How can I overcome the phobia of talking to people?

My Quora Answer to “How can I overcome the phobia of talking to people?

Warning: Pretty Damn Lengthy!

Came to this question through Dhakshitha Rao‘s answer in my feed. As always, she gave an almost perfect answer to the question.

But when I read through the question details, I almost felt like I was having a deja vu. Let me explain: I was also an IITian a long time back, with no real experience in any extra-curricular activities; the only hobby I had when I entered IIT was reading (and following cricket a bit, not much); I was (and still am) really naturally-bad at any sport I played; and I was basically an introvert, with maybe 3-4 close friends from school – finding it difficult to open a conversation with people I didn’t feel close enough to. Even some relatives – aunts, uncles, some cousins – were among those I found it difficult to talk to, even though they were the ones who started the conversation and even when they were really good at talking. I am not saying I didn’t talk – I did have loads of fun just shooting crap with that small group of close friends, or close cousins.

Then, I get into a hostel, in an IIT, with people I didn’t ever know, not even from the coaching classes – well, I’d seen one or two guys in my institutes, but never spoke much to them… as you can imagine, I had no clue what to do! Apart from the fear of what the seniors would do in the usual senior-junior introduction sessions (no “ragging” in our IIT, not even back in 2000), I was also wondering about how to get to know one-two guys well enough each in the hostel and in the department. That, I thought, should be enough, comfortable, to get through these four years.

What happened was that the group of guys in the rooms near mine, including one of my first-year room-mates, were of the more social, funny types who were great chaps (I hate writing this “great chaps” openly – what if one of them reads it all the way till here? 😛 ). Some of them knew one another, some of them knew some of the preceding batch seniors in the hostel… well, whatever combination of events happened (I don’t remember much now), I just went along for the general group-ish hangouts, and sat there without saying much – I was still too scared to talk thinking, “What would they think of me if I opened my mouth?” They just started to ask me point-blank for what I thought about things, and I started opening up… and soon, I made yet another group of friends for life! More importantly, I finally got to a place where I can now start a conversation with people I don’t know!

So, why did I stick with this group, and why did I start opening up to them? It was simple: Like I said, I wanted to make one-two close friends, max! There were these guys from similar backgrounds, who also seemed seriously social and actually wanted to get to know new people… that was the reason I got going along with them in the first place. Then, I realized some of them shared my interest in reading (nowhere near my almost-crazy level, though), so we had something to talk about… Then, they got me interested in other things that they were interested in: football (what some idiots call “soccer”) being the main one, movies by genre, GK in general, etc., etc. Basically, the reason I started opening up to them was not only because they were asking me for my opinion, but also because I sensed an opportunity to widen my range of interests/hobbies. This same thing later on led to me making good friends within my department (where I was exactly in the mid-tier of the class – basically, average), and other departments/hostels as well.

I know I have written a rather lengthy synopsis of my life in IIT. I wanted to basically give the full context of my story, and not just say that I know where you are coming from. I have been where you are now. I’ve gotten over most of it. I still don’t go talk to new people by myself, but that’s not because of fear anymore – I know that.  The basic points I want to highlight for when you want to overcome your phobia of talking to new people are the following:

