Let’s get real for a minute. For the past decade, we’ve loved the word “awkward.” We use it as a punchline, as the set up to a joke, and as the followup for a joke. Tweens have been using it anytime they feel like talking and can’t seem to think of anything else to say. It’s this generation’s “cool” or “kewl” or “fetch.”
Oh, “fetch” never happened? Nevermind.
My point is, the overuse of the word “awkward” by teenagers, reveals a bigger issue. As a teen, we’re learning how to socialize properly. So any time we’re placed in a scenario where we don’t know how to act, it feels “awkward.”
But it doesn’t end in your teens. Throughout your entire life, if you’re taking risks and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you will constantly be in scenarios where you feel uncomfortable. But unlike when you’re a teen, you can’t just casually say “ awkward” and escape into your phone. That would so be not “fetch.”
I’m making “fetch” happen right here and now. You’re welcome.
So how do we, as totally fetch adults, learn how to feel comfortable in uncomfortable scenarios? We do the mature thing and trick ourselves into it, of course, and here are five quick and easy mental and physical tricks that you can employ in your next encounter outside of your comfort zone.
1) Make Your Body Fake Confidence
One of the basic exercises I like to teach is a simple walking exercise where you manipulate how you walk and see how it makes you feel. Within moments, you can immediately tell which poses make you walk with confidence and which make you feel small and unworthy. Choose to walk like a confident person and before you know it, you’ll actually feel like a confident person
Amy Cuddy has a great Ted Talk about this. Put yourself in power poses and not only will you start to subconsciously feel more powerful, but the world will see you as powerful, too.
2) Make Up a Character (Complete with a detailed backstory)
I used to be terrified to do stand up comedy. I nearly hyperventilated at my first few open mics. I found the crowds cliquey and the environment harsh. And that’s all before actually getting onstage. So I made up a character who loved stand up comedy and didn’t get a sh*t about the people around her. She was totally confident and totally cool. She didn’t care if she bombed and she didn’t care if she made friends. She was just there to try her craft, baby.
She (me) wore thick glasses (without prescriptions) and red lipstick to every open mic. She (me) had already been on tour for comedy (somewhat true) and really didn’t need this at all.
Eventually, I started getting confidence in my comedy and making friends in the community. I forgot my glasses then eventually let go of the lipstick. I started just being me. And it worked. I suddenly had the confidence my fake character had and carved out a little niche for myself in the comedy world.
3) Pump Yourself Up
Recently, I had a major meeting with a guy who had the capability of helping me immensely in my career. It was at his office in Beverly Hills and up to this point, I never gotten a chance to speak one on one with such a major player in the entertainment world.
I got there with plenty of time to spare and rather than enter early and sit awkwardly, I turned on one of my “Pump Up” playlists and walked up and down the streets singing and dancing. I got so into my Eminem “Lose Yourself” I had to check the mirror and freshen up afterwards. I kept repeating affirming mantras in my head and allowed myself to let loose and relax a little. I laughed at my fortune and I laughed at my anxiety.
And I charmed the heck out of the guy at the meeting. Thank you, Marshall Mathers.
4) Always say yes to the water or coffee
Typically, if you’re taking any sort of meeting, you’ll be offered some sort of beverage. Women especially have a tendency to say “No, thank you.” I am a Mid-Western woman so my tendency is not only to say “No, thank you,” but to stand up and offer them something in return, insisting I be the one to go get it.
Fight this tendency. It’s a gift to graciously receive a gift (in any forms). So just relax and say, “Yes, please. I would love that.” For centuries, sharing food and drink with other humans is a way of bonding. When you’re taking the meeting, tap into that little bit of evolutionary bonding ritual and accept a glass of water. You’ll be surprised how at ease it can suddenly help you feel.
Not to mention, you’re showing an open attitude of “Yes” rather than a closed attitude of “No.” It’s small thing, but so is a tiny rock thrown in a still pond and it can still make huge, lasting ripples
My college drama teacher used to always call me out on this. She could see the moment I was getting nervous or the moment I was getting too “in my head.” I stopped breathing. She’d yell “Breathe” and I’d think, “ Of course I’m breathing, otherwise I’d be dead,” and then I’d take a big inhale and realize I hadn’t been breathing after all.
Not only did the inhale help me regain my balance and composure, it also helped me relax. My entire body released tension and re-grounded me into the moment. Only when we’re relaxed and grounded can we be our best selves.
So, next time you’re facing a big meeting or intimidating environment, try using one of these tactics to help you out. If they’re too complicated… at least remember to breathe!