By: Natasha Archary
We’ve all been there. As confident and gutsy as you may be in a room full of people who know and love you, it’s quite a different ballgame when it’s a room full of strangers.
Sweaty palms, heart palpitations, the nervous and awkwardly stammered response to a greeting is daunting. Mingling over drinks and canapes isn’t just an expectation, it’s a requirement. But if you’re feeling a little out of your comfort zone, rest assured you’re not alone.
Research from Simon-Baron Cohen and Oxford University found that “awkward” individuals have an unusually intense focus, with a strong bend towards interests that revolve around rules and logic. Like math, technology or engineering.
So it might not be that you’re socially incapable, it could be that small talk at social gatherings is not your gin and tonic. So is it possible to go from socially awkward to the life of the party?
Why yes, yes it is.
Pre-COVID, a hug would have been a solid ice-breaker. Now, the most you can do is a quick pat on the back. In most social settings a firm handshake would suffice. But we’re still dealing with a worldwide pandemic that’s restricting body contact and a nudge of elbows will have to do.
If physical interaction is not something you can get around, smile and offer a polite greeting.
A quick rule to follow when attending a talk or event, is to have some background on the keynote speakers and/or possible high profile guests. When you need a direction to steer the conversation, it’s always easy to quip on about why Vin Diesel (he’s not) is in South Africa than the weather.
If that’s not your strong point, basic general knowledge of current affairs, a trending twitter topic, sport fixture or the like are good go-to’s for convos.
“So now that Manchester United are in the Top 3, do you think they’re title contenders?”
Yes, it may be easier to simply arrive later than the invite says. But we’re trying to get you over the awkwardness so we break that cycle. Showing up on time or slightly ahead of time gives you an advantage. You can scout the room for the big names you’ll want to introduce yourself to. It also gives you a chance to choose where you want to be seated, unless it’s assigned seating, you don’t want to be squeezed in towards the end of the table.
Keep the jokes to a minimum, especially if it’s within the first five minutes of meeting someone. It’s better to end the night with a memorable joke, so the next time you meet the same people they remember you accordingly. Keep the jokes as clean as possible unless you’ve read your crowd well, it could leave you with inappropriate egg on your face.
Forget what they think
Often, we’re so caught up on what people think of us and that’s what holds us back socially. Behavioural analysis will have you under constant scrutiny of every physical tick you may have. Focusing on body posture and language the whole night is not going to do you any good. So just smile, try to be calm and enjoy the night. Take a break and step outside if you must but the more you put yourself out there and engage face to face, the more comfortable you’ll become.
Go get them!