  • First thing you have to do is, explore yourself: find what interests and hobbies you have. It is not a question of whether you are doing the things or not, or how good you are at them currently. About the football I mentioned above, I started playing it, even though I sucked at it. I improved a bit, but remained bad at it over all the four years – and yet, I played it because I love the game.
  • Second, keep yourself open to try new things. Yes, I know it is scary to get into something new, especially when you are an introvert – not just the fright of failing at it, but the far bigger fright of having to interact with new people in the beginning phases of trying these things out. But, you have to force yourself into this mindset. This is something I am telling you from deep personal experience. There is nothing that can help you in “overcoming” – or rather, working around, as Dhakhsitha put it – your fears.
  • You say you have two-three friends on campus, right? What do you do with them? I suppose, just hangout and talk? Stop that! Take the help of the friends you already have to expand your fields of activity. Join them in stuff that they do without you – this way you get to know other, new people.
  • Maintain a cheerful exterior. It doesn’t matter how scared or worried or negative you are feeling inside. Keep smiling, and show off a positive face to others. That way, the social people might approach you for conversations. And you know what? Having a nice, pleasant talk with someone, especially about general bullshit, actually helps alleviate your fear of being an introvert and might get you out of that zone – at least into the ambivert level (not a bad place to be at all, let me assure you). Who knows, it might be that your tension of approaching others is actually showing off as “don’t talk to me” to others
  • As Dhakshitha (and some others) pointed out, use common interests to start conversations with people, and to keep them going.
  • As for making more friends, start in your hostel. No better place. Just start with the group of people that sit and hangout in your corridor. Be honest, and tell them that you want to just make friends, and that you were an introvert & scared to join them till now. Be prepared to take insults, though. Trust me, that is how engineering students talk to each other for fun – no harm intended or even meant.
  • As for friends in the department, the best place to start would be your lab-mates. I am pretty sure there would be a few people who are usually along with you in almost all the labs. You already have something common to talk to them about. Take it slow – start with one-two of them, casual remarks in the lab, and then, more than casual conversations outside. Once the others (if there are more than 3-4 in the lab-groups – I come from mech., we had 7-10 people in each lab group) notice that you actually talk, and others talk back not-in-a-stiff, to-the-point manner, they might open up too. This is a long process, though – lasting at least the whole of a semester.
  • The main thing you have to remember is this: When someone approaches you, to talk, for help, for anything… don’t get nervous and run away. Even if you are nervous, talk to them like you’re perfectly normal. If they need help, help them out, and you can fret over your tensions later on. Doing this will make them want to come back to you. And it is such repetitive interactions that lay the foundations for friendships.
  • As for interviews, I already covered that in two points above: maintain a positive exterior, and the preceding point.

Phew! A rather lengthy answer, even by my standards – and I DO write very long ones! Hope I did not bore you to death, and I do sincerely hope that this answer does something to help you out. All the best! 🙂

How do I react when people talk behind my back?

Answer by Me on Quora:

How do I react when people talk behind my back?

TL:DR –  There is no need to be really annoyed with people talking behind our back. Most of the time, it is just a matter of convenience. So, cheer up, don’t react… keep your annoyance at bay – too much irritability/annoyance just spoils the day, maybe more.

Why do people talk behind your back? Because, sometimes it is more convenient to do so, rather than having discussions with the subject of the said discussion sitting right there. Why is it more convenient? Because it might lead to a less biased discussion, instead of to a possible argument. People need to talk about their feelings to work through them (or work  them out), and it is better done when the subject of those feelings is  not present right in front participating in the discussion.

Imagine a situation where you have a serious crush on someone you know, and you need to figure out whether what you have is just infatuation or it could be more than that. Who would you talk to first? That same person, or one of your close friends? Obviously one of your friends, am I right? Say you work it out to “relationship-possible” status and tell the main guy/girl. What if they then simply get annoyed with you for talking about them behind their back, and not expressing your feelings directly to them in the first place? Does that make sense?

Also, just think about what you are doing with this question: You are basically talking about your close ones behind their backs. Yes, you have posted the question anonymously, but that doesn’t change the fact that you did in fact talk about things that they do without letting them know – i.e., talked behind their backs. Now, if you get annoyed when people do that to you, why do you do that to others?

You mentioned that they let you know that such and such discussions about you have happened while you were not present. You should, in fact, be happy that they are so open about it. “Talking behind someone’s back” is actually what happens when people talk about someone in a gossipy and/or negative way, and do not let the person in question know.

What I am trying to do is point out why there is no need to be really annoyed with people talking behind our back. Most of the time, it is just a matter of convenience. At the other times, when it is actually in a negative/gossipy sense, then do what Sriram Srinivasan said: “Ignore and move on”. There is no point in wasting any time thinking about such stuff either. If they are close friends, you anyway know there are no bad intentions involved in even the most “negative” things they talk about you – it is mostly all in fun!

So, cheer up, don’t react… keep your annoyance at bay – too much irritability/annoyance just spoils the day, maybe more.

Dravid Skype-ing with a cancer patient – Another Quora answer

Answer by Anonymous on Quora:

What is Rahul Dravid like in real life?

I do not write much on Quora. But the question is very tempting for me. I had a very wonderful experience with Dravid which I will cherish for lifetime.

A year back, my friend was seriously ill with Cancer. He was a huge fan of Dravid. So much that whenever he batted he recalled Dravid’s shots and tried to emulate them.

