An awkward person's guide to socialising with the confident

11 September 2018 | Columns

Michelline Nawatises

Here’s the situation... Imagine you are just minding your own business, probably doing errands or attending school, when the air around you suddenly feels different.

Alarmed you look around while trying to stay covert, but also not wanting to be clearly unnerved. To your relief, you see it’s just another person that has entered your immediate vicinity. Silence ensues, and everything’s fine, but terror strikes when they begin to speak about who-knows-what.

“Who is this person?” your mind screams. Why are they treating me as a friend? How are they so calm? Are they even talking to me? Then you realise they have asked you a question, while you were busy trying to determine their underlying motives. You are now expected to respond, but all possibilities are hopeless. You could ask them to repeat themselves, but what if you actually can’t understand them when they do?

You could ignore them, but that would be a pretty rude call. You could follow your instincts when they say ‘run’, but that would make you look like a lunatic. What do you do now?

This is the struggle of the awkward person. They can enjoy life and all it holds, but when asked to socialise with strangers, their world comes crashing down. In a society where confidence is expected, they make a fool of themselves, leaving them to wonder how much every stranger they meet questions their sanity. Often they wish they could be more confident, but they don’t have fairy godparents that will make their every whim a reality. While social confidence is the desired option that can take a long time to acquire, if at all.

After all, if you succeed in convincing people that you are confident, you will get the same social results as you would if you actually were. This expedition is undoubtedly trivial, which is why I have provided the following tips. Read them, befriend them and invite them over for tea and scones, and they will aid you.

Spontaneous conversation

If you are like most awkward people, then you would much rather curl up in a corner and die than engage in a spontaneous conversation with strangers. Unfortunately, this preference is not healthy, so you need to get over it somehow. One way to do this is to get into the habit of thinking about these talkative little cinnamon buns rationally: If they’re striking up a conversation with you without even knowing you, do you really think they have underlying motives? Of course some people actually do, but they are not as common as you may think. In fact, most people that talk to strangers are just friendly. Keep this in mind and you may be able to ease up on your fears. You might even make a new friend.

Not knowing names

There may come a time when you meet someone new, and you realise halfway into a conversation that you don't know their name. You may be inclined to just hope you don't have to say it, but if this is a person you're planning to continue socialising with, you must endure the potential awkwardness of simply asking for their name. After all, you'll feel much worse if you have to use their name and don't know it. In the instance that you don't hear them properly, ask them to repeat their introduction, making sure to pay closer attention this time so you don't have to ask them again. If, however, they didn't introduce themselves at all, employ this tactic: Look them in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Unless the person is immensely insolent, they’ll probably smile and tell you their name

To conclude

Being an awkward person in a confidence-driven world can be difficult. Whether they realise it or not, people naturally expect each other to be confident; so they are often taken by surprise when they meet an awkward person. Although is nothing compared to the agony of an awkward experiences, when you are thrust into social interactions. Some awkward people will undergo a metamorphosis into confident butterflies, but others will remain the insecure little caterpillars they are. If you are one of those eternal caterpillars, do not fret over your inability to find peace in social interactions. There is a surprisingly large amount of caterpillars like you, so chances are you’re not the only one in your vicinity who wants a bird to swoop down and eat you. At least you can try to find peace in that.

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