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, yeah. I tell you it works to degree when you’re very anxious that becomes a bit more but more difficult but what you say, definitely. I interviewed this girl once like you know, 10 years ago maybe even longer ago when I lived in South Africa I did an NLP course and we had to model people’s mindset, so you had to think of someone who had what you wanted to have and then model their beliefs in their behavior and ask them all sorts of questions. And her name was Hermien, she was always happy by all but super like. So, I asked her what’s the secret? You know, “Why you’re always so happy?” And she just gave me a bunch of answers. I’m like “Why are you never not happy?” She’s like “Of course I am”. I’m like “What do you do then?” She’s like “Then I just fake happiness to someone else. I give them a big smile and then they’re you know happy back to me and that makes me feel happy”. I’m like “That is clever”. Yeah, I never forgot that. Yeah, yeah.

So, it sounds like you just have an attitude or a mindset of curiosity and openness and you’re trying to figure out “Alright, is this person someone that I want to invest more time in to get to know a bit better”, right?

Eric Winkler: Yeah, definitely. I think asking questions and listening works the best whenever you’re trying to meet somebody because people love talking about themselves, you know.

Sebastiaan: Exactly.

Eric Winkler: The people just love you know, they don’t get that opportunity for somebody to truly listen. And so, the more you listen the more deeply connected they become with you. They’re investing in you by giving you their time and sharing their lives with you. And so, just ask a question you know and just hear who they are, what do they do, what do they enjoy. You know, like you can even go into some deeper questions sometimes like, “Well, what are some of the obstacles in these passions and pursuits that you’re pursuing?” and then you know, they’ll even open up a little bit more and going into “Well, like my biggest obstacle with camping is I don’t have enough time you know, I don’t get to go enough”. Like I don’t you know whatever it is. But often times you know, it can go very deep very quickly without you know you even really trying or prodding too hard.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, awesome. And so, what is it from your perspective that then creates friendships? What are things that you do in order to make that happen? Because a lot of people are like,

“Okay, well, it never goes past the superficial for me. How do I get actual friendships?”

Eric Winkler: I think there’s a few different kinds of pieces to that puzzle. I don’t think for me, I don’t know if there’s like a surefire way of figure out when the friendship becomes a friendship. But I know that going through something with somebody usually puts me in a you know, in a deeper connection with them, right? By just going out to dinners here and there, just hanging out like seeing somebody at a party once in a while and brushing past and saying hi and having like a 10-minute conversation.

Yeah, I mean that’s for me that’s more of an acquaintance type thing, but you know, sometimes, especially like whenever I moved into new cities where I didn’t really know anybody, and I really had to put myself out there, it was really awkward you know. When I, when I moved to Denver went in 2013 I didn’t, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have anything. I just moved there.

And one of the things I had to do is just meet people, right? And so, what I ended up doing is like it’s like getting guys numbers, you know. Which is a weird thing to do is like whenever I’m out at a bar like having a drink and having a chat and like, “Oh, hey, man, you know, I’m gonna be doing something later on you and I, you’re more than welcome to join like when go grab a beer or something like that”. And those kinds of things like kind of putting myself out there but really helped solidify some friendships or at least begin the blossom of it.

And I think also keeping in contact with people is very important. Anytime I see something that reminds me of a friend back home or reminds me of a friend somewhere that I’ve met, I always send it to him. It doesn’t matter how silly it is or how long it’s been that I’ve chatted with them. I always just like I want to, I want to maintain that relationship because you just never know, you never know what state they’re in, you know, it makes them, it makes them feel that they are important and makes me feel like that that relationship is real, you know. So, I think there’s a bit of maintenance a bit of putting yourself out there which I mean it is a little bit, it’s a little bit scary you know because you don’t want to get turned down and feel silly for inviting somebody to like a you know coming to my Ultimate Frisbee or come have a drink and then somebody’s like, “Nah, man. That’s I don’t do that”. And if that’s the case, I’m sure you know, if like then that’s not a you’re not being reciprocated a friendship and maybe you know it’s time to spend your time and energy elsewhere. Maybe you know, it’s just not the right time to you know, facilitate that.

Sebastiaan: Yeah. And when someone keeps inviting you and you keep seeing “No” you can you know, bet your bollocks that those invites are gonna stop…

Eric Winkler: Exactly.

