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How to Stop Being Socially Awkward and Start Shining at Work

How to Stop Being Socially Awkward and Start Shining at Work

Have you ever gone in for a handshake only to be met with an awkward high-five and ended up casually styling it out and cringing inside? Or had that uneasy anxiety creep over you in a meeting that everyone is looking at you – but you’re not sure why? Have you ever made a badly thought through comment that was met with silence and had no option but to wait for the socially awkward moment to pass?

You’re not alone.

I know I have and so have many of the clients I’ve worked with over the last seven years. I help people to be creative and think differently to get the results they want. A lot of my work involves helping people make change happen, overcome dips in confidence and to be more resilient and brush off the socially awkward moments.

In fact, I’ve helped so many people manage socially awkward moments that I’d like to share my proven tips on how to not be socially awkward and shine at work.

Are You Socially Awkward?

Some of the characteristics of being socially awkward include feeling shy, getting anxious and insecure around people, feelings of social inadequacies, fear of being judged or rejected by others and the inability to be good at conversations.

If you’ve ever felt that you want the floor to swallow you up, or been afraid to speak up in a meeting or kept quiet when you knew the answer, or if you’ve let your inner critic jeopardize you by telling you that you’re no good and you’re going to get found out, read on and learn my 13 killer tips to quit feeling socially awkward and shine at work. Read to the end and you’re in for a treat!

13 Tips to Stop Being Socially Awkward at Work

1. Shift Your Mindset

Stop labeling yourself as ‘socially awkward’. It might be your view on how you feel, but it probably isn’t how other people see you.

Nothing is going to send you into a socially awkward spiral faster than berating yourself for the way other people may or may not see you.

So stop telling yourself that you are socially awkward and start telling yourself that you’re an excellent confident person.

2. Ask Yourself ‘Why?’

Why are you having these socially awkward feelings in the first place? Are you comparing yourself to others?

An excellent piece of advice that I heard recently was:

‘Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside – you will always lose.’

Consider the situations that make you feel awkward. Why do you feel awkward?

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For example, do you feel awkward at networking events? Why? Because you’re worried about what other people think? Why? Because people don’t understand what you do and lose interest?

Then you can think about how to describe what you do in a way that does spike peoples’ attention.

For example, when I told people I was a fundraiser for a charity, people would back away from me at networking events anxious that I was going to ask them for a donation.

So I changed what I said. I started talking about the impact of my work ‘protecting children from harm’ rather than my job title ‘fundraiser’ which felt much better and opened up conversations rather than closed them down.

Keep asking yourself why to get to the root cause of your anxiety. It might help to talk it through with a trusted friend or colleague. Then you can start to find solutions to shine.

3. Notice and Regulate Your Emotions

Start to notice your emotional response to a situation and begin to unpick why it’s making you feel socially awkward.

Take a step away and (as above) identify the root of your anxiety, then start to unpick the feeling, either on your own or I’d recommend you discuss it with someone you trust or even a professional coach or mentor.

4. Focus on the Other Person

We can often get stressed out about what people think about us. Stop thinking about it by focusing on them.

Be present. Put your phone away and give them your whole attention. Ask them lots of questions, then you don’t have space to think about what they think of you because you’re too busy thinking about them.

5. Listen

It sounds so simple and obvious yet so many of us are really bad at listening.

A lot of the time, we have partial attention; we’re so busy multi-tasking on our phones that we miss a lot of what goes on.

Focus on the other person and really listen. Show that you are listening by using ‘yes and’ at the beginning of sentences to build on the last thing they have said. Learn about active listening:

The Skill That Most People Don’t Have: Active Listening

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6. Focus on Growing and Learning

Look for opportunities in every situation, even the particularly painful ones that spike your anxiety and fill you with dread.

For example, if meetings cause you stress, before your next meeting ask yourself: ‘Is there any possible way in which this could actually turn out to be good?’ and ‘What can I learn from this situation?’

Find a positive answer. Then focus on that positive outcome. This will help to negate some of the social awkwardness you are feeling.

7. Practice Every Day

The best way to tackle anything that can feel big and overwhelming is to do something small every day that builds your confidence.

