How To Snap Out Of An Anxious Mood

You’ve just spotted a girl from work in the produce section of the supermarket. She’s standing next to the asparagus. What was her name again? You only ever speak with her at the coffee machine… mostly about the weather and the weekend. If only you knew how to not be awkward in situations like this.

You quickly look the other way. Maybe she hasn’t seen you yet.

Your default response is to avoid social awkwardness at all costs… but is that really the best strategy? And how could you be less awkward in these situations if you faced them head on?

How To Not Be Awkward With A Co-Worker

The above situation feels awkward because you don’t know what to say to coffee-machine girl when you’re not at the coffee machine. That’s the thought that’s going through your mind.

Let’s call that thought your awkward elephant. He’s panicking and he wants to get out, but you’re doing everything you can to keep him in. To hide him.

You ignore him and try to talk about something else, like this…

Her: Oh heyyyy, how are you?
You: Oh heyyy, I’m good. How are you?
Her: Yeah I’m good. Just getting some groceries.
You: Cool, me too. Ahh… what are you buying?
Her: Ahh… some noodles, and some veg. What about you?
You: Nice, ahh… I’ve got some chicken.

Your awkward elephant still wants to get out, but you’re determined to suppress him. You can’t think of anything else to say though, because he’s stealing all of your attention.

Her: Cool, well I’ll see you at work.
You: K, see ya… (*facepalm*)

You made this situation weird because what you said was incongruent with what was going on in your head.

You didn’t expect to see coffee-machine girl here and you don’t know what to talk to her about in this new environment because you don’t know if you have anything in common. THAT’s what’s going on in your head, right? So acknowledge that, like this…

You: Hey, how’s it going? It’s so weird seeing you outside of work. I think I’ve only ever talked to you at the coffee machine.
Her: Heyyy, haha. Yeah, it’s so strange.

Just by saying that, you’ve let out your awkward elephant… and you’ve made the situation less weird.

Your awkwardness comes from hiding what you’re really thinking. From suppressing it. And now that you don’t need to hide it anymore, the awkwardness fades.

It’s not that you couldn’t think of anything to say before. It’s just that you didn’t realise you could use the thoughts that were actually going through your head. So what else is in there, along the same lines?

You: Actually I don’t think I’ve met anyone from the office outside of work before… have you?
Her: Yeah some of the girls on our team go out for drinks now and then.
You: Is that so you can gossip about all the guys when they’re not around? ;)

Whenever you can’t think of anything to say… let your elephant out. You’ll immediately feel more comfortable because he stops rampaging and makes the entire situation less awkward.

How To Not Be Awkward In A Job Interview

You’re at a job interview. The interviewer opens with, “What makes you the right fit for the job?”

You panic.

You aren’t sure what the best answer would be and you don’t want to mess it up. That’s what’s going through your head. That’s your awkward elephant.

But you suppress your elephant and rattle off a list of the same generic skills that everyone mentions…

You: I have experience managing people! I have great communication skills. I learn from my mistakes.

Your social awkwardness in this situation prevents you from standing out and actually connecting with the person interviewing you… because you’re too busy trying to hide your awkward elephant. That’s not how you talk to someone on a meaningful level.

So how do you let your elephant out and connect with the interviewer? Something like this perhaps…

You: That’s a good question. I don’t want to talk about something you don’t care about, so what’s the most important thing you’re looking for? I’ll give you a solid example of that.
Her: Well we’re a small team and we don’t really have time to train you. So we need to know that you can teach yourself everything on your own. Have you ever done anything like that?

Now you feel less awkward about answering because you’re not just guessing what she wants to hear. You let out your elephant and, as per usual, it helped guide you toward the best answer.

How To Not Be Awkward On A Date

One final example. You’re at the end of a first date and you think it went well. As you walk her to her car, that scary thought pops into your head: Should I kiss her?

Your elephant starts going wild.

Does she want me to kiss her? Is it too soon? What if she pulls away?

You ignore him and mumble something about how good the burgers were. You miss the moment and say your goodbyes.

But what if you let your elephant out?

You: Okay I can’t really focus on anything you’re saying right now because all I’m thinking about is kissing you.

Your Future Lover: I don’t bite.

Now you have your answer, and you’re not anxious anymore.

*FYI* Not quite as smooth as wordlessly putting your hand on her cheek and looking into her eyes as you get closer… but light years better than not going for the kiss at all because you’re too anxious.

Overcoming Social Awkwardness

Whenever you feel that familiar panic, stop suppressing your anxious thoughts. (Here’s another tip for overcoming social anxiety). Because you won’t out-muscle your awkward elephant.

Just say what’s on your mind, let him out, and feel the awkwardness fade.

If you’re still overthinking in these situations then you can try this simple hack to pull you out of your head.

7 Comments on “How To Not Be Awkward In Socially Awkward Situations”

  1. Thank you so much and I have a question have you made one for how to think of something to say/talk about like there are several people that’ll talk to me and then I’m usually there not knowing what to say or talk about

    1. Yes, use the exercise in that article peter recommended. Remember it’s an exercise, so follow a regime of doing it regularly e.g. for 20m, every day, for a month.

      Another good exercise is to voice every thought that pops up in your mind. Do it alone. It’ll sound super awkward even though you’re alone but after a few days you’ll notice yourself get really good at voicing your thoughts in a smooth way.

      Focus on quantity over quality when practicing — you’ll improve fast and it’ll carry over into your conversations too.

  2. Wow I never would of thought of something like this, reverse psychology type thing. I will definitely be implementing this technique for myself! Thanks a lot Pete.

    I do have a question on a similar circumstance which I struggle with personally as I’m sure many others do too. I’ve improved immensely with my social anxiety however the public speaking side still persists and hasn’t improved. Particularly being called on in class and being the centre of attention. It impedes my learning as a student when all I can think about is the possibility of having to talk or comment on a topic in class. I can’t seem to rationalize this fear in the moment.

    I feel this irrational fear has been holding me back for years now and I would like to improve my response to this kind of anxiety. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks regardless Pete! Glad I came across your blog, keep fighting the good fight.

    1. It’s a game-changer, Matt! No prob :) I hope you get something out of it. Good to have you here.

      It sounds like the actual fear of POSSIBLY speaking (and not knowing when to expect it) might be worse than the speaking itself? Avoiding public speaking and not volunteering to speak probably increases that fear.

      Have you considered raising your hand first whenever there’s an opportunity to speak? Diving in headfirst could be a better alternative to waiting in fear.

      Or is that too big a step? If so, what is it specifically about talking in class or being the centre of attention that scares you?

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