One day a couple of us went to see him in hospital. He was being treated for blood cancer. His condition was critical and chances of recovery were negligible. We used to discuss cricket a lot. Even during his critical condition, when it was extremely difficult for him to utter simple words, he would relish any discussion on cricket. When we were leaving, he expressed a desire to talk to Dravid. We started contacting Dravid from all the possible sources we could. Though we did not hope that we will get any reply from Dravid.

A few days later, one of us got a call from Veejeta, Dravid’s wife. Dravid had gone through our emails. She was definitely touched by our efforts and expressed Dravid’s desire to have a Skype chat. We were unsure if Dravid could make it because of his busy schedule.

But he did. Dravid talked with my friend in the hospital for almost an hour. He apologized for not able to come in person. The smile on my friend’s face was precious. He was beaming with happiness. Not just that, Dravid talked with his parents, his doctors and all other patients in the ward.  Dravid made sure that he left my friend and his parents motivated after the conversation. After that hour there was positive vibe in hospital.

We recorded the entire conversation. Unfortunately, my friend could not survive the harshness of cancer. The gesture which Dravid showed definitely made him gather courage for some part of his fight with cancer. When I watch the video I see my friend’s face smiling and content. I feel proud that during his last days we were able to make him smile.

In case you read this, thank you Rahul Dravid!

I am glad to see such a response. There are a couple of request to share the video. But I will resist. This is personal and I would like it to be that way. I do not mind sharing a screenshot.

The video is now accessible to public on YouTube. We hope that the message reaches Rahul Dravid and other people who are working to make the world a better place by their kind acts.
This has been an emotional journey for all of us. You can find more details at

What is Rahul Dravid like in real life?

Answer by Puneet Tripathi on Quora:

What is Rahul Dravid like in real life?

So this is exactly what happened with a guy from office who was travelling from Bangalore to Delhi via flight in Economy class.

He got a window seat and a person comes and sits on the seat next to his. He looks quite like Dravid, so office guy asked him if he was Rahul Dravid. And got the reply “Yes”.

He got a window seat and a person comes and sits on the seat next to his. He looks quite like Dravid, so office guy asked him if he was Rahul Dravid. And got the reply “Yes”.He was amazed to see that Rahul Dravid was travelling in Economy and was wearing a cotton pant and full sleeve shirt. Quite a down to earth guy, right?

But the story doesn’t end here. When people saw him a couple of them started coming to them to ask for autograph and photograph. He politely told everyone that people are still boarding so do not block the passage, instead lets move to the li’l empty area and click the photos. He got photos with everyone who asked him and if a photo was not good he asked for another.

Such a responsible and fan loving person he is. Dravid asked the storyteller his purpose of visit and he told it was for an interview in an IT company. Dravid wished him luck and had a small chat about how did it go.

Then he took out an ages old ipod and plugged the earphones and started listening to music. He responded and replied to one and all who came to meet or greet him.

He is indeed the best of all the celebrities I have heard stories about.

Brett Lee said it quite right. “If you can’t get along with Dravid, you’re struggling in life“.

Awesomest Dravid!!

What are some cool WhatsApp group names? – About A Group I Created on WhatsApp!

YET Another Answer by Me on Quora:

What are some cool WhatsApp group names?

Well, this is a group name I coined – I created the group, so am the Group Admin…

Basically, this is a small group of close friends from my days in college. We graduated out of IIT-Madras, and I wanted a group name that would abbreviate to IIT. Those from IITM will tell you that we are used to referring to our college as “insti” – a short for Institute (the lazy bums that we were). Hence, Insti.

Now, being a close-knit group that has always maintained contact through the 10+ years since our graduation, we are still as open, frank and candid with each other as we had been throughout our four years in college. In fact, it was this ease for frankness with which we could connect with each other that made us a great group of friends within the first two months of college! Now, what can be a synonym for such frank, candid people? Here comes Ingenuous.

As candid as we are, we also know each other too damn well. We know each others’ strengths, but more importantly, each others’ failings. Yes, we DO support one another through all the rough patches in life. But also, once those are through, we never fail to immediately start reminding each other of the foolish things we did that first led to those rough patches – all in a playful manner, of course. I had a collection of fools to name (myself included, obviously). Who is the most foolish person that Indian history tells us of?  So, who better than Tuglak?