Sebastiaan: So, someone does invite you, say “Yes”. Yeah, yeah. Let’s go even if it’s not your thing go experience it. Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned earlier that yeah, when I go with someone through kind of an experience that kind of solidifies the friendship or it makes it go deeper. I definitely feel that to be the case as well. If you only see someone at frisbee for example I’ve got the people at frisbee I see them like, you know, they’re friends or acquaintances but you know, if I see them in the in the city for example that that’s it’s a short conversation. We’re not hanging out outside of that so that’s not really a friendship.

Like when and we I think we went for dinner maybe a few times but that’s then you know that’s my frisbee crew, right? Or there’s my soccer crew but when you go through different kinds of experiences now it’s like, “Ah, okay, we went to this together we did this together”. And I think that also frequency of seeing each other just, you know, spending enough time you just get to know each other better and the conversations get deeper and you start to know more interesting stuff and figure things out. Like “Oh, and I’ve figured out you want to be a politician, that you were in the Army.” And wow, that’s a cool fact, right? “That’s fascinating I didn’t know that”.

And I love that about friendships as well, you know, I’ve definitely have been in many situations having lived in so many different places where you got to start from scratch. Like I love the period where friendships deepen, they actually didn’t figure out who the other person is. That’s a cool thing.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, no definitely I think like seeing people in different lights like seeing them in different situations really helps. I think that’s one of the reasons why I like a family vacation is brings a family together. So, you know, like after the family vacation no matter how horrible the family vacation is you always have something to laugh about.

Sebastiaan: Yeah.

Eric Winkler: Right? Because you see each other like…

Sebastiaan: Share misery.

Eric Winkler: I don’t… Yeah, you shared misery. Like that really helps that you see each other in life in laughter in struggle in all these different kinds of settings. And it really you start seeing the character of the people that you’re surrounding yourself with. Same with friendships, you know. Like the more you see your friends in different situations, the more times that they tell you about some struggles and as well as their you know, pleasures and positive things in their lives. You really start seeing them in different ways and I brew, I think that creates a deeper bond between you. Because now you guys have shared all of these different moments together.

Sebastiaan: Yeah.

Eric Winkler: Yeah.

Sebastiaan: Perhaps you shared you know, a wider palette of emotions together, more intensive and that’s probably bonding as well when I think about it.

Eric Winkler: Exactly. Yeah, definitely.

Sebastiaan: So, when you know, when starting from scratch meeting new people and that kind of stuff, you mentioned yes, it’s been awkward. So, awkward tends to be the enemy of the socially anxious… Well, I don’t want to say socially anxious… From someone who experiences social anxiety. I don’t want to say socially anxious person because we want to get rid of that stupid identification and it’s not helpful.

So, someone who experiences social anxiety, awkward is typically you know that’s the thing I don’t want to experience. So, what’s your mindset around awkwardness? Is it okay? What happens when you experience it? How do you deal with it? Do you expect it? And so on.

Eric Winkler: I mean honestly, I think that awkwardness is a part of everyday life in some way shape or form. Like everybody is going to experience it in some way shape or form. I think that whatever you’re creating a new friendship whenever you’re meeting new people it tends to get shown more, right? Like it, you because you guys are kind of you’re still trying to figure out where the frequency of the other person is. So, is it acceptable for me to be behaving like this while they’re behaving like them? Trying to see like gauge the other person. It’s almost like whenever you’re dating a girl you know and before you guys have like gone like kissed or done you know like it’s before the end of the night, you’re still trying to figure out where that other person is. And you have an idea of like you have this idea of what they expect and you’re trying to figure out like what that is. It’s like, “Okay, should I be this type of gentleman? Should I open doors? Should I be more of a bad boy? Should I do that?” And you’re like that’s how that’s the same thing with you know, building new friendships.

And yeah, I tend to find myself in all sorts of like kind of funny little situations whenever I’m trying to meet new people. And I just have some “Go to’s” honestly. I found that has worked and that that’s probably different for everybody, but I know that whenever I came whenever I came over to Tabali I would just ask people if they want to go on a ride. I’d ask people if they want to go to the spa, do they play chess. You know, just some activities that I am comfortable with. I don’t have to be the best at it, I don’t have to be competitive, I don’t. It’s just something that I enjoy that I enjoy sharing with other people and see if they want to share that with me, you know. And in that get to know them more and you know, create conversation around it.

