It sucks to be awkward... trust me, I know, because I can be incredibly awkward at times. However, it's possible to make awkward people feel more comfortable, and we should do our best to include them in every moment and make them feel totally accepted for who they are. This is a better way to have a good time, make friends, and show respect for another person — all good things in anyone's book, probably.
As a certified health coach, I am all about acceptance and unconditional love, and I try to instill confidence in my clients who appear awkward at times or have reported feeling awkward when in social or work obligations. The first step is overcoming the fear to be outside the "norm," (a phrase I don't particularly like, but feel applies). It's OK to be different; we all are unique and have our own quirks that make us who we are! It's important to embrace our weirdness, not shy away. At the same time, it's also helpful if we have people looking out for us, who can make us feel more comfortable in a crowd and at peace with who we are. Here are 9 tips for making awkward people feel more comfortable with themselves and their ability to fit in. Not only will you be helping someone else out, you might even make a really great friend!
1. Tell Them You Like Them
Plain and simple. Over email with Bustle, certified healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines says that by pointing out what you like about someone, you immediately make them feel more comfortable around a crowd and more confident in their characteristics. It's okay to "give compliments" and say that you like their stories and humor, Traines says, even if you don't! Just make them feel good.
2. Don't Say "That Was Awkward"
Even if something was awkward, do not say "that was awkward" if the awkward person is the one who made the situation strange, advises Traines. Of course, if you're the one who's awkward, you can poke fun at yourself, but it's important to make it known then that you are the one to blame and not the other person. If you tell someone who is awkward that they made a situation uncomfortable, you'll hurt his or her ego.
Traines recommends smiling, as a smiling can immediately "brighten someone's day and make him or her feel accepted." Awkward people often can't smile or make direct eye contact through a full conversation, so if you smile and bring some warmth to the situation, you'll encourage them to open up and speak freely. Remember smiling is contagious!
4. Avoid Overdoing It With Eye Contact
Over email with Bustle, running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer says that "eye contact can sometimes make things awkward," which can be a bad thing regarding work relationships and networking, especially. However, some people who are simply awkward really can't handle the pressure, and eye contact can make them feel even more comfortable. Avoid using too much eye contact to make them feel more at peace.
5. Include Them In Conversations
Traines says that often times awkward people feel shy and uncomfortable opening up in a crowd of people, especially if the pack is especially boisterous and extraverted. Thus, making an effort to ask them to tell stories or provide opinions can help them break the ice and feel included in the discussion. Say, "what do you think?" or "I'd like to hear your thoughts," Traines says.
6. Make Fun Of Yourself
Lemmer suggests making fun of yourself to quell tension, nervousness, or insecurities that awkward people might have. If you "laugh at yourself" and be silly, it'll make the awkward person feel more accepted and similar to you. Make sure to keep the playfulness light and fun; however, as insults for humor can start to get too personal.
7. Keep Your Hands To Yourself
Lemmer suggests giving people personal space to breathe when having a conversation. Of course, if you are speaking with a close friend, a hug or pat on the arm might be totally comfortable and normal for your relationship. However, if you are around an acquaintance or someone who is known to be awkward, it's best to "keep some distance to not overwhelm them," says Lemmer.
8. Go With Their Conversation Flow
Sometimes awkward people feel at a loss of what to say in a conversation, and they might abruptly change to a new topic, explained communication coach Eduard Ezeanu, on his business website. We might then think, "what do you mean?" but we shouldn't make that known to them, as it can lower their confidence and make them feel misunderstood. Instead, take the conversation where it goes on their terms, and act like it's totally fine and understandable.
9. Be Gracious
According to etiquette expert Debby Mayne in an interview with About Style, being polite around other people can make them feel comfortable. Being polite is incredibly important, as awkward people might be especially nervous when faced with rude remarks, confused expressions, and criticisms, Mayne explained. Thus, be kind and have good manners.
When hanging out with awkward people, it's important to be mindful of how they are feeling and acting, and changing your behavior to make them feel safe and accepted. Use empathy, humor, and manners to bring a warm atmosphere to help them engage in conversation.
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