Awkward situations are unavoidable. We’ve probably all been there—that first high school dance, where we’re not sure who to mingle with, or even how to mingle. Next thing we know, we’ve dragged ourselves to the distant corner, looking on as more socially savvy people navigate the seemingly treacherous terrain.
This deflating situation repeats itself throughout life in a variety of equally agonizing ways. We’re at a professional networking event, maybe even an office party…and suddenly it’s that high school dance all over again. Who do we mingle with? How do we mingle? Oh, our hands! What do we do with our hands? Quick—reach for our phone—no, grab a drink! Just look busy with something other than our own awkwardness!
Strategy reporter Richard Feloni suggests that one surefire way to conquer social awkwardness is to simply have something (other than work!) to talk about. Feloni recommends having some personal hobby or activity to draw conversation from, like water from a well. Even something as simple as reading a new book could make for an invigorating interaction.
In this TED Talk, Josh Bound, founder of the Video Game Clubs of America, proposes a novel approach to transforming the socially awkward into the socially aware. Bound discovered that he and his son bonded over their love of video games and realized that he could promote inclusivity in high schools through the shared interest of gaming. Defeating presumptions about gaming culture and social deficiencies, he determined that when common ground is discovered, supposed deficiencies become adequacies.
The same discovery can be made for a great many things. All we need do is map out our path and avoid pitfalls by being aware of the people around us. What behaviors do we observe in them? Anything that we can create a bridge with, that we can relate to?
Today, map out a path for better interactions with those around us. Keep an eye out for little things that we can build conversation on. Do we recognize the image on their shirt or the title of the book they’re reading? Navigating the mysterious landscape of social interactions is as simple as we make it. Shared stories cast aside the confusing shadows of awkwardness and exhume the light beneath.
“True navigation begins in the human heart. It’s the most important map of all.”
– Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey
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