Like eating an elephant – how would you do it? In small chunks. (Well of course, I’m not really suggesting that you should eat an elephant.)

For example, say hello to the person at the bus stop, talk to the barista at the coffee shop, say hello and smile at the person on reception.

Build up every day with small steps and you’ll find you’re not as socially awkward as you think you are.

8. Ask for Help

If you’re feeling particularly stressed or daunted by an upcoming work event where you think your social awkwardness might get the better of you, then ask for help:

Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!

Speak to trusted friends and colleagues – tell them how you are feeling. The chances are you won’t be alone!

9. Put Your Inner Critic Back in Its Box

That little voice that tells you you’re socially awkward and you should never be at a work event where you have to interact with people – call it out!

Tell that voice to shut up, tell it about the times when you enjoyed a conversation at a networking event or felt comfortable in a social situation. Find evidence to prove the voice wrong:

How to End Negative Self Talk and Reinvent Your Self Image

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10. Fake It Until You Make It

An oldie but a goodie and one that’s stuck around for so long because there’s a lot of truth to it!

How you look and behave and how you feel are closely linked. Dress like you mean success. If you turn up to the office or a meeting looking smart (and smart will mean different things in different contexts) you’re perceived differently than if you turn up looking ready for a casual Sunday afternoon.

11. Notice Your Body Language

A research published on the Harvard Business School Working Paper shows that your body language has an effect on your confidence.[1]

So before you go into the meeting room, stand tall, shoulders back and breathe slowly to get yourself into a confident frame of mind and body.

12. Make Friends with People More Socially Skilled Than You

They’ll introduce you to people and they’ll smooth the way, taking the pressure off you.

They’ll also lead on the small talk allowing you to chip in when you feel comfortable to do so.

13. Practice Silence

Many people fear awkward silences more than saying something socially awkward.

Ever feel like you’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed if you don’t!? Get over the fear by practicing holding back from speaking first in conversations.

Learn that you don’t have to fill every gap in a conversation with words. It might feel awkward to you but the other person might be thinking about what they’re going to say and they might even feel happy with silence.

Did you make it this far?

Remember that treat I mentioned at the beginning? Well, you’re in for a good one. Here are my extra 3 tips for making sure you shine at your next meeting, presentation or event!

My Top 3 Tips to Help You Shine at Work

1. Learn to Build Rapport with Anyone Quickly by Asking Open Questions.

Ask people about them (what’s your favorite topic? Yep – you got it ‘you’). Find things in common.

For example, a great taste in shoes, knowledge of a local area, a football club. It doesn’t have to be work related, you are looking for any topic where there is a common interest.

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We get results faster when we know, like and trust other people. And building rapport builds trust.

2. Have a Give First Attitude

Go to your meeting or networking event with the mindset of helping others; how can you add value to conversations? Can you help to unpick other people’s problems and be a go-to person when others need help?

Be the person that gives first, invests in relationships, asks and receives and builds on others ideas and conversations. Make ‘How can I help?’ one of your most used questions.

3. Take an Improv Class

I’ve saved my most valuable tip for the last in this list.

I took improv classes a few years ago, because I wanted to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. It was scary and also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I use so much of the rules of improv in my working life.

Most social awkwardness is the result of overthinking. This overthinking is the result of fear. Improv forces you to be in the moment. Instead of thinking about yourself, you have to spend all your energy on listening, building on what others have said and making your troupe look good. And in turn, they do the same for you.

You can’t prepare or overthink because it all happens in the moment. If it all goes wrong, it doesn’t matter. No one is judging. You get to laugh at yourself.

The only failure in improv is not stepping up and giving it a go. You could argue that is also true of life and work.

The Bottom Line

You can stop being socially awkward and start making friends, joining meetings and making presentations with confidence if you start applying the tips you’ve learned from this article.

Trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming, so start small and practice daily. Gradually, you will notice that you’re becoming more confident in yourself and are getting more comfortable socializing.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: Charles via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lucy Gower

Founder at Lucidity. Coach, trainer and consultant as well as a best-selling author and international speaker.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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