Ok, I hear some of us introverts out there saying, “You make it sound so easy. Just talk to people. Just do this, do that. But, help! I’m socially awkward! I always say the wrong thing. Or I can’t think of anything to say at all!” Well, you’re not alone! Not only have I struggled with this in my own life, but I’ve noticed a large number of our generation and younger that struggle with this as well. I have a shelf full of books on this topic that I will eventually be sharing tidbits from and hopefully initiate some online/in-person book studies with this community. I don’t think we realize just how important conversational skills are as we’re growing up. As children, we tend to be more self-focused and don’t think much about initiating conversations and building relationships with others. But when you grow up and you have children, and they become tweenagers, you want meaningful conversations with them. Most business and job growth is highly dependent on relationships and consequently the conversations that build those relationships. As our relationship with Christ deepens, we realize even more the importance of being able to strike up a conversation and keep one going. We can’t really share the good news with people without getting to know them and talk to them. So….today I’m going to share with you some ways to strike up conversations with strangers and friends, things to talk about when your mind goes blank, and what to do when you’re feeling socially awkward!
10 Tips when you Feel Socially Awkward
1. Have a Reserve Bank of Conversation Starter Questions.
Not too many, or you’ll be less likely to remember them. Have 5-10 like these in your memory or print them out and leave them in your car. Pull them out and review before getting out of the car. You’ll want to subscribe, because my next post will help you out even more here! And if you’re on social media, running a business, I’m sure you’ve heard of engagement posts. Well, they don’t just have to be posts on social media. Take that idea into real-life. I think one post that got more responses than I ever imagined was when we were trying to decide between Sam’s or Costco. I put it out there to Facebook and everyone wanted to chime in. Who doesn’t want to give their two cents?! Which leads me to number 2!
2. Ask for an opinion.
Malavika Varadan gives this as one of her 7 Ways to Make Conversation with Anyone. And I mentioned it here. She says it best, “Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be validated.” She says to keep it generic though, like “How do you like your coffee?” Don’t go asking strangers what they think about some highly specialized topic that only rocket scientists will understand! Maybe you’re shopping for a new vacuum, and you could ask them “Hey, what kind of vacuum do you have? Do you like it?” Or “I need some suggestions for dinner. What’s do you like around here?” Ask if they have one of those new Instapots or whatever new hot item is out! How do they like it? Is it worth it?
3. Look for Commonalities.
Malavika Varadan calls them “Me-Toos,” look for the things where you excitedly respond “Me too!” Focus on those things. When you find you have something in common with someone, you have someone in your camp, and they have you in their camp. You can always find something to talk about when you know they share that thing, whatever it is! Funny story…but that’s how my husband and I met and took an interest in each other. We were at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner and so naturally started talking about when our birthdays were. “When’s your birthday?” he asked. “Oh in October…” “Me too!” Come to find out we had the exact same birthday. Is that why we fell in love and got married? No….but it was a commonality that opened the door for further conversation and getting to know each other more! Do they like to go jogging? Do they like pizza and what’s their favorite kind? You get the idea!
4. Take a deep Breath and Relax.
This may sound too simple, but it’s true. My kids used to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood when they were little and one of the episodes had a catchy tune, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath…and count to four.” You can read more about HOW deep-breathing calms you down HERE. It really does affect your body physiologically. To quote my dentist, “Oxygen is life.” All of our cells require oxygen to work properly, so take a deep breath to help you think clearly.
After you’ve filled up on oxygen and you’re beginning to calm down, pause and say a prayer. Ask God to give you his peace and remind you that your worth comes from Him, not from others’ opinions of you. He made you just the way He wants you, and the same for everyone else. Relax in knowing this and trust Him to give you the right words to say. Here are 20 Bible Verses about Fear and Anxiety to memorize and pray through. Print or write them out on little note cards and keep them in a handy spot in the car or your purse to review when you’re worried about a social situation.
6. Ask a friend to go with you.
Everything is easier with company. Even if you’re an introvert, just explain to a friend, spouse, or relative that you’d like to go somewhere but you feel out of your element and you’d love for them to join you to ease your nerves, plus it’ll be fun! The Amish say “Many hands make light work.” The Bible says “Two are better than one.” We were made for community. Having someone around that your comfortable with, will help you feel comfortable with other people as well.
7. Turn your Focus Outward.
Most of the time we humans tend to be more inward focused (that’s a nice way of saying self-centered)! We’re thinking about what people think of us or what will I say or why are they looking at me like that… Turning your focus outward on other people helps you to worry less about those things and be yourself. Focus on how you can lift the other person up. How can you compliment them genuinely? How can you share hope and encouragement with them? How can you serve them?
8. Be positive.
Yes, there will be times when you’re in the company of close friends when it will be okay to share troubles and concerns. Don’t hear me saying you have to be bubbly and never mention anything but the good things. But God tells us in his Word to think on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, or praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8) If we are thinking on these things, what comes out of our mouths will likely reflect those traits. Now sometimes we will share the troubles or concerns we’re having. But I think there’s a difference in tone and attitude that makes what we’re saying positive or negative. Also, if that’s all we ever talk about or if we always have a negative demeanor, that’s how we’ll be remembered. So memorize Philippians 4:8 and compare the words coming out of your mouth before you speak them.
When you notice yourself getting tense or uneasy, just think “Wait a sec!” and remember this acronym, and if you get into an awkward situation, S.E.C.:
C-for Un-Cross your arms.
These are all things people with good body language do. I’m sure if you think about the people you love being around, you might notice they do these things! So the next time you feel awkward think “Wait a S.E.C.” and remember to Smile, make Eye Contact, and Uncross you Arms! 😉 If you just don’t know what to do with your arms, put a hand on your hip, or one hand in a pocket.
10. Be Prepared.
If this is something that truly bothers you, research and learn about building rapport with people, conversational skills, and more importantly self-confidence and being comfortable with yourself! Here are a few resources I recommend!
- Making Great Conversationalists by Steven and Teri Maxwell. This book is directed at parents training their children in these skills, but you can learn a lot from it too!
- Talk to Me by Carole Honeychurch, MA and Angela Watrous. Conversation tips for the Small-Talk Challenged
- How to Make People Like you in 90 seconds or less by Nicholas Boothman. It’s been a while since I’ve read these last two books, like maybe a decade or more! But I remember them being good resources full of tips on building rapport and conversational skills.
- Listen to this hilarious Ted Talk on The Skill of Humor by Andrew Tarvin. Great ideas on building the skill of humor!
I believe becoming a good conversationalist and being less “socially awkward” is a skill just like any other skill. It’s a skill I’m trying to work on and you should be to! You weren’t born knowing how to ride a bike. You had to be shown how and practice a lot! It’s the same with social skills. You have to practice. So don’t beat yourself up if you try and things don’t go well. Grab a journal and think back over how it went. What could you do differently next time? Have patience with yourself and look at it as practice!
Choose one of these skills you want to focus on this week. Then each day, be intentional about honing that skill. And be sure to hit subscribe, because you won’t want to miss the next post!
P.S. For more tips on being less awkward, check out Diane’s blog Success without Misery! Great stuff!