OK, I admit it. I am socially awkward. I have never been much good in company. Walking into a room jam packed with chattering, laughing, scintillating-looking people fills me with absolute dread. Seems I am completely lacking in the necessary skills for socialising. I need a guide on how to be more confident.
Speeeeeeeeeaking sloooooowly… what a fab idea. I am always rushing what I say because I am terrified I will forget the point of my story, particularly as I have an irritating habit of digressing! This is why I much prefer the written word. Gives me much more time to craft a sentence; to say something that makes sense (or at least sounds vaguely intelligent). And, most importantly, time to dredge my fading memory for stories that will perfectly illustrate the point I am trying to make.
Sadly, we can’t all have fantastic recall like Annabel (Jealous? Moi?!) Having an excellent memory is such a blessing. Wouldn’t it be great if you could upgrade your memory as easily as you can upgrade your computer software! Then I might be able to enjoy parties. I could have marvellously relaxed conversations with the other guests. I would instantly remember the names of each of their four children, where they holidayed last July; they would feel valued knowing I had recalled these details of their lives. Or chatting with a stranger, I would ask amusing, entertaining questions – instead of behaving like a dumbstruck deer, eyes wide in the headlights.
Another fault of mine is that I ask people (dull) questions and, before they have time to answer me, I interrupt them. I don’t mean to be rude. I think it’s nerves. If I talk, they can’t ask me difficult questions like “So how exactly did you meet the Watsons?”, “What ratio do you use for a Victoria sponge?” or “Which fictional hero would you most like to have as a dinner guest?” When that happens I just go into panic mode and my mind goes blank (well, there was never much grey matter there in the first place). They must think it’s just bad manners.
The other day, I was banging on to a friend about going to a newly opened restaurant. She listened so patiently and attentively, nodding and asking me what the experience was like. Then she quietly mentioned that she had also eaten there – a week before I had. Oh my God. That taught me a lesson (and a half). The lesson being to listen more and talk less.
So, in future, if I am asked an awkward question, I will deflect it back to the person I’m chatting with. As Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: ‘Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.’ I might also learn something new and broaden my horizons.
Here’s some great tips on how to be more confident
Accept your personality. Don’t force yourself to be outgoing as this can be stressful. Instead spend time in social situations you do enjoy where you can have more meaningful conversations. ie if you like walking, join a walking group where you have something in common with the others.
Avoid negative thoughts. As you enter a room full of people, remind yourself that you may be nervous about interacting with them, but equally, everyone else wants to be liked and approved of, so they will be initially nervous too.
Check your body language. Stand or sit up straight, don’t slouch! Offer a firm handshake. Smile. Make eye contact which lets people know you are listening to them. Occasionally look down or away so that you don’t end up staring at them! Try not to fidget, keep still – it makes you look less nervous.
Show interest in others. Concentrate on making the other person feel comfortable and valued, rather than worrying about yourself.
Flattery Try going up to someone and paying them a compliment for example about what they are wearing. It will make them feel good and they will warm to you.
Be realistic. Sometimes people simply don’t click. Don’t let a personality clash upset you – just be polite, end the conversation and find someone else to talk to.
Speak clearly. No mumbling! A crowded room can make it tricky to hear what someone is saying to you. So no whispering or shouting – find a level at which they can hear you more easily. Also it really helps if you speak slowly enough. If you are nervous, you may rush what you are saying. If you notice yourself speeding up, take a pause and a breath and then continue.
Be a good listener. Focus on what the other person is saying and empathise with them. Ask appropriate, compassionate questions which will make the other person feel valued and that you respect their situation/opinions.
Try not to interrupt. If you’re nervous, this is easily done. Instead, pause and save your comment or question for when the other person has finished speaking.
3 way conversations While one person is talking, having three or more of you in a group gives you more time to think of what to say.
That’s it. Hope you found these tips on how to be more confident useful.
Got a couple of mins? Why not have a look at this little video where Annabel and I chat about social awkwardness. We recorded this three years ago, but it still holds true…
You’ll find lots more interesting articles about improving wellbeing here