Feeling socially “awkward” is something that generally plagues our teen years; minutely dissecting every embarrassing moment you had in front of your peers (well at least I did)! I think we all remember trying to desperately be “cool”! You were safe in the knowledge that when you “grow up” you wouldn’t have to suffer from awkward situations because you would have it all worked out right? Right?
Just like any skills, if you haven’t nurtured it then it will not grow. Life experiences, dominant personality traits and exposure to social events all add up to how you can handle large social situations. Being a confident ‘networker’ whether for work or personal is beneficial, it opens up new worlds you never knew existed, expands meaningful relationships and you meet some amazingly interesting people.
I got the pleasure of meeting some amazingly extroverted, confident people and when I asked them what they do to avoid social “argh!” moments the following stood out:
You are overly critical of yourself
While you are having awkward feelings when in a social situation, chances are you are not alone! Most of us suffer from the anxiety of being in a room full of people we don’t know well, it is a natural feeling so take a deep breath and relax. You are the only one who will be critical of what you are doing as you are so focused on yourself and your senses will be heightened in stressful situations. Most people are too busy focusing on their own internal monologue to even notice yours, which is a sad but relevant fact.
I attended a mindfulness course, and one thing that stood out to me is how little I used to listen to people. While someone was giving their relevant and interesting opinion, I (like many others) would already be crafting my response in my head , which meant I would miss 80% of what was being said because I was too focused on me. It was liberating to realise this and practice something called ‘mindful listening’! I fully concentrate on what someone is saying to me now, I learn a lot more this way and by putting your full attention on someone you make them feel important. You will find people will open up a lot more, and do most of the talking, which if you are uncomfortable in social situations – makes it easier for you.
Sometimes in life you just have to ‘fake it till you make it’. It comes down to good old fashioned pretending – most people initiate this technique when presenting to a room but it also works splendidly in social situations. Stand tall, make eye contact with people and smile! Your body language will make you more approachable and some research states that you can change your emotions by changing your behaviour – so get your power pose on girl and feel the waves of confidence flow to you.
Use a Friend
I’ve saved the best until last on this post. My favourite way of gaining confidence in social situations is to use a friend. Choose one who loves socialising, is good at it and is of course gregarious – invite them along to your social events, or go with them to theirs – either way you will be exposed to their networking style and learn from it. They will take the ‘small talk’ and allow you to relax and join in when you are confident enough. Having a friend there will also give you emotional support which can make all the difference; from here you will feel more confident in the future.
Let me know your favourite tips for social situations, I would love to hear them!