My co-worker asks me a question I thought I knew and as she follows up with a question stumped my train of thought. I couldn’t recover.
Think Jon, think.
Heart pounding, voice trembling, and sweat dripping down my forehead on a chilly mid-afternoon day in February.
Instead of relaxing and saying “I’m not sure” or, “I don’t know” with confidence, I figured I could foster up a clever answer only to be met with and yet another awkward standstill. It’s like my brain had a flat tire, and I needed to fix it before moving on with the conversation.
“Hi, how may I help you today?”
Thank you Starbucks barista, thank you for saving me.
I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
One thing to understand is that being awkward isn’t entirely your fault. A lot of factors like the way you grew up and how family treated you tends to dictate your interactions with people.
For instance, I grew up with desires to please my parents as I brought home report cards filled with B’s and A’s only to face indifference.
After that, I grew up trying to please people to ensure that I gain their approval. It felt like subconsciously, I was still trying to please my parents through other people.
To this day, I get weird feelings when I know someone doesn’t like me the way I want them to, a weakness that I have to fight against each day.
Pleasing people with the right things to say makes us awkward. We want to fit in somehow and say the right things at every moment, but we’re too ashamed or afraid to say what we want to say in fear of something that holds us back.
Maybe you’re familiar with these thoughts:
“No, this question is stupid. I can’t ask this right now.” (then someone else asks the question, and the host says, “good question”).
“I can’t say that they’ll think I’m dumb.” (even when they mentioned that there are no “dumb” questions).
“I don’t want to talk right now, but I can’t say I’m busy with something.” (as people are constantly talking to you and you can’t get any work done because you’re too afraid to make others feel “rejected”).
Conversation is an art, but confidence is a skill.
To set things in motion for your ability to handle a conversation with confidence, here are three foundational characteristics of PEOPLE you can abide by.
1) People Are More Forgiving Than You Think
There are no perfect people in this world and therefore, no perfect conversations.
Television is scripted, interviews are prepared, and YouTube is edited. Have you ever hated the sound of your voice? Well, you might hate it, but others don’t.
Likewise, people aren’t going to dwell on your faults. They don’t stay up all night thinking about how much you suck with conversations. If anything, they’ll forget what you say.
Next time you’re in a conversation, don’t sweat it, literally, don’t sweat it, we’re all people.
2) People Want to Be Heard
We are inherently selfish, egotistical, narcissist. We love ourselves far more than we love anyone else. I know it sounds harsh, but hey that’s the reality of it.
Thus, we’ll talk about ourselves with excitement or passion, or both. Your ears are gold to others as they eagerly wait to say their opinion or talk about their cool rock collection at home.
The human ego is an essential insight into human nature because it allows you to capitalize on others in a conversation rather than figuring out what to say about yourself.
To add onto this, ask questions about what you don’t know about them. It may seem strange at first, but as I mentioned, people want to talk about themselves when they get the chance.
More importantly, get others to talk about what they like and enjoy, and their passions will shine through. Plus, it’s always fun to get to know those around you.
Having a connection is critical here.
3) People Love Stories
Perhaps the most challenging step in your journey as a conversationalist is to become a better storyteller.
When you learn to tell a good story, people’s ears perk up and become intrigued by what you have to say to them. A story captivates an audience and helps them remember things far more than merely stating facts.
Develop your storytelling skills, and people will enjoy talking to you.
People remember how you made them feel more so than what you told them.
With that said, as you speak to someone, don’t make it boring. Be different but be confident in the way you say it!
Remember, no one is inherently better than you.
As soon as you believe someone has more value in this world than you, then all is lost. Go out there with confidence as an individual knowing that we’re all in this together and nobody truly knows what they’re doing in life anyways.