Learning how to not be awkward is a critical social skill, which most of us learn as children. This applies to any number of situations:
- Starting school or kindergarten.
- Meeting new relatives.
- Making friends at the play park.
However, we don’t all have the same personalities. If you are overly introverted or feel shy and anxious in unfamiliar surroundings, meeting new people can be a painfully awkward experience.
Here we’ll look at techniques and strategies you can use to make the conversation flow, even if it’s with someone you just met!
How to Not Be Awkward When Meeting New People
1. Have a Few Icebreakers Up Your Sleeve
Ask any CEO or Salesperson how they make polite small talk with new people, and they will always do two things:
- Do their research, and keep a note of things like which sports team the person they are meeting with supports, or whether they have kids.
- Have a back-up catalog of easy conversation starters – it could be the weather, a news story, or travel experiences – anything that is simple to chat about without getting too personal or risk offending.
While I’m not advocating social media stalking new people to decide what topics to bring up, if you find it hard not to be awkward on first meetings, if you’ve got a few ideas about things you can discuss, it makes it much easier to avoid those awful silences.
Questions are always best because they elicit a response – rather than making a statement that might not be easy to reply to.
Ask their thoughts on something, whether they have heard about an event, how they feel about it, and you’re off to a flying start!
2. Fake It Till You Make It
Much of the time, we compound our nerves by overthinking and translating that anxiety into our posture and body language.
Suppose you appear friendly, open, and positive. In that case, people will find it much easier to chat with you, and you won’t be left standing in the corner of the room thinking about how you can possibly involve yourself in the discussions everybody around you seems to be having.
Here are a few simple tips:
- Smile and make eye contact. Our natural reaction to a smile is to smile back. If you’re meeting someone new, this makes you appear friendly and honest. Looking glum and staring at the floor is a key sign that you don’t wish to engage in conversation, even if the opposite is true.
- Stand tall, and put your shoulders back. This not only makes you look more confident but makes you feel it too.
- Take a deep breath and count to three before answering a question. If you’re shy, you can often mumble or speak too quickly, making small talk feel stilted and uncomfortable. Those three seconds give you time to breathe, relax your heart rate, and give the impression that you’re engaged in the occasion.
By working on your confidence and body language, you immediately become less stressed and enable others to see that you are approachable.
3. Take It Slow and Steady
Another common problem is where you’re feeling awkward and are so keen to alleviate the tension, you make knee-jerk comments, are difficult to understand, or join in a conversation with somebody you don’t really want to talk to, just for the sense of belonging.
Anxiety makes us feel awkward because we’re experiencing a ‘fight or flight‘ stress response.
The best solution is to take it one step at a time and give yourself the space to think, respond clearly, and not put too much pressure on the outcome.
- Try meeting smaller groups of people for shorter periods to work on your social skills and nerves.
- Practice deep breathing and positive affirmations to control your pulse and avoid sweating or panicking.
- Give yourself an out if you need it – nip to the bathroom, take a phone call, or take a short break to relax a little.
Never feel like it’s so crucial not to be awkward that you heap more stress on the situation, so rationalize what you’d like to happen, and give yourself the tools and strategy you need to reach a positive outcome.
4. Avoid Stimulants
Perhaps this seems obvious, but it is an extremely common mistake to make.
Alcohol dulls your nerves and diminishes your inhibitions, and a lot of people wanting not to be awkward are tempted to glug a quick glass of wine (or three!) to reduce the stress of talking with someone they just met.
Likewise, a shot of espresso might make you feel more energized and awake, but multiple cups might make you jittery and on edge, which will never help.
My advice is – DON’T!
There is little worse than looking back on a first meeting, whether that’s a date, a professional engagement, or an interview, and knowing that you’ve said something silly or behaved out of character because you’ve imbibed a little too much alcohol.
If your first meeting involves food and drink, try calming options such as whole grains, peppermint tea, salmon, or dark chocolate that will take the edge off without altering your behavior or responses.
It’s Okay to Feel Awkward
It is natural and normal to be nervous when meeting new people.
Still, there is a massive difference between a social anxiety disorder that can make this experience extremely tough – and being a little shy and finding ways to work around it.
By using some of these tips and strategies, we hope you can learn how to not be awkward in social situations, whether it’s on a first date, at a party, or when applying for that job opportunity!
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