I think the most awkward social situations is when you don’t talk. It’s like whenever you go to a movie and then there’s you’ve spent two three hours with somebody without even getting to know them a single, you know, fact more. And I think those kinds of things are always a little bit I don’t know, I get more awkward about that than anything else.

Sebastiaan: Right, right. And how do you deal with it when that awkwardness is there?

Eric Winkler: I feel like I just try to create some conversation, you know. I try to ask them especially afterwards when I can see you know that no words have been exchanged. It’s like let’s it’s time to talk about something because yeah, we’ve got a, we’ve got to get past this. Like I remember I went to a show with a few friends you know, new friends at like a club to see a DJ and they invited me so I was like “Okay, sure”. But I mean we were just in there having drinks and it’s fine, it’s a very social situation. Everybody is there you know, it’s a packed house but I didn’t we didn’t speak. The music was loud we were just kind of like dancing and doing like a two-finger kind of dance type thing.

And in some ways, it was kind of awkward because you’re you don’t exactly, you’re trying to like jive with people and figure out if they think that you’re looking cool. And you’re trying to look cool and it’s this whole thing. So, you know, I think afterwards it was just like “Let’s chat about what happened tonight”, you know like there needed to be quite a bit of conversation around that to kind of fill that void before. So, I think it’s just creating conversation. It doesn’t really matter what the conversation is as long as…

Sebastiaan: And does it even matter what your question is, right? People are just trying to talk, and everyone wants to get out of that awkward moment so, you know.

Eric Winkler: Yeah.

Sebastiaan: Ask a stupid question and people are happy that you asked this stupid question, right?

Eric Winkler: Exactly. Because everybody can feel the tension, you know. It’s not, it’s never just you. Like for me anyways. I can and I sometimes I’ll even say it you know like man that was heavy like get the you know, like it’s a good thing we can chat again. I’m glad to hear your voice like, so yeah…

Sebastiaan: Excellent. All right. Let me see if I can think of any more. Yeah, okay. So, basically you meet people, you’re curious about them, you’re open, you ask your, “Hey, you want to go camping or do you like camping thing?”

Eric Winkler: Yeah. It could be anything really. Yeah.

Sebastiaan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, what about meeting people for the first time? Like people are even like, “Well, what do you say then?”

Eric Winkler: You know, I yeah, again, it kind of depends on what the situation is. I get introduced all sorts of people, all the time for my girlfriend because Gina is very, very social and so often times I get to meet a lot of her friends. And so, you know, we’re always going to dinners and the set and the other. And usually, I have to just kind of sit there, engage the situation for a second and figure out you know, where’s this conversation going, what kind of person is this? You know, is this a more yoga, because she’s a yoga teacher? Is this person very into yoga and eating very healthy and this that? And the other which you know, I have some conversations armed in the back of my mind for you know, situations like that or is this you know, somebody that she used to go to school with and hang out with and you know go to Glastonbury with or whatever it is. Which like in that case I have some questions and stories armed around that.

I think at some point like I’ve kind of just created certain you know, different pockets folders whatever I want to call them of us, you know, questions and conversations and topics of interest that I can just kind of pull up which I can speak, which is, which are open for conversation and I can speak relatively intelligently about. And I think that in itself kind of helps those types of first impression situations.

But then again, you know, it’s not so much about like what is being said is just like the presence, right? It’s being open and listening and putting out there like a good happy, welcoming energy where people feel comfortable around me. Because ultimately that’s what I want people to do, you know. I want people to feel trusting and that I’m not you know, just some Joe Schmoe off the street that is sketchy in some way or whatever or aggressive or anything like that. I think just putting people in a comforted comfortable state is what works best.

Sebastiaan: Yep. And so, what are your… I have two questions let me, let me think which one I’m gonna ask because…

Eric Winkler: Okay.

Sebastiaan: Let’s do the other one I might forget that the next one. But, so, specifically I mean it’s like, so, you meet someone for the first time, what do you say? It is as simple as like, “Hey, how’s it going? My name is Sebastiaan”. Right? Or like what do you say?

