Do you feel nervous or uncomfortable in group settings? Do you feel self-conscious of everything you do? If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably at least a tad bit socially awkward.
It is okay if you are. I used to be too. Before I went to college, I would completely lock up in social situations. If you got a group of more than two people together, I would just shut down and sit there like a mute. I learned how to overcome it, and so can you!
Follow these simple hacks to gain more confidence and get over being socially awkward once and for all.
1. Know That You Are Not Alone
Almost everyone will occasionally worry about being socially awkward in public. You may think it is just you that suffers, but you are wrong. Perhaps even the person that you are having the awkward conversation with is also feeling out of place and insecure. We all want to be liked, and we all worry that we aren’t.
2. Realize That It Is Mostly Internal
I know you are convinced that everyone noticed your awkward laugh or joked for days about the weird thing you said, but I promise they didn’t. The truth is that you are not the center of the universe. No one is focusing on how uncomfortable you are. No one notices that you are sweating. People are caught up in their own worlds, and they do not have the time to put much thought into your stuttering.
3. Focus On The Other Person
Instead of always worrying about how you are coming across, think about the other person as you talk. How are they feeling? What are they saying? Are they uncomfortable too? Focus on the other person instead of yourself. You will immediately feel less anxious if you take yourself out of your own spotlight.
4. Fake It Til You Make It
Pretend you have great social skills. Dying inside? Don’t let it show on the outside. Smile, make eye contact, and say hi to people. Research has shown that you can actually change how you feel by your behavior. If you smile enough, you are bound to be happier. If you act confident, you will become more confident over time. So until you master the skills you need, just pretend! It sounds harder than it is. Give it a try the next time you find yourself getting anxious.
Just like every other skill in life, you get better with practice. So even if the thought makes you squirm, find more social situations to practice in. Put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable. Don’t worry – after a little while you won’t feel as much discomfort. It will get easier with practice. Even if you never enjoy large groups, you can teach yourself to function in them.
You have to learn to improvise. A lot of your social awkwardness is coming from overthinking situations. So instead of overthinking, teach yourself to be in the moment. An improv class is a great way to learn this skill. And it helps with tip #3 because you’ll be practicing your new skills with a group of people!
7. Find A Socially Skilled Buddy
Do you have a friend who is social and popular? Start hanging out with that person more often. Tag along to social events. Have them introduce you to people and observe their behavior. Chime into the small talk that your friend initiates with other people. Over time you will learn to be the one who initiates that conversation.
8. Ask A Lot Of Questions
Anytime you are feeling awkward, give yourself a break from the conversation by asking questions instead of filling the silence with chatter. Not only will you put it on the other person to talk for a while, but you will also learn something about them. The more that you know, the more you will able to converse naturally. Plus, people like to talk about themselves. Take advantage of this fact.
9. Respond Well
Everybody does something that embarrasses them from time to time. Even the most confident person in the world has said or done something that made the situation awkward. The difference between the confident person and the awkward person is how they respond. The confident person doesn’t call attention to the awkward moment. The confident person doesn’t dwell on it or beat himself up. The moment passes by and is forgotten. However, the socially awkward person does dwell on the faux pas which just makes it worse for everyone involved. The past is the past. Learn to move on.
10. Practice Relaxation
As often as you can, practice relaxation. Find out what works for you. Yoga, meditation, and bubble baths are common stress relievers. Take deep breaths to calm yourself down. The more you practice how it feels to be relaxed, the better you will be able to calm yourself when you feel the pressure building in a social situation. For example, if you practice deep breaths during your relaxation breaks, taking those same deep breaths when you feel anxiety mounting may allow you to turn it around.
If you follow these confidence hacks, you will be well on your way to becoming a more self-assured individual. That socially awkward person you used to know will be in your rearview mirror. Now, it does take some time, and nothing is going to change overnight. But it is worth it. You will be able to hold conversations, enjoy social settings, and even look forward to party invitations. So instead of locking yourself in your house for the rest of your life, get out there and learn to live in this big world. There is so much to experience and so many great people to interact with. You don’t want to miss it just because you are afraid you will do something embarrassing.
Melissa Ricker is a nuclear engineer and a professional freelance writer specializing in career growth, technical writing and online entrepreneurship. She writes a blog, Engineered Motherhood, for working mothers who need help balancing career growth and time management.