Conversation Tips to Help You Feel Less Socially Awkward
Is the idea of showing up at a party alone basically the stuff of nightmares? Here are some tips to help you feel less awkward in scary social situations.
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When it comes to being socially awkward, I am a connoisseur. You can always count on me to say something weird or inappropriate. You can almost guarantee that I’ll make a joke that nobody laughs at. In fact, that’s how I knew I needed to marry my husband. In a room full of friends, we were cracking each other up and everybody else looked like they were bored out of their minds or wanted to kill us.
Luckily, my counseling program in grad school taught me how to talk like people. My professors literally worked with me on how to make eye contact. They made me practice until I could speak slow enough for people to understand me. You might be thinking that I still talk fast, but trust me when I say that what you’re hearing today is a huge improvement!
Does it sound painfully awkward to be assigned to practice making eye contact and talking like a normal human in front of your class and then being graded on it? Because it totally was! But the point I want you to take away from this story is that acting normal in public can be taught. It can be learned. And if I know one thing about you my dear, is that you are a great learner.
So if you want to learn how to feel less awkward around other humans, here are some things you can try.
1. Plan for success
It’s human nature to plan for what can go wrong. It’s what has kept our species alive for thousands of years. But that doesn’t leave much time to plan how to make things go right. Try swapping that and plan for success first. Have a couple go-to ice breakers in mind. Think of some people that will be there that you would like to talk to and have some ideas of what you can talk to them about.
Carly the Prepster has a really helpful post about this. She recommends having 3 things you can talk about in your back pocket, like a funny story or something cool you're working on. Check out the rest of her post, Tips for Talking to Strangers for examples.
2. Try a power stance
This sounds really silly but science backs it up. Try standing or sitting in an expansive position and you’ll look and feel more confident. Same goes for smiling. Even if you’re dying inside, try making eye contact and smiling at people. It will trick your brain into thinking you’re happy to be there. Super weird, but true.
3. Make a joke
If you’re the funny type, jokes are a great opener. You can even joke about how awkward it is. Anna Kendrick and Zoe Deschanel are great at charmingly embracing their awkwardness. Chances are, you aren't the only one feeling anxious. I assure you, almost everyone feels awkward in social situations. We just aren’t as critical of others, so we don’t always notice when other people act like dorks.
4. Feel less awkward by being friendly
When we feel uncomfortable, it’s our tendency to turn our focus inward. Instead, make an effort to be friendly and focus on making the other person more comfortable. Give them a (genuine) compliment or ask them about something they’re excited about. Remember, pretty much everyone feels awkward in social situations. The less you focus on yourself, the less anxious you will feel.
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5. Be a great listener
People love to talk about themselves. Introverts especially sometimes get anxious because they don’t know what to say. But the truth is, you don’t really need to say anything! Do what you do best and listen. Then occasionally repeat back what someone has told you.
It sounds weird but people love it. Strangely enough, when you give other people a chance to talk about themselves, they walk away thinking that YOU were really interesting. What can I say, humans are spectacularly self centered!
6. Ask great questions
Another easy way to start a conversation or keep a good one going is to ask questions. Open ended questions (questions that don’t have yes or no answers) will keep people talking longer. Having some stock questions handy is really helpful. For example, “How do you know (blank)?” is an easy question at a party.
7. Make an extravert your wing (wo)man
Do you have a friend who rocks at small talk? Stick by her so she can help you look good! Your social genius wing (wo)man can take the lead, fill in awkward pauses, and give you chances to look your best. Plus, you can make a mental note to steal some of her openers for next time.
8. Quit while you’re ahead
If there’s a natural pause in the conversation, that might be a good opportunity to end the conversation before it has a chance to get weird. Excuse yourself to grab food or a drink or head to the bathroom. Congratualtions! You did it!
9. Feel less awkward with practice
As weird as this sounds, it really does help to practice. Learning how to talk to people is like any other skill. Even if talking to strangers doesn’t feel natural to you now, you can learn how to do it with practice. Try using the techniques in this post with people you are comfortable with first. Then work your way up to acquaintances and then finally try them out with strangers. Setting yourself up for success will help build your confidence.
Ready to feel more confident around other people? Download my 10-day challenge to make learning these skills a snap! Just think, by next week, you could be taking like people! Enter your info below and that bad boy is all yours!