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Awkward silence, sideways glances, blinking eyes, unified group body shift, stifled laughs / gasps… oops, a violation of accepted social norms has just occurred. We have all been on both sides of these social faux pas moments.
Take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay.
We laugh, joke, turn red and sometimes cry over these awkward or embarrassing social moments. And while it is a character building moment on both sides, its also an opportunity to learn from and pay attention to the coping mechanisms we use to get through them.
Let’s help each other shake this off and share our awkward moments and some productive ways of dealing with and avoiding similar situations.
5 things I’ve recently observed in others and/or myself:
1. Our new security blanket ~ our cell phones / smart devices. I admit to using it to avoid awkward moments before and after gatherings and have noticed others doing the same. Eyes darting around the room and back to their device.
Productive solution: Turn this awkward moment into an opportunity. When you see someone looking around the room and frequently referring back to their phone (like you are) take the opportunity to rescue both of you. They will be just as glad as you are for initiating contact.
2. And… this awkward moment of silence was brought to you by… the weather, the food, the fabulous attire you are wearing and every other play-it-safe topic you and everyone else has been clinging to for the past decade… or two. We play it to safe, to vanilla and its the reason we end up here over and over. STOP!
Ladies take special note – The guys have a neutral fall back topic they use like a religion and it’s the only play-it-safe topic that will NEVER get old – sports. This is a special area that can be a lot of fun. You can get loud, opinionated, emotional and its ALL GOOOD! The secret here is you don’t need to know all of the sports, all the rules, all the players, all the history or even played the sport at some point, because the guys don’t have all of their bases covered either. Pick a sport of interest, call yourself a rookie and you will have more help becoming a pro than you will know what to do with.
Find your source for quick topic ideas. In the Tampa, FL area the tbt works exceptionally well. This online/offline rag touches lightly on local, state, national and international news. Identify 3-5 areas of interests and in a few minutes you are current and ready to go.
Add some spice and consider picking a slightly controversial or opinionated topic. Use some caution here. This works well with 2 – 3 people. The goal is not to voice your own point of view, find fault or put someone on the spot; it’s to find out more about the people you are sharing your time with. When someone has an opinion or passion they have drive and the best part about this is it takes the attention off you. (Continue to stay away from politics and religion unless your goal is to insight a riot. Especially during election months.)
3. Look out for one another. The person you save could be your next greatest client, friend and/or cheerleader and we have all been on both sides of this fence at some point. I’m still in regular contact with the woman that noticed the back of my skirt was caught in my panties, just as we were leaving the ladies room, 3 years ago.
Entering a room and being ‘that helper’. When you enter a meeting or conference room, you do have options and so do the people already in the room.
If you are the one entering the room, step in and to the right of the door for a moment. This lets others see you and gives you the opportunity to assess your new surroundings. Who looks open to a new contact? Where are the key people? (host(est) / speakers / key contacts) Refreshments?
If you are already in the room and/or have contacts within, watch for people entering the room. It’s an outstanding opportunity to make yourself busy and productive to the person you are rescuing, your contacts and yourself.
4. uh-oh… The person that needs to move on
We are going to look at this one a bit one-sided. However it happened we ended up with a dud. However, just because you didn’t click does not mean they won’t click with someone else.
If you are in a group it’s easy enough to dismiss yourself from the group by simply giving your farewell and moving on.
If you are in a group of 2-3 and you realize someone is hindering your event networking or it’s just not right for you, there are kind options available.
- Introduce them to someone that’s more their speed and bow out shortly after
- Let them know it was great to meet them and that you are going to go explore the room
- Walk them over to the refreshment area and work options 1 and/or 2
5. Follow-up and you missed prime-time
We do it. Prime-time is a follow-up within 24hrs and it’s been missed by a landslide. I have a stack of 50+ business cards glaring at me this very moment. What do you do with this little stack of mystery cards? Diamonds waiting to be polished? Well we work them of course! It doesn’t matter how they became neglected, it’s how you are going to let them shine that counts. The bright side – chances are good they have a similar stack glaring at them as well and YOU just rose to the top of hot potential contacts by taking action.
Go work it!
I’ll let you know how my stack turns out.