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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

That awkward moment when... handling anxiety in a new social experience.

I recently experienced a thing known as college orientation, and my friends the same, so we've been talking about it a lot.

One thing we all know about orientation is that it can be awkward. Depending on whether or not you know anyone at your college, you may end up wandering into an unfamiliar situation Clint Eastwood style: sweaty and squinting (presumably because you’re nervous and looking so hard for a friendly face that your eyes are tearing up. Or because it’s summer. I don’t know; maybe pretending to be Clint Eastwood could help you foster confidence to befriend your fellow freshmen. Or befriend a chair.)

ANYWAYS, walking into a place where you know no one and are expected to be social and such can be a difficult and anxiety provoking experience. As an introvert, I get it. Thankfully, I’ve been provided plenty of advice over the years about how to handle these kinds of situations. This makes me an expert pseudo-extrovert. I use these techniques when I have to saddle up and be a cool kid:

         1. This is the most important piece of information that I’ve ever been given to boost my ability to handle unfamiliar experiences. Remember: in places where everyone is new, everyone is nervous to some degree. Each person will be paying more attention to their own actions than to when you awkwardly knock over your water bottle or trip on the carpet or laugh at the wrong time.

        2. If they’re not nice, they’re not worth impressing. ‘Nuff said.

        3. What’s the worst thing that will happen if you do do something weird? They’ll look at you funny and walk away? Big deal. There will always be someone to appreciate your quirks.

        4. Stand next to someone who appears to be very social and confident. If they know what they’re doing, they’ll likely strike up a conversation with you and carry the bulk of it. That way, you can make a new acquaintance and get warmed up for when you have to do the social work yourself.

       5. Wear your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry. I don’t know why it helps. It just does.

       6. Start a conversation with a compliment. Continue on by asking where they got whatever you’re complimenting. Maybe next you’ll talk about your favorite places to shop. Best towns to shop. Best shopping experiences. The natural flow of the conversation will do the rest.
     
       7. Smile. Even if it feels weird. It’s better than looking cloudy or scared. But don’t smile all the time. That would be bizarre. Just smile when you meet someone, make awkward eye contact, sit at the same table as someone, etc.

       8. Remember: I think you’re pretty cool. It has to mean something if a cartoon bean thinks you’re cool.
     
       9. Carry a drink. If you need a minute to think during a conversation lag, take a long sip and gather your thoughts.
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       10. This moment is only a very small moment in your whole existence. Don’t lay so much importance on it and you won’t be so nervous. If you pressure the situation, the situation will pressure you.

I hope someone finds this helpful.

Bean’ confident.

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