trying too hard


who can be awkward when in the presence of people she is impressed by?

this girl.

i tried to compliment an author i respect and his response was “what does that mean?”   i could only respond with “i don’t even know.  i’m better on paper.”

don’t ask me what i said, because i don’t remember.  my brain had seized like a cheap lawn mower engine.

what i do know is that i tried to be too cool and too clever and i ended up stringing words together that made no sense even to an wordsmith.

yay me.

he goes to my church, so i’m hoping to redeem myself someday.  right now, i avoid looking directly at him.

i was trying too hard.  i let my nerves get the best of me and made an ass of myself.

clearly no one else have ever done this, right?  you’ve never said absolutely the wrong thing or were awkward enough to make other people feel awkward, too.  right?  riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

i can’t really tell you how to get rid of the body chemistry that short circuits your brain and makes you say dumb things when you’re nervous.  but maybe i can help pinch off the hose.

apply these suggestions to dating, job interviews, while waiting in the Hanson fan club line…

1.  calm down.  breathe.  deeply.  go to your happy place.  take a sec to do as the Brits say and compose yourself.  refrickinglax. 

2.  don’t talk when you’re nervous.  there’s a saying by someone really smart, maybe Jesus or Plato or Steven Colbert, and it says, “better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”  you hear that chatterbox?  just shut up.  in a social setting, if you’re feeling jumpy, relax your shoulders and plaster a look on your face that says, “i could say something right now, but i won’t.”  throw in a slight shake of the head for good measure; like someone else just said something that made you think “bless his heart”.  it’ll make people wonder.  calm down.  that’s a good thing.

3.  fake it ’til you make it.  you are going to win an Oscar for how well you pretend like all is well in your innards.  consider this training on the farm league for when you get called up to the Show.  act like you’ve got your crap together until you actually do.  this is a classic confidence building technique that actually works, believe it or not.  wait.  screw the “or not”.  just believe it.

4.  don’t force it.  you are not required to hit a home run for your first at-bat.  go for a grounder to first.  more baseball analogy, sharideth, really?  yes.  what?  it works here.  bite me.  anyhoo, let yourself get comfortable with the situation.  no need to do gainer off the high dive.  diving analogies, now?  yes!  you are welcome!

5.  listen.  people like to talk.  so let them.  don’t know what to say, ask a question.  it doesn’t even have to be a particularly clever question, it just has to show you are paying attention.  hint: this is highly effective when interacting with the opposite sex.  listening is becoming a lost art, but people appreciate it.  like, a lot.

long blog short, stop stressing about being impressive and clever and focus on being someone others can be comfortable around.  it’s a highly underrated quality.  and besides, if you happen to run into someone else who’s nervous, you can end up making a connection by outing yourself.  totally breaks the ice.

what are some other suggestions for cutting through the awkwards?

have you made an ass of yourself like i have?


23 comments on “trying too hard

  1. Riggs says:

    yes, all the time. i embrace the awkwardness. when i can get outside myself and focus on the other person, my social anxiety goes away. when my focus is on me, i’m a nervous idiot. but when i’m focused on them, i’m at peace. thanks for this! i have a lunch meeting today that i was anxious about, but now i feel better. thank you!!!

  2. Jamie says:

    A list I need to tattoo on my forearm. I tend to talk. A lot. I have to chant #5 like an addict trying to turn down one free hit.

    I speak in public a lot but always get the butterflies and don’t always prepare. One time I was the emcee at a conference with 300 social workers. I wanted to point out how great the food was so I said, off the cuff “The catering is divine. This isn’t Cracker Barrel where everything’s yellow and tastes like mashed potatoes.” One of the funders of the event was married to a manager of a CB. Humiliating.

    However, I stand by my CB opinion wholeheartedly. And mashed potatoes are yummy.

  3. Fantastic post and I love this point “…long blog short, stop stressing about being impressive and clever and focus on being someone others can be comfortable around.”

    You girly bloggers are pretty smart and such…..

  4. Awkwardness is my destiny. I have accepted this. You could be my greatest hero or my deepest enemy and the truth remains: I’ll be awkward or I won’t be present.

    On the bright side, my strange limp can make other people feel awkward (What’s wrong with him? Why does he walk like that? Should I ask him, or just try to stare without his noticing? OH NO HE NOTICED let’s pretend that never happened HI BURRILL WOW THIS WEATHER IS CRAZY how ’bout them local sports teams, boy howdy.), so at least I get to spread the joy around a bit.

    • do people just pretend like they don’t see it? i’m the jerk who usually just asks about how it happened.

      • Yeah, a lot of people just pretend and try to stare without staring, which is among the most obvious things in the world. It’s usually the little kids who loudly and (for their parents) embarrassingly break the ice: “WHY’S THAT MAN WALKIN’ SO FUNNY?!” The parents are embarrassed, but I think it’s hilarious. (See my first guest post on Ricky’s blog for more on that. Well, for more on all of this.)

        I wish more people would just ask. It’s really not that big a deal, but for some reason people freak out about asking questions about my status as a Euphemism-American. Be more like Sharideth, people: just ask.

  5. awkwardness keeps life interesting — embrace it.

  6. G Fresh says:

    If I paid attention to suggestion #2, people would think I was a mute.

    My suggestion? (And I’m very much guilty of this on occasion) When you do say something stupid, don’t apologize for it. It’s okay to correct yourself saying something like, “D’oh! What I meant to say was…”, but saying “I’m sorry” after every sentence or so comes across as a little sad and craving of everyone’s approval. Nobody hits the bullseye with every Jart tossed and you’re not guilty of anything needing apology if you miss.

  7. H.E. ELLIS says:

    Every suggestion I have I can’t post. Not sure how family friendly your blog is. Let’s just say whenever I make a faux pas I offer a complimentary “job” to make up for it. Works every time.

  8. Mandie Marie says:

    I’m the one of the few on our young adults leadership team who can power through an awkward conversation (but I can be highly awkward myself…go figure). So guess what? People send the awkward ones my way. I do a lot of talking with the most painfully awkward people. And Sharideth is right. All of these things could help. A whole lot. Also responding if someone asks you a question is usually a good thing, too. Not showing your mom pictures of all of your “church friends” so the next time she sees us she knows all of our names even though we’ve never met her, may also help with the awkwardness thing.

  9. My advice: go hick on ’em. Talk slowly so that you get fewer umms and likes.

  10. Embrace the awkwardness! Even comment on it like “so, could this be more awkward right now?” Calling attention to the awkwardness diffuses it.

    Also I once heard that “its only awkward if you make it awkward” I have mixed feelings about that one though

  11. sarah says:

    i think only three times in my life have i not felt like this trying to interact with the opposite sex. but then probably two out of those three times i have followed up with said awkward interactions. sigh

    anyway, i love you for your suggestions! we will prevail!

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