Let me start off by saying that I’m no stranger to the painfully awkward feeling that arises when you meet someone new, and you don’t know what to talk about. That uncomfortable feeling of being in an unfamiliar setting, standing at around 6’5 in heels and feeling like you just don’t belong. You know, when it feels like all eyes are on you.
As a fiercely independent empath, a mixtrovert tall girl who likes heels and a freespirited entrepreneur (gosh, that’s a lot of labels!), I embrace contradiction and generally do OK in most situations… even if it does sometimes take a few days to recover afterwards!
I am, however, always filled with a wave of dread when presented with anything where there’s going to be a lot of hype and group interaction.
A personal development seminar of mass proportions…
A wedding of one of my husband’s colleagues where I know only the groom…
An epic children’s party where I know only the mother of the birthday boy…
For me, these are the situations that present plenty of opportunities for awkwardness. The most awkward moment? When I have to mix and mingle.
…Sharing exercise answers with the group.
…Being approached by the mother of the bride who would love to know how you know her daughter and new husband.
…Getting asked at every turn ‘which one is yours?’ and having to explain that I’m child-free by choice, dismissing the looks of pity
…and no, I don’t play basketball!
In those moments, it can feel like someone just plugged in a spotlight and pointed it right at me. The heat rising up from the depths of my stomach to face in 3 seconds flat and as though every movement is happening in slow motion.
Having lived with varying degrees of shyness my whole life, I’ve become an expert at looking cool, calm and collected on the outside but there’s always that nagging doubt… surely, everyone can see how awkward I’m feeling as my eyes desperately search the room for someone else to talk to. At this point, its time to have a stern word with myself to throw some perspective in to the mix and regain control of my feelings. I’ve got this!
So what is the best way to deal with awkwardness? It’s a game of mind over matter and here are three of my favourite and most effective awkwardness hacks.
1. Awkwardness is normal, and temporary
It’s completely natural to feel awkward at the beginning of a conversation. Once you start to ignore your mind’s monkey chatter and begin to embrace it as part of the process,you’ll find the awkwardness dissipating more quickly than you imagined.
2. Just because it starts out awkward, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way
Give every conversation the two-minute rule. If it doesn’t feel more natural after a couple of minutes; politely excuse yourself, move on and try again.
3. Belonging is a state of mind
I’ve worked with clients who have pulled off some pretty ballsy moves. When I’ve asked how on earth they’ve managed it without experience, knowledge and sometimes without even a clue, the answer is always the same “when you look and act like you belong somewhere, people assume you do”.
The next time you sense awkwardness approaching, give it a try and remember, if you’ve been invited somewhere, you belong there, flaws and all.