Social awkwardness is a broad term. It can mean we are shy, insecure, afraid of rejection, unsure of how to make or keep friends, nervous about starting a conversation or knowing what to talk about, and even knowing how to relate to people outside of what is comfortable for you. Sometimes our nerves get the best of us. You may feel sweaty, anxious, doubt yourself or find every excuse in the book not to have to face someone, including looking down at your phone on Facebook. Hold your horses, you aren’t alone.
1) Don’t compare yourself with others. Our perception can really screw with our minds. You may observe someone who YOU THINK is a social butterfly at work and think, “Hey, this girl is so socially skilled.” Reality check – Almost everyone is over analyzing his or her thoughts before and after they are regurgitating out of his or her mouth. How do you know she isn’t nervous as heck and “needs” the chatter to feel better about herself? You don’t know what she is thinking. Everyone has their own process of how they socially interact. Focus on YOUR own process.
Up Your Ability Tip: If you get the chance, take a public speaking course at your local college. This will change your life forever. Your fears will be flushed down the toilet and you can finally move on with your life with less stress!
2) Get rid of expectations: Relating to people and feeling “accepted” in a peer group is important to us. Of course, that’s really the basis of making friends. But, what makes us feel rejected? Is it because the receiving end does not respond the way you “expect” him or her to?
We set standards for ourselves expecting people to respond a certain way to our actions. Not everyone is going to react the same way, so why have certain expectations? Maybe the person did enjoy what you were saying and decided to mindfully listen in silence. Nine times out of 10, you aren’t being rejected.
3) What do you have to lose? No matter what you say or what you don’t say, you’re STILL going to be here on this earth alive and in the same exact physical condition you were in before you opened your mouth. Nothing bad is going to happen. A million times, we have probably said to ourselves “OMG, did I say the wrong thing?” and thought “what if they didn’t like what I said?” There is high probability that you aren’t making yourself look stupid. Who are you comparing yourself to? Reality check – People aren’t expecting you to be a human encyclopedia or to use correct grammar when you speak. They want to hear what YOU have to say because it allows them to create perspective on things. Your voice is worthwhile. Think about what you can gain instead of what you perceive you will lose. If you don’t speak up, you may lose your chance to meet a good friend.
Up Your Ability Tip: A fantastic way to make friends is offer them gum or a snack. That’s like the coolest way to open up a friendly door.
4) Change your attitude. Get rid of the negative self-talk. Accept the “imperfections” and move on. Consider those “imperfections” as character to your style of socialization. They are not bad things. Ninety-nine percent of the time, no one else notices them. Don’t apologize to others for the mistakes you see in yourself. This only reveals that you aren’t accepting of yourself. When you accept yourself, it helps others accept you. If you want to vent about how your conversation sounded, talk to someone trustworthy about it. As nervous or anxious as you may be in a social situation, you can always smile and “fake it til you make it.” Practice makes perfect. Realize that no one expects perfection. Just be yourself, and the rest will follow.
5) Keep it short and sweet. You don’t have to be the world’s expert on science when you go to a gathering where you’re surrounded by a bunch of chemists. When engaging in conversation, a simple smile and greeting shows kindness, which is important. In this case, you could ask one of the chemists an open-ended question about something you’ve always wondered, like “You always hear about chemicals being bad for our bodies, what are your thoughts on this?” Let them do the talking and you listen and nod in return. Listening is a huge part of being socially inclined, which relieves you of having to speak.
6) Listening skills. In order to make friends or be socially exceptional, you have to be a good listener. This tip is actually great for people who are unsure of how to start conversations. As long as you can show you are listening and ask open-ended questions to the speaker, you will be in good shape. This shows you respect what the speaker has to say. This is a huge key component of making friends.
7) Breathe and smile. Plain and simple. Lower that anxiety and take a few deep breaths, especially between sentences. If you observe good speakers, you will see they don’t talk a million miles an hour and they do take short pauses to breathe. Pace yourself when talking to someone. It allows thoughts to organize better in your head. When in high doubt of what to say, just smile. No one is going to judge or reject you for being nice. When someone smiles at you, don’t you get that automatic feeling of being accepted?
8) Put those electronics down. Don’t expect people to engage in conversation with you if you show no interest in paying attention to them. In fact, if you are looking down on your phone, you are telling the person who sits next to you on the bench you want nothing to do with them. Our world is learning that this is acceptable, when it is not acceptable. Don’t forget about reality.
In the video, Look Up, Gary Turk expresses the epitome of the downfall of how social media is oppressing our social skills.
Realize that almost everyone is in the same boat you are socially in some shape or form. Don’t let those nerves get the best of you. If you do, then you will have a hard time making friends. Kiss your wellness and take the initiative to reduce your social stress. Look up and smile. Everyone has to start or improve somewhere. Our social health is an essential part of our survival and well being. Meow.