I am socially awkward. I feel uncomfortable addressing a large group of people and get extremely nervous when I have to attend a social gathering. I despise being the centre of attention. Yet, strangely, I have been in such situations quite often and usually managed to conduct myself without others picking up on my anxiety.
I have learnt to camouflage social awkwardness by putting up a confident face, which in turn does give me some real confidence too. Over a period of time, I have also trained myself to overcome anxiety attacks by using these five simple techniques.
People who are socially awkward, including me, so desperately wish for a conversation to end that we zone out of it even before it begins.
1. I pay very close attention to any conversation I'm in
One of the biggest problems with people who are socially awkward, including me, is that we so desperately wish for a conversation to end that we zone out of it even before it begins. Therefore, we either end up not responding when prompted to speak or saying something which is absolutely irrelevant to the conversation. To avoid getting into either of these situations, I make a conscious attempt to be attentive. I keep my focus intact throughout the conversation, give myself time to comprehend what the other person is saying, and speak only when I have framed a complete and coherent response in my mind.
2. I try to control my emotions in the first few minutes of a conversation
I try to take control of my emotions in the first few minutes of a conversation. I tell myself that I am nervous for no real reason; therefore, all I need to do is to calm down. If I manage to calm myself down in those few minutes, I fare pretty well for rest of the conversation.
I have accepted that some goof-ups are bound to happen...I tell myself it's not the goof-up but my behaviour after the goof-up that makes a situation awkward.
3. I practice speaking beforehand
I used to panic when I had to introduce myself to a large group of people or an audience. I'd fumble, I'd forget important points. I decided to rehearse the way I wanted to introduce myself to overcome this problem. It took 10 dummy runs--15 minutes for 10 consecutive days--to get it absolutely the way I wanted. Even now, I often think of situations that might make me nervous. I play out that situation in my head. I practice what I could say in that situation loud and clear until I sound perfect. It's tiring but it definitely helps!
4. I've learned how to say "I don't know"
I was once standing in a queue to board a metro train in Delhi when a stranger asked me whether the train in question would pass through a particular station. I knew the answer, but I froze due to nervousness. To overcome this sudden bout of awkwardness, I rudely told that person to check the metro route. I repented my behaviour later. However, I learnt a very important lesson from this episode. I learnt that in situations when my thought process is overshadowed by nervousness, I should restrict myself to saying a polite "I don't know" instead of making a rude, abrupt or awkward statement.
5. I try to chill out a bit
I have accepted that some goof-ups are bound to happen. I try to not get too affected. I recently yawned while bidding goodbye to a colleague. I quickly smiled and apologized. I try to consciously avoid panicking and making a situation awkward. I tell myself it's not the goof-up but my behaviour after the goof-up that makes a situation awkward.
Overcoming social awkwardness is not very easy. However, with constant effort, it is absolutely possible to camouflage it to a great extent. The key, I believe, is to put up a brave face and deal with the situation at hand with utmost confidence. I do it every day. I believe you can do it too!
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