Eric Winkler: Yeah. That’s beautifully what you just said. You know, I’m just like “Hey, what’s going on, man? I’m Eric.” Shake hands, give a hug, whatever. Like the social situation would be. And you know, if we are just with we have just met, like say it, say it was just a complete stranger, you know, that I’m meeting at in line at a grocery store, whatever it is. Yeah, it’s just you know, it’s just a simple introduction. You know, maybe like a little bit of commentary about what’s going on around us. Like if we’re standing in line at the grocery store is just you know, just something I always try and crack some jokes about you know probably long lines and whatever else that a grocery store setting would have. But it’s really just, you know, carrying a big smile and that you know, had it’s a body language thing, right? And just being overall relaxed as much as I can.

Sometimes it doesn’t always happen like that, right? Like sometimes it can be a little bit anxious feeling because you know, especially if it’s somebody who I perceive as maybe I don’t know, if powerful was the word but like comes off as like strong and you know, whatever that. Like somebody with a strong presence, you know. Have you ever had something like that? Like I’ve definitely met people that are like taller than me, stronger than me, better-looking than me, you know. A girl that’s very beautiful that I kind of like I feel myself stammering in some ways.

And which is like it’s not usually like me, but it does happen. But in those situations, I you know, it’s just, it’s again trying to remain calm and seeing the situation for what it is. And just introducing. I think like a good introduction and the smile goes such a long way and it breaks a lot of ice. It breaks a lot of barriers. You don’t have to have all of the jokes, you don’t need to you know, like break the ice too much. It’s just like just getting that first “In” with somebody can really go far.

Sebastiaan: Yeah. And even asking an obvious question, right?

Eric Winkler: Yeah.

Sebastiaan: So, yeah, how long you been living here? Are you… That’s like the common question where we live.

Eric Winkler: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Sebastiaan: So, you living here? Because I want to know, right?

Eric Winkler: Yeah, yeah.

Sebastiaan: I was just passing by. You know, my investment level is probably a bit lower.

Eric Winkler: Right.

Sebastiaan: Because you’ll be passing friend…

Eric Winkler: Yeah. I think one of my favorite questions for where we live is like “What have you been up to today?” You know, because…

Sebastiaan: Because there is always something…

Eric Winkler: Yeah. Somebody, somebody’s always doing something. Like I went to a waterfall, I went to this crazy cool class, whatever it is. I love that because then I learned something new. They loved telling me about what they did. And yeah, and that also creates a bit of a bond between you, right? Like that also opens an opportunity for an invite to something that you wouldn’t have maybe been invited otherwise or gives you something new. You know, I heard about this thing from this guy at the grocery store today, you know. And you can pass that on to somebody else to say, “Hey, do you want to come with me to that? You know, let’s go to experience something new together and create that new bond.

Sebastiaan: Yeah.

Eric Winkler: So, yeah. That, that’s a great question to ask.

Sebastiaan: Cool, cool, cool. Let’s see, I have a list of questions and I think I’m running out, let’s see if I still have a question. All right, so, we kind of spoke about it a bit earlier already, so when you come to a new place, you know, how do you, how do you go from having no friends to making friends?

And I’ll just quickly share when I just got to Bali for the first time, I had one friend, but he was leaving in a week and I was staying there for a month and maybe lived there. So, I’m like, “Alright, it’s making friends time again”, you know. So, I’ll go to different meetings and stuff, but I’ll set things up as well. Like I like playing soccer, if I may humbly say so I’m pretty good at it. And I really love playing soccer, so I know that when I play soccer and I invite some people I’m gonna have a good time.

So, I just you know, I went to this co-working space, I put up a little sign, “Hey, you know, reach out to Sebastiaan if you, if you want to join we’re gonna and I’m asking people around. Say people I talked to it “By the way, do you play soccer? – Yeah. – Oh, cool because I’m organizing this thing and blah, blah, blah. And so, then you know, Friday evening rolls along and we have a team of 10 players and it’s a fun time to play soccer”. And then it’s like, “Alright. Let’s go for a beer and dinner after. – Great.”

