Ask Max is my weekly advice column where I respond to readers' sex, dating, and relationship questions and the max-logic fam weighs in with their own advice. If you have a question that you need help with, click the Ask Max button at the top of the page and fill in the form. There's even an anonymous feature for those of you who are shy.
This week on Ask Max we have a question from a college girl who needs some help getting over her awkwardness. Read on for the problem and my advice:
I am a long time lurker and love your blog.
So I’m in college and would like advice on how to be less socially awkward. I do have shy nature so this is where the awkwardness kicks in. I’ve joined clubs and dance teams but I still don’t have a group of people I fit in with. I’ve tried mingling with other people but failed. Though the college I attend does tend to be cliquey, I would still like to have friendships with people.
Let me tell you a story about Max. When I was a teenager I went t our neighbourhood mall to pick something up for my mum. As I was headed toward the exit I bumped into one of our neighbours. Both her family and mine had lived on our street for years, so I’d known her my entire life, but this was the first time I’d ever been alone with her. She stopped me with an enthusiastic “Hi Maxine! How are you honey?” and I stood frozen in place. I felt so shy and awkward that I literally could not speak. She kept trying – asked what I was doing at the mall, if I was headed home, did I want a ride? And all I could do was stand there, with a maniacal smile frozen on my face. Finally she asked, “do you know who I am?” (I think she thought I was having a psychotic moment) but still I couldn’t answer. She gave up then, telling me to “get home safe” and went on her way.
If that isn’t awkward, I don’t know what is. So I definitely feel your pain.
Now that I’m grown I no longer stand paralyzed in fear when I spot an acquaintance on the street, but I do still have more than my share of awkward moments. As a matter of face, just the other day at work I was frozen outside of a meeting I was late for, stretching my hand to open the door and then pulling it back because I was to shy to walk in mid-stream. I ended up missing the meeting. But I have learned to get over it to the point where I can be a functional human being most of the time.
Like almost every other question I’m asked, the answer starts with confidence. Worrying about what people will think about what you say or do is part of what breeds shyness and awkwardness and confidence is the antidote to that. When you feel right about who you are and what you do, you won’t second-guess yourself as much and you’ll be able to relax and go with the flow. So get right with who you are. And if you aren’t, do what I always tell people to do: fake it til you make it.
On that note, one of the greatest tools in my arsenal against awkwardness is grooming. When I feel as though my looks aren’t on point my confidence wanes and then awkwardness increases. If I’m in a group of people looking like shit, I get self-conscious; worried that they’re paying more attention to my frizzy hair than to what I’m saying and I start to retreat inward. Clothes, shoes, hair, makeup – use them like armour against the oh so fabulous cliquey girls at your school. You probably feel weird mingling with them because you think they look better or are better than you, so do what you can to help level the playing field in your head. But also realize that they probably feeling the same way you are – they just do a better job of hiding it.
My last piece of advice for you is to remember this: no one is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about yourself. It’s not a test. When you approach a group of acquaintances to say hello after class, none of them is pulling out their mental scorecard and judging you on your mingling skills. It’s just not that deep. People want to like you so just give them a chance by relaxing and being who you are. If you go into it all nervous and fidgety like you’re being graded on your conversation skills, you confuse people and make them uncomfortable. So if you’re noticing that people are a bit standoffish with you when you approach them, that’s probably why. So go into your interactions assuming that you will like everyone and everyone will like you and you’ll be fine. In other words, get over yourself.
That’s my advice, what say you readers? Do you have any advice to help get over awkwardness? Are you awkward yourself? Speak on it in the comments.