Hi, I’m Michiel
You might not be able to pronounce that since it’s Dutch, so please call me Michael. Or Stealth17, my gamer nickname.
What you're about to read is quite the wall of text, so strap in.
Let's get right to it: I was never very good with people. I was always the outlier.
Throughout primary school and highschool I was bullied, quite a lot. I never felt like I fit in with any particular group. You start to feel like that’ll always be the case and like you will never find people you like.
Trying to keep a conversation going was tough for me. At family parties I was the one looking at my phone, reading game reviews and just waiting for it to be over so I could go back home.
Giving presentations at school was terrible. I hated being the center of attention so being in front of a group is something I very much dreaded.
I wanted to be invisible. Like Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. Like that stealthy aircraft: the F-117 Nighthawk. Like submarines which are never detected. My online nickname became Stealth17 – Stealth for the invisibility and 17 for my age at the time.
After highschool I was hoping to join the Dutch Navy. Unfortunately they wouldn’t have me: not social enough. Years after I understood: you wouldn’t want a total introvert to be stuck on a ship with 50-200 others for weeks on end.
So, I had to pick something else. As I had focused entirely on the Navy I had little backup-choices. In the end I decided on a bachelor’s degree on Law. They always say college/university will be better. That you will find people you can get along with and that you’ll make friends for life.
That didn’t quite turn out to be the case. My year started with 1.000 students. You feel like you’re just a number, and that’s how they treat you. In fact, at one of the first lectures a professor said: “Please take a moment to look to your right. In about 6 months time that person won’t be there because they will have dropped out”. Quite the warm welcome. Turned out he wasn’t wrong though…
At all times I felt comfortable at my PC. You’re completely in control. No obligatory meetings, no calls and you can postpone responding to emails as long as you want. Excellent.
Eventually I started working at a callcenter for a large recruitment firm. I had to make calls, hour after hour, to update people’s information in a database. Entirely the wrong job for an introvert.
Fortunately I found something else: online marketing. I threw myself into the subject and quite quickly became the tech-guy for an online marketer.
It felt nice and safe: most communication with clients goes through email and IM. And since I was the tech guy I was mostly “talking” to computers and back-ends of websites. I had always been good at that part.
At some point I was at the umpteenth party with family. Once again I was tucked away in a corner, being timid. I was waiting for the moment when we would go home. In the meanwhile I saw all these people chatting away.
Especially my mom and grandfather were excellent. I once remarked wryly to my mom that my grandfather could make smalltalk to a lamppost. THAT is how good he is at talking to people.
I made a decision: I'm done with this frustration. I am 25 and I probably still have to be communicating with people for the next 70 years! Improving social skills was a logical course of action.
I started looking into how I could improve my social skills and how to make contact with other people easier. I read books on small talk and started practicing these skills at parties and with fellow students. It worked!
Through just following the techniques and battling fears of rejection I was actually carrying a conversation. It turned out that social skills, like skills in games could be leveled up. You could get better at them. And you would see the results!
Then, back in August 2014 I was bored with online marketing. I was spending a lot of time playing a game that had come out in April 2014: Wargame Red Dragon. I thought: screw it, I’m going to make Youtube videos on that.
The most interesting thing happened: people actually watched my videos! People were interested in hearing my commentaries. I got accepted by people! And sure, there were the naysayers (this is the internet after all).
A group of fellow players started forming around me. People I regularly played with. People who WANTED me on their team. That was an entirely new experience. Had I found my people?
The next step on my social journey turned out to be body language. Especially after seeing the show Lie to Me I was convinced that that would be my next step in understanding people and interacting with them.
So I started digging into the science of body language: how does it work? What does it do? How can you use it? I read book after book and as my social skills grew, so did my confidence.
In 2015 I got trained to be a body language trainer by body language expert Vanessa van Edwards. 2 months later I gave my first training on it for 7 veteran sales reps. Man, that was tough! These guys were looking at me like: Look kid, I have been in sales for 20 years, what can someone like you possibly teach me?
Or so I thought. That turned out to be negative self-talk. And wrongly so. These guys WERE interested! They wanted to learn how they could use body language to get more business done.
The next step turned out to be finding my niche: what clients did I want to serve? What people fit me best? I started reaching out to various groups and so far I’ve trained lawyers, doctors, sales personnel, students, engineers, financial experts, government and entrepreneurs.
My fear of presenting disappeared entirely but I still didn’t really care about my clients. I even got the most unusual compliment from somebody: "You're so calm, so confident and so charismatic! You must be a natural". Well, quite the opposite. But that goes to show that these skills CAN be learned ?.
In one of the sparring sessions with my business coaching we delved into my ideal target audience. Who did I feel like I really wanted to help? Who did I feel connected to? Who could I help?
And then it dawned on me.
I needed to start helping people like myself. The nerds, the geeks, the social outliers. The gamers. I am one of them. One of you.
That’s where I am now.
I’m here to help you master people skills so you can go about your life more confident and more socially capable.
Because I know the frustration. I know the feeling of being left out, of being insecure, of feeling judged, of feeling like I’d never be good at talking to other people.
I know it sucks. And I know that you can beat that anxiety.
I want to help you progress far faster than I did. That’s my mission. That’s the goal of SocialNerdCoaching: help fellow nerds, gamers or geek, or whatever you call yourself, to build social skills and confidence so you can be who you want to be.
Ready to let me help you?