Awkwardness is Beautiful

Karen - SocializingI was having tea with a friend of mine on Friday. We were talking about the importance of socially engaging with people.

She says to me, “You greet strangers on the street?”

I responded, “Yes, sometimes. Why not? What’s the worst that will happen?” I smile and offer a greeting. If they ignore me, that’s okay. If they smile and return the greeting, we both just added happiness to the other person’s day. Low risk!

Hmm… well, my friend got me thinking. So, yesterday while at the airport heading to Southern California, I paid attention to my interactions with strangers.

Why do I interact with strangers? Because people appreciate kindness and smiles. I sure do! When someone approaches me, and his or her facial expression shows kindness? I will respond – absolutely! Why wouldn’t I?

The philosophy behind my behaviour is: Kind people create happy environments.

More and more it seems people are losing their confidence in conversing with others. I would imagine one of the biggest hurdles for growing our social skills is technology. Quoting a member of my team, “Social media is the opportunity to be our own paparazzi.” Brilliantly stated!

Social media is a forum where:

  1. we communicate who we are and what we think… when we want to.
  2. we are in complete control of how we want people to perceive us.
  3. we can think before we speak; ponder what we want to say; and delete and re-word our thoughts until they are eloquently crafted.

Social media is not reality. It is a perception.

The realness of social engagement is that it has an element of awkwardness to it. And awkwardness is beautiful.

I remember in the movie Dirty Dancing, Baby fumbles her words when she meets Johnny for the first time. He asks “What’s she doing here?!” Baby blurts out “I carried a watermelon.” When Johnny walks away she expresses self-disgust, “I.. carried.. a.. watermelon??” In other words, “That’s the best line I could come up with?!?”

Yes, Baby, welcome to the awkward world of socializing.

It’s perfectly normal. I am intentional with that phrase. Did you catch it? Let me say it again: it’s perfectly normal.

We are too quick to disqualify ourselves in how we engage with others.

Our engagements with people are laced with “foot IN mouth disease”. My question is: What’s bad about that? So what? Why is this a problem? We disqualify ourselves if we’re uneasy; tongue-tied; stuttering; nervously laughing; don’t have a come back; not funny enough; and so the list grows…

Give yourself a break.  Give yourself a second chance! The world is full of second chances. And third chances, and fourth and fifth and and and….

Enjoy those awkward moments. They are priceless. And endearing!

We have 3-5 seconds to leave our first impression. Wow! Talk about pressure! But here’s the great news: Relationships and friendships are not built on impressions. Nor are they built on perceptions.

Great connections grow with time. It takes time to get to know one another. Don’t be quick to disqualify yourself because of any “foot in mouth disease” that may arise.

Yesterday, while in the United lounge waiting for my flight, a gentleman said he couldn’t connect to the lounge’s Wi-Fi. I had a similar problem. So I asked him if I could help. He snapped at me and was curt. I guess I insulted him and possibly made him feel incompetent? Don’t know. But I do know he did not appreciate me offering my help.

Sometimes my openness to people backfires on me. And that’s okay. 75% of the time my social interactions are perfectly fine and the 25%? Well, they’re fine too. Regardless, a story is birthed.

– Karen Thrall

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