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Some people are natural conversationalists — open and outgoing, never worried about saying the wrong thing when talking with someone. For others, it’s much more difficult and they have to learn how to stop being shy and awkward.
But how exactly do you do that? What’s the secret to being confident and not feeling anxious in social situations?
Well, here’s the be-all and end-all guide for anyone who wants to learn how not to be awkward in conversations ever again.
How to Not Be Awkward in Conversations
If you just want to learn how to be good at making conversation, there are some quick tips and tricks you can use. The following techniques will help you make a better impression and take some pressure off meeting new people.
Related: Conversation Skills.
How to Memorize a Name
For starters, you have to memorize the name of the person you’re talking with to ensure there are no awkward moments later. One of the easiest ways of doing that is by giving them a compliment as soon as you hear it.
So for example, if you meet a girl named Meghan, as soon as she introduces herself, you could say ‘I love your hair/necklace/makeup/shoes, Meghan.’ By doing so, Meghan will feel flattered and you’ll have made an excellent first impression.
How to Ask the Right Questions
Another thing that’ll help you learn how not to be awkward in conversations is asking the right questions.
It’s a known fact that most people love talking about themselves. So to get them talking and feel comfortable with us, we have to ask them questions and engage them in conversation.
One of the simplest and most effective things to ask is ‘How’s life outside of work?’ or ‘What was the best part of your day/week/year?’
However, you need to stay away from asking questions that can lead to simple yes or no answers. For example, if the person just went to Disneyland, you don’t want to say Did you like Splash Mountain? Instead, it’s better to ask ‘What was your favorite Disneyland ride? Splash Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean?’
That way, they have to give an actual response and you can follow up with a new question.
How to Be Sympathetic
Even if you’re not sympathetic or don’t really care about a person’s job or school, you have to fake it ‘till you make it. No matter what someone says their job is or they seem down about something, just say Wow, that sounds fascinating. What is that like?
By doing so, the person you’re talking with will think that you truly care about them and what they’re saying. The simple phrase will also encourage them to open up and the conversation will flow from then on.
How to Have an Exit Strategy
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be a sparkling conversationalist, the other person just isn’t feeling it. If that’s the case, and you feel like you’ve done everything you possibly could, it’s time to walk away.
But instead of ending the conversation abruptly, come up with an excuse. For example, you could say ‘I’m so sorry, but I have to leave now, I’m late for (insert random place here).’ You can also say ‘It’s been so nice catching up, hope we can do it again soon.’
And that’s it — you’re done! You’ve left an awkward conversation without hurting anyone’s feelings.
8 Tips on How to Be Less Awkward and Shy
Overcoming shyness and social anxiety is totally different from learning how to be good at making conversation. Instead of learning a few tricks and memorizing names, you have to really put yourself out there.
Here are some of the things that’ll help you learn how to stop being shy and awkward.
1. Be in the Moment
While you’re talking to someone, you have to pay attention to what they’re saying and actually listen to them. If you’re fumbling on your phone or looking at something else, you’re making the other person feel bad about themselves.
However, if you’re distracted because you’re feeling anxious or worried about something, try and calm yourself down. Excuse yourself for a little while, do some breathing exercises, and come back to the conversation once you feel like you’re ready.
Related: 5 secrets to boost confidence.
2. Recognize the Other Person’s Feelings
When you’re chatting with someone, chances are they’re just as nervous as you. Even though the person might seem outgoing and bubbly, they could be experiencing the same feelings as you.
So you need to get out of your head and pay more attention to them. As soon as you recognize that you two feel the same, you’ll be much more comfortable with the interaction.
3. Be Prepared
If small talk scares the bejeezus out of you, your only choice is to prep for it. So before any big social outing, arm yourself with some information on pop culture, global events, and viral trends.
Doing so will take a lot of the pressure off. If you can’t think of something interesting in the moment, having a few fun facts up your sleeve can pull you out of any tight spot.
4. Try an Improv Class
One of the best ways to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn how to stop being shy and awkward is to take an improv class. It will force you to actively listen and pay attention to what’s going on around you, instead of overthinking the whole situation. It will help you learn how to stop being shy and awkward and redirect your thoughts toward something more productive.
5. Find Your Triggers and Work on Them
If you’re serious about overcoming your social anxiety and shyness, you should make a list. Write down all the things that scare you or situations in which you think you might be awkward. For example, you could include going to a party alone or asking someone out on a date.
Then, one by one, start doing each and every one of those things until there are no more items on your list. Of course, you can skip around the list and do the things that you’re more comfortable with first. But make sure that you don’t give up and try to push yourself to do at least one thing every day.
6. Be Proactive
If most social situations give you the sweats, it’s time to confront your fears head-on. Call your friends and ask them what their weekend plans are and if you can join in. Go to different social events with your friends and let them help you meet new people.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
The only way to overcome shyness and feeling awkward is by practicing and putting yourself out there. Even though you’ll feel out of place sometimes, it’s the only way to break the vicious cycle.
Unless you actively push yourself towards your goals and go out to face your fears, your shyness and social anxiety will never improve. After each interaction, take some time to reflect on the things that you did well. Give yourself praise and don’t dwell on the negatives.
8. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Oftentimes, things won’t go your way and you might feel overwhelmed in certain situations. But that’s okay, don’t stress yourself over it.
It’ll take you a long time to learn how to stop being shy and awkward and it’s not something you’ll overcome in one day. To make sure you never lose perspective of what you’re doing and why, you should try journaling.
Every day, or as often as you can, write your accomplishments and fears. Keep track of your progress and reward yourself for a job well done.
In fact, if you went to a party this weekend or asked someone for directions, treat yourself. Eat some more dessert or take an extra-long bubble bath and give yourself a pat on the back.
If All Else Fails, Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that can treat numerous problems, including depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. It’s a form of talk-therapy that will help you identify and get rid of your triggers.
People of all ages can take part in CBT and help deal with their issues over the course of 5–20 sessions. What’s more, it’s also effective online so you don’t even have to go to a doctor’s office to get treatment.
Benefits of CBT
For starters, CBT will teach you how to stop being shy and awkward by helping you discover the cause. It’ll also show you how to identify, challenge, and cut out negative thoughts as soon as they pop into your brain.
While you’re in CBT, a therapist will teach you how to manage your anxiety and stress better. Not only that, but you’ll also learn how to set positive goals in life and what you need to do to accomplish them.
So if all else has failed and none of these tricks helped you learn how to not be awkward in conversations — consider CBT. Even if it doesn’t work out for you, you’ll have still learned something new and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone.
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