You know, everyone shows up, two guys bring to our girlfriends along and at the end of that evening you know, four of them are from Lithuania and in Lithuania they love saunas and they’ve already found a sauna in Bali and they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to the sauna tomorrow. You want to come?” I’m like “Yeah, great”. Next day we would go to the sauna and you know at the sauna we meet two more people and it just grows really quickly if you just have that open mindset. And you know, like let’s put your… Let’s put myself out there a bit, maybe nobody says, “No, I don’t want to go to soccer”, right? But even if he is, have one or two people, it can grow from there is typically what I found as well.

People are not on an island. So, if you make a friend with someone that someone typically has a social life of their own and if that person you made a friend with likes you, he will introduce you to their social life. So, you know, it just takes a couple of friendships to hit gold and create a social life, right?

Eric Winkler: Yeah.

Sebastiaan: So, yeah. So, what are things that you do or have done at the start of getting to a place to make friends or get people together or stuff like that? Because I know you’ve done certain things because I’ve been there, right?

Eric Winkler: Yeah, yeah. I mean like for example, one of the examples I can give is when I first moved to Denver, I was the only, I didn’t know anybody. None of my friends had moved there yet and I ended up finding I’m a big Kansas City Chiefs fan, right? So, I like American football. I’m watching it. So, I ended up finding this this bar that plays a Chiefs game every Sunday from the team is playing. And I just showed up and I ended up meeting all sorts of people who were from around the area that we share the same interest and we kind of created this little you know, like a Chiefs bond and decided that, “Hey, you know, we should make this every Sunday thing”.

And it is just kind of snowballed into effect from there and then they brought me on you know, they asked me if I wanted to play Ultimate Frisbee with them at Wash Park and I was like “Okay, sure. Yeah, great”. And then one thing led to another, we ended up going hiking together. And it just sort of growing community that way.

Another one I first came to Bali, I needed to take a break from yoga and all of those things, right? It was a little bit too much. So, I was like, “You know what? We need a men’s circle. We need an immense circle that doesn’t talk about any spirituality things. We just need to have a guy’s night”. You know, whether that be camping or going out fishing or whatever it turns out. You know, we’d all just kind of sat around and had a couple drinks and just talked about man things but that really worked at. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one but it’s so many people that were around. We’re kind of in that same space although most of them really enjoyed, you know, their day to day yoga practice and meditation and things like that just as I enjoy it.

But it’s just we all kind of had that same mindset of “We need a break”, you know. And so, more people are out there than then I thought that we’re on that same frequency as me. It’s just putting that out there and that really worked out well. So, yeah. So, I think it’s just like creating and facilitating a space that other people can enjoy, you know, a setting with you and you know, making that happen. That’s a, that’s such a big thing.

Sebastiaan: Cool. Another thing I kind of want to point out for people if you’re not like, if you’re not the type of person who actually puts things together if that seems like a really big step for you, you can make it smaller by just looking for things that are already going on and then joining it. Like I started going to ultimate frisbee for example. I’ve never done that, but you know, I’m athletic, I like exercising so I’m like “Oh, I’ll give that a go”.

First time I go, I don’t, you know, there’s one guy that I met before, the rest I don’t know so you know, I’m not totally comfortable there. I’m also feeling things out a bit, you know. And seeing what it is like, but I have a good time. I’m like “I’m gonna do that again”. So, I go again. Now, I’m comfortable. And I go again. Now, I’m comfortable. And I’m go again and now we’re at or I’m starting to meet people and you know it is interesting. And a couple of really cool, for like one of my closest, some of my closest friends that I have now, you know, that I met last year actually come from frisbee and it’s a free event that just showed up.

By the way, Ultimate Frisbee is probably in most of the big cities where you live. Same thing a couple of years ago in Thailand. We had Chiang Mai fitness. Some dude that put together a fitness group. All right, 7 a.m. in the morning was crazy. 7 a.m. in the morning every day working out. Well, we go through that stuff you know, you meet there you go through a challenge like what we described earlier, you know. This is kind of an experience that you go through because this is a hard workout.

