How to be Less Shy and Awkward? (From Experience)
I was at a networking event and was hanging out with a group of people. They were all talking about how I was the life of the party and how social I was. They were calling me a natural. Little did they know that I WAS NOT A NATURAL.
I used to be shy and awkward when I was younger.
I was bullied year after year in school. English wasn’t my first language. My mom was born in India, and my native language is Marathi. People had a hard time understanding me, and I always had to repeat myself. I went to speech therapy and ESL class for seven years. The other kids mimicked the way I spoke, and they laughed the first thirty seconds of any class presentation. I was made fun of anytime I contributed to a conversation with a group of friends.
This led me to have a lack of confidence in my elementary, middle, and high school years. I was known as the shy and awkward kid in school. I barely contributed to conversations because I had a fear of being made fun of. I was always picked last for group projects and in sports.
Sometimes, I sat alone during lunchtime while I saw the other kids enjoy each other’s company.
Even when my family had guests over, I barely talked. The extent of our conversations was, “Hey, how are you doing?” “I am fine. How are you doing?” It was such a basic conversation. I kept to myself most of the time, even when I was with people.
My insecurity stuck with me for a long time until college and post-college. I joined a fraternity my freshman year in college because I wanted to become more confident. I would ask other people on how to socialize at events.
It was challenging in the beginning. I would have conversations with people at events that led to a lot of awkward pauses. The only time I loosened up was when I drank alcohol. I became reliant on it to have a good time and socialize freely with people.
My real confidence didn’t start developing until four years after college. I was part of a tech startup of 7 employees, and I was one of the sales guys. I had to force myself to get out there and make connections. I went to as much as seven networking events in a week. Six months later, I had a vast network in the Tampa Bay area. I felt like I knew everyone, and I did it without alcohol.
I recently moved to Philadelphia with no business connections. I’ve already made so many great connections. I went from a shy and awkward kid to someone who can make friends anywhere I go.
Are you shy?
Are you awkward?
Do you lack confidence?
Do you feel like you are the quiet one in the group?
Do you sometimes want to take the lead?
Here are three tips on how to be less shy and awkward
- Make the conversations about the other person, not yourself. We run out of things to say or are afraid of having conversations with random people because we make conversations about ourselves. We become focused on what the other person will think of you during the conversation or worry about saying the right thing.
Those thoughts are all self-absorbed thoughts. The best conversations I have with people are when I let go worrying about how the conversation will go, and I become curious about the other person. You have to genuinely get to know the other person and see what you two may have in common. Once you do that, the conversation will follow naturally.
- Put yourself out there. The reason I became social and confident is because I put myself out there. I joined a fraternity, went to events at school, went to networking events, joined different clubs, and picked up leadership positions. It takes time to be less shy and awkward. Sometimes we feel like we are trying our best, and we still feel self-conscious. Give yourself some time.
What are some ways to put yourself out there?
• Join extracurricular activities in school and outside of school. Doing so will help you interact with different types of people.
• Sit with new people during lunch if your friends put you down and contribute to you having a lack of confidence (That will be hard in the beginning but will pay off later on. Your mental health is important).
• Have a part-time job. Your interaction will customers will build your communication skills.
• Try to have 1 – 10-minute conversations with strangers if you go somewhere. It is as simple as complimenting someone on what they are wearing and building off of that conversation. It is going to feel awkward at first but will pay off later.
• Take improv classes. These classes will help you think on your feet.
You will realize once you start becoming more social, you will be more confident during specific social interactions. When you become more confident, you start developing leadership qualities.
- Be yourself. I am not a big fan of trying to be someone you are not just to fit in. Trying to be like someone else to fit in may help you get more friends in the short run, but it will drain your energy long term because you are hiding who you are. The best thing to do is to be yourself. After you are yourself, you will attract the right people in your life who is supposed to be there and like you for who you are. It may be hard, but you will thank yourself in the long run.
I always felt like I didn’t fit in everywhere I went. I was always known as the token Jew and token Indian kid in all my friend groups. I dressed differently, I talked differently, I had different hobbies, and I was not too fond of the same thing as the other boys. It used to bother me, but then I found a group of people who accepted me for who I was.
Once you find a group of friends who like you for who you are and it is easy to be around, keep them around. Those are the people who you will have long-lasting friendships with. Some interactions will be much easier because you can be yourself.