August 9, 2012

10 Ways To Be Less Awkward

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What is the issue?
As a lanky, gangly human being with rather large hands and feet — I’m the physical epitome of awkward. In addition, I’m often tentative, unsure of myself, indecisive and sporadically shy. This results in the occasional awkward moment when I’m in a social environment. Over my years of experience, I’ve developed a few techniques that can reduce the uneasy vibes radiating from an awkward body.

1. Either don’t initiate any hugs or handshakes, or initiate all of them. Part of being awkward is devastatingly bad timing and hesitance when extending a hand or arms to greet someone. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to play off being snubbed, so don’t even put yourself in that position. If you can’t firmly decide to either go in for the fist bumps, high fives, embraces etc. — don’t bother! Extending a hand and having it return to yourself untouched is easily in life’s ten most embarrassing moments.

2. Always keep your phone on you. An awkward person with a cell phone in a social environment is the equivalent of MacGyver having a Swiss Army knife in a bind. You’re instantly resourceful. It allows us the ability to occupy ourselves using various apps and games or pretending to be texting. This serves as a brilliant coping mechanism to deal with being in an uncomfortable setting. 

3. Be early. If you’ve ever shown up to an event late, you’re aware of how difficult it can be to ingratiate yourself into the festivities. Everyone seems to already be acquainted with each other and you struggle to take part in conversations. If you arrive early, there’s nobody there who you haven’t met — thus, you’re in a position to be the most popular person in the joint.

4. Ask questions. Some aren’t great at conversing; others become particularly nervous speaking to certain individuals. A helpful way to avoid babbling, stumbling over your words, and coming off as a tense person is to put the pressure on others. Let them talk. All you do is listen, and generate a response — in the form of a question. They describe their nostalgic stories of fishing with their father as a child for 10 minutes, then you ask “How large was the biggest fish you ever caught?” Boom — another 10 minutes of conversation generated. Eventually you’ll grow more comfortable and feel compelled to discuss yourself as well.

5. If you can’t recognize the temperature, avoid playing the role of weatherman. If you’re uncertain about the type of sense of humor those you’re interacting with have, don’t tell jokes. Oftentimes attempts at wittiness around the wrong people come off as uncalled for or inappropriate. Know or have a good idea of the mood and feel of your surroundings before practicing your standup routine.

6. Don’t think about screw-ups. Emphasize your attention on the positive aspects of your experience. While it can be difficult to make it through a social event when certain things have gone wrong, or you’ve embarrassed yourself — focus on what’s gone right. Be progressive. Encouraging yourself and recognizing that you’ve done well in some areas will go a long way.

7. Worry less about others’ opinions. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but you’ve got to. Even if that means having a drink or two to loosen up, you must force yourself to refrain from caring. If we’re worried in advance about what he or she will think of us, we’ll try to live up to their expectations (which are probably incredibly high, if they were created by our self-conscious minds). It’ll be straining and that rarely ever works out well. Keep it natural and authentic. Although there is one thing you can force…

8. Be extraordinarily friendly. Smile. Smile some more. Then follow that up with a little more smiling. Seriously, people thoroughly enjoy being around a flat out nice, happy person. That’s why Will Smith and Ellen DeGeneres are so appealing. Even if you start out imitating happiness, eventually it can turn into the real thing. Sometimes pretending like you know what you’re doing leads to somehow, actually knowing what you’re doing. It’s the same with emulating joy. Fake it ‘til it’s real.

9. Don’t try to ease the awkward silences. When something uncomfortable or rude is said — whether it’s by yourself or another person — silence may occur. When nobody is laughing at a punch line, or has no response to a slightly offensive comment, don’t even attempt to fill that void. Doing so can, and probably will result in some excruciating discomfort. There truly are some instances where silence is golden — especially if it’s somebody else who’s responsible for the awkward quietness. However, if you initiated the anxiousness, just wait a few seconds and a new topic will arise.

10. Get out of the house! It’s a lot easier to say something bold over Facebook chat than it is in person. As a result, our generation has spawned a massive amount of awkwardness. Many don’t feel comfortable functioning in public, or holding a conversation that’s not behind a keyboard. The only way to get used to social environments is repetition. The more you talk to people face-to-face, the easier it’ll get. As an occasionally anxious person, I assure you that this can be done if you have confidence… or shots of tequila. That always helps. TC Mark

image – Superbad
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