Now, you share some intense emotions. You go for, you go for Brekkie after and you know, you’re starting to see each other more. You invite each other to go to the swimming pool or whatever it is. You know, you start to meet people. When you go to things that you like going to whether that’s a yoga class or whether that’s you know, whatever, and you just go there a bunch of time the familiarity will start to make things easier. Might not be comfortable the first time you go or maybe not even the first five times that you go, but, eventually, you’ll start to kind of become more familiar with the situation and your brain will be like “Oh, okay. I can let my guard down here because I’ve scoped out the area. There are some certainties in place here. I can come more out of my shell and I’m okay here”.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, yeah. I think definitely. I think that’s really interesting what you’re saying because that is very true whenever you’re creating a space for yourself whatever that space may be. It may be even just be a restaurant that you’re really familiar with that you enjoy eating at, you know. Inviting people to that space with you where you feel in command. And you know, I know you don’t even have to be completely in command but you’re familiar with it, you know the space, you know how this place works. You can speak about it in some form of authority. And you know, I don’t mean authority as in you know, I own this thing but yeah, you know, like I know about this place. That little bit of confidence right there can really give you that extra push to get over that awkwardness of meeting somebody.

Because sometimes you know, especially if some, it’s some somebody else’s first time at an event that you’re going to and you’re the one it’s you know, explaining to them how it works then you’re the person helping them out.

Sebastiaan: Exactly.

Eric Winkler: And you know, you’ve created a space for them to open up and things like that. So, yeah, I think that’s really important to you know, have a little bit of repetition, having some a place that you’re able to take other people or and share. So, yeah…

Sebastiaan: Cool. I have one more question, but I badly need to go to the toilet so give me, give me a minute. We’ll end up with this and I’ll ask a question, alright?

Eric Winkler: All right.

Sebastiaan: Right on. So, I thought maybe it would be fun since you mentioned Gina before and I’ll be interviewing Gina soon as well.

Eric Winkler: Okay.

Sebastiaan: That you share how did you guys meet.

Eric Winkler: Oh. So, how did we meet?

Sebastiaan: Because, because, wait one second. Because these two are it’s a really awesome couple. I love them and they’re really fun to hang out with and you know, we’ve gotten quite good friends and they’ve been dating for two years. They’re just a great example of people in love who have a great relationship, who have a great social life and that are just happy people. So, I thought it would be good to interview them and I thought would be cool to interview the both of them. And so, maybe your sharing how you guys met is a good little anticipation builder for the interview with Gina.

Eric Winkler: Yeah, yeah. So, Gina and I met in India actually. So, I was in Nepal a couple months before India and I was doing a project there and the project ended up kind of falling through because of some political stuff and I ended up leaving Nepal. And then I got to India. So, it’s completely, I wasn’t planning on go to India at all. I was supposed to be in Nepal for a couple more months but this job kind of fell through. And so, I ended up in Northern India and a little town called Rishikesh. It’s actually a holy city, one of the holiest cities. And it was, it’s a really cool you know, wholesome, nice, beautiful place. A lot of spirituality. All of these things none of which I was really into at the time.

I was, I have just left Denver, my, the, this place I was at was kind of strange as I was, I had been partying a lot in Denver and I was working a job that I didn’t really care about and I ended up just leaving and started traveling. And so, I got to India and I think it was by some divine intervention that I ended up there and of course because I met Gina there. I do feel like it was, but I was still kind of figuring out what I liked and what I was even doing in that neck of the woods.

So, anyway, so, I’m… Me and this guy from my hostel, we were walking around town one day and we were just really exploring but we were kind of looking full or you know, a place to do a cooking class. And I don’t know how serious we were about this cooking class, but we decided you know, we’re gonna do this and we ended up getting lost and there was like kind of a jungly area and we go up it and we see this really beautiful looking like restaurant or a house or something. We didn’t, we weren’t quite sure there’s all these vines growing all over it. And it looked, it looked really like just magical and cool-looking.

And so, we go, we go up and it turned out it was like a vegan café. And again, at the time I was still eating meat and you know, drinking lots of beer and not very in a vegan place of mine. But we decided to go and check it out. And the vegan cafe actually was attached to this orphanage and it’s like a house for kids that were in trouble. Like socially and whatever and they’ve learned skills of hospitality and you know, chef like baking and things like that at the café. And the proceeds from that goes to the school.