So the group that I created for my closest college friends is named:

Insti’s Ingenuous Tuglaks

What is the best 5-word story you’ve heard/thought of?

Another Answer by Me on Quora:

What is the best 5-word story you’ve heard/thought of?

  • “And then, we had cupcakes!!!”
  • There he sat, comfortably nervous.
  • What goes on in there?
  • He Said – She Said: Marriage…
  • “I Am Everywhere”, said Death.
  • “Who cares… we’re hardcore fans!”

All coined by me on the spur of the moment. Maybe more will come, and the answer will be edited as and when they do… 🙂

Yes, yes… I know I am sharing here a lot of my Quora answers nowadays. But what to do, that is where most of my five-to-ten line daily writing is happening nowadays – answering questions seems to give me a topic to write on.

And yeah, guys, gals, and everyone in between, please do share your 5-word stories here in the comments as well. Also, do let me know of your take on mine. As mentioned in that answer above – I will update that answer as well as this blog post as I think of new ones myself. 🙂

What if Google was a guy?

An Answer by Me on Quora:

What if Google was a guy?

Thanks for the A2A, Dimple Bhatia! Happy New Year to you, btw. 🙂

If Google were a guy… hmmm… interesting question, I should say! While I see many funny, witty answers down here – Bhuvi Jain, as always :), and Arnima Sharma for the College Humor videos I should say, I liked best – let me try this time to answer it like the engineering/numerical/data analyst that I professionally am. So, my answer is going to be mostly about the career options that the guy Google would follow through, from the most boring on upwards… The impacts of these on his personal life may appear on some of those – I can’t really guarantee it. The answer shall be a flow of ideas straight from the brain to the keyboard without much edits.

Before that, though, I don’t understand why most people here seem to think that Google is the one who knows everything, or the one with all the answers. No – Google is just a search engine which knows the fastest and best ways as to where to look for answers. If we were to humanize a website with the most knowledge/answers, that would be Wikipedia.

First off, with his great indexing ability for such a vast space as the internet itself, the first job for Google that comes to mind would be that of a librarian. Of course, while most people would consider it a boring job – and so, not many GFs – I think a librarian would have a great time just reading up on all that is available around him at the workplace. And, with the aforementioned level of ability, getting to be the librarian at the best damn library in the world would not be any difficult for Mr. Google. Who knows, maybe he could even get to meet a very intelligent SO right there in the library itself, and that would make for a great marriage itself…

Second guess at a career – first-class researcher. We know that he can get a great amount of the required data very quickly. We know that his analysis of what is necessary, and what the next step is from the available data is excellent – just look at the insane amount of suggestions that he provides just from the first few letters you start typing into the search box! Now, I cannot still say with absolute certainty as to which field he would choose – but if I were to guess, I would hedge my bets on applied math. After all, he is quite a bit into algorithms from the data-searching process, which comes naturally to him. Again, this would term him a nerd during school/college; but hey, the contributions forthcoming from his research would be great enough to compensate for any name-calling. Besides, I think he would be self-confident enough to deal with any attempt at bullying. This position should also lead to a quite intelligent life-partner, IMHO.

My next guess would be that he would be a great help to the police and other higher-level investigative agencies in all kinds of investigations. Who better than someone who knows where exactly to look for information than Google to do this – whether it be a case of missing persons, murder investigations, financial wrongdoings, or whatnot? He might even set up his own shop as a private detective, and go down in history as the best in the trade, more famous than Sherlock Holmes – most likely even without the cocaine-snorting habit that the 221B resident was known for. Now, if he were a cop/FBI/CIA/equivalent-in-other-countries guy, then there is not much I can really say about his chances of romance/marriage and happiness or lack thereof.

My final and most likely, in his case, guess – getting a bit tired from the typing, and thinking up stuff by now… I think he would be the one to start the tech revolution in the Silicon Valley (or wherever else he may be comfortable settling down in). Also, I think that he would have started the Big Data trend that has only caught on recently. With this, he would be among one of the first software-related billionaires in the world. I am pretty sure no shortage of girls/models/actresses then, unless he’s already married by the time he hits success…

Well, hope this answer provides for a decent reading…

Sai’s Note: For those that do not know, in Quora terminology, A2A stands for Ask to Answer. That is when someone wants you to answer a particular question, and also gives away some of their own points to motivate you to answer.