Clammy palms. A racing heart. A plunging in your stomach, or a sense of impending doom. The awkwardness that comes from standing in a room surrounded by the pressure to socialise makes a lot of people run and hide.
Hardly surprising. All those people ready to judge. All those eyes on you. All those people to impress.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to experience ease in social situations, just like you see others do.
Here’s how to stop being socially awkward.
Don’t make it about you
You stand there, your thoughts spinning and spiralling. How to get through it? What to say? How soon can you leave?
When fear strikes, it’s natural for your thoughts to turn inwards. But in social situations that just makes things worse. The solve is to focus on someone else, just one other person in the room. Have a question ready—a “Hey, how’s your day going?” works just great.
The point is to get out of your head by focusing on others. Be interested, not interesting.
Leave perfection behind
Standing there looking at everyone around you, it’s easy to feel pressure to perform. Gotta come across well. Gotta make a wonderful impression. Gotta say the perfect thing at the right time.
Wanting to be perfect will fuck you up faster than a horny bunny at a hot tub party during rabbit Spring Break.
It’s based on the thought “If I’m perfect, they won’t reject me”. But nobody’s perfect, and avoiding rejection is not only a horrible motivation, but is also out of your hands.
When the pressure you’re feeling is coming from the desire to be perfect, realise that you’ll make better connections by being imperfect.
Change what’s important
It’s possible that the wrong things are important to you.
For example, is it more important that someone else likes you, or that you like you? Is it more important that someone else feels comfortable around you, or that you’re comfortable around you? Is it more important that you fit in, or that you’re being who you already are?
You’ll never feel good enough when your thinking comes from things that might not be serving you well.
So notice what you’ve been making important, then shift them back onto the things that matter.
See where the energy is
Human beings are social animals, in as much as we’re hardwired to make connections. The differences come in how people prefer to do that. Some prefer large groups. Others prefer one to one.
Truth is, you can be an introvert or an extrovert and feel confident in how you engage and connect.
So if you feel more energised in smaller groups, go towards that. If you feel more open having one person next to you who you know, do that. Or if you make connections better over a shared activity, do that instead of a stiff networking event. Figure out the kinds of social engagements that make you feel energised and which don’t. Then go towards the energy. You don’t have to be someone you’re not.
It’s not going to kill you
There’s that moment, when it feels like the world is closing in around you and you can’t make it through. But unless you’re attending a meeting for Cannibals Anonymous, the risk of actual bodily death in social situations is kinda tiny.
Notice when you’re investing the rest of your life in this one, brief moment, and take a step back. You’ve made it this far. You’re not going to die. You’re going to be fine.
Even if it’s uncomfortable, or feels weird, that’s okay. Make peace with that and laugh with that, safe in the knowledge that you can deal with whatever happens.
Let’s not forget…
Now, while those strategies can all be employed to help you out, there’s one notion that soars above the others.
Social situations are supposed to be fun, right? So if you can let go of the rules and your expectations and just have fun in the moment you find yourself in, you’ve nailed it.