And so, we’d show up and again, I was still kind of not really into any of it. But when we walked in I saw Gina sitting there. It was her and her friend and there was the whole place is full but there was one table right next to him. And it was empty and there were two seats there. And we were about to walk out because you know, we weren’t vegans or anything but I thought “You know what? Maybe we should, maybe we should just chill out for a second and have a tea”. And my buddy Max was like “Are you sure? It’s like you know, kind of pricey here, vegan cafe this and that”. And I was like “Yeah, that’s cool man. Like I’ll buy you tea”.

So, he sat down, and I was facing Gina, but I didn’t really know what to say because I was a bit shy. I’m not, I wasn’t I didn’t quite know how to approach her. But you know, like when you, when you’ve seen somebody before like we’ve met, I felt like I knew her, you know. Like I felt like I had seen her before. And so, I didn’t know what to say and I just was chatting with my buddy Max and I was just saying, “Well, you know, about this cooking class, we should definitely you know, take a cooking class”. And I was saying cooking class like within earshot of Gina hoping that she would hear it. And after me saying that we were gonna take a cooking class about 10 times really loudly like an obnoxious American, she turned to us and just “Did you say you were doing a cookery course?” I was like “Oh, did you hear that? Oh, yeah. We are doing a cooking class”.

And so, I actually somehow coaxed her into talking to me first. And so, anyways, we ended up doing a cooking class together because I told her that it was gonna be like a better deal or whatever, we needed four people to do this course. And it was clearly a little bit of food, but they wanted to do the course anyways. And then and she had just got off of a yoga teacher training in India and she was on a bit of a life soul-searching kind of journey as well. And they were talking about going to some other parts of India that I had never even heard of but then I kind of convinced her and her friend that I, it was my plan all along to go to those parts and I kind of just followed them. We ended up going to Dara Masala to where the Dalai Lama lives and went traveling you know, through very Northern India and then we ended up travelling for the next couple months together and really got along.

And then, and afterwards she left. She went back to England for a couple of weeks to a wedding and we didn’t know exactly if we were gonna meet back up or what the situation was. But then on Christmas, Christmas Eve it was, she sent me a message, she said, “I got you a Christmas present”. And I had no idea, I was still in India at the time. I was like “She is not sending me something surely. I’m in the middle of nowhere”. And she was like “Yeah, open up your email”. And the email was an itinerary of her flight coming back to Asia to meet me in Bangkok. And so, yeah. And so, a few days later we ended up meeting in Bangkok because that’s where I was going, and we’ve been together ever since.

Sebastiaan: Cool.

Eric Winkler: So, we traveled. Yeah. So, we’ve traveled around Asia. She’s came back to the U.S. with me a couple times to meet my family. I’ve gone to Manchester, stayed with her for you know several months in England to meet her family and do all of that. And yeah, so, we’ve been very happy since, living here in Bali and yeah, I think it’s by far the best relationship I’ve ever been a part of and hopefully you know, I’ve learned so many things from this relationship. And yeah, we’re going to, its continuing doing what we’re doing and be happy.

Sebastiaan: Very cool, very cool.

Eric Winkler: Yeah.

Sebastiaan: I wanted to put that story in there. It’s just nice for people to hear that you know, it can happen like that and it’s quite synchronistically as well, right?

Eric Winkler: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, it’s funny because…

Sebastiaan: Yeah, go ahead.

Eric Winkler: Because we’re both like in this really strange part of our lives, you know. We’ve been literally just wandering around Asia trying to figure our lives out and we were both coming from different places. But all in all, we had kind of in a lot of ways given up on the thought of looking for somebody, not forever but at the moment we let our guard down. We weren’t, I wasn’t you know, before I was always looking for somebody I was always you know on the search, on the hunt whatever you want to call it. But in that moment, in those few months I had kind of dropped that and thought “You know what? I just want to, I just want to experience life”. And it was in that moment that I was completely free and open to accept you know, somebody to come into my life. You know, when I was least expecting it, Gina showed up. And it was the exact same thing for her. So, yeah. It’s a great story.

Sebastiaan: Fantastic. Well, that’s it. Let’s end them that high note. Thanks a lot for sharing. I think this is gonna be very beneficial for people. We covered a lot of ground and yeah, this is gonna be fantastic for people to listen to who have social anxiety and so on. Thank you. Thank you mucho. And you know, well, we’ll hear from Gina next week.

Eric Winkler: Sounds good. Thanks for having me, man. Yeah.

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