Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and gone blank as you were about to say something? Did you know that there are proven ways to prevent the conversation from turning awkward? Or having the people you’re talking to look at you like you’re from outer space.
It’s common to feel nervous during social situations that lead to awkward moments or weird glances. With the help and expertise of San Francisco-based communication coach, Katarina Razavi, The Next Web offers three scientifically proven ways to help you prevent awkward conversations through an understanding of how your brain perceives signals, with tips on making it work positively for you.
The Neuroscience behind choking
In most cases when you draw a blank while socializing, it’s because you’re anxious; the little voice in your head is telling you you’re going to messing up. When you’re focusing on not screwing up, you’re using up precious and limited working memory in your prefrontal cortex.
Working memory is like your mental scratchpad. It essentially allows you to work with whatever information is held in your consciousness. And the prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain responsible for decision-making, personality expression and moderating social behaviour.
So what can you do about all this? Here are three scientific ways you can hack your brain and ensure you never have another awkward social situation.
Tip 1: Double-check yourself during awkward conversations
To overcome situations where you find yourself going blank on the simplest details in a conversation, such as a person’s name. It’s key to take a moment and review the list of things your mind is juggling all at once. Once you have identified the culprits of distraction, take a breath and re-focus on the topic and person at hand.
How to mentally double-check yourself:
- Regularly practice being an observer of your mind. The point is not to judge yourself, but to just take a moment and take a survey of what is going on in your mind.
- Are you judging yourself or others?
- Are you fully engrossed in an activity?
- If you find your mind is wandering, pause and take a deep breath to get back to the present moment. After taking a breath, you can re-focus to become deeply engrossed in your activity.
- Repeat the above and make it a habit, especially in conversations to make sure you’re fully engaged.
Tip 2: Develop healthy social habits
Forming a social habit that involves an engaging structure can help you remove the stress and navigate a conversation meaningfully. The Habit Loop, which consists of cues, routines and rewards is a useful example; consisting of a trigger, which initiates a habit, a go-to greeting or an open-ended question to develop a conversation, and finally, reaping the good vibes of making successful connections with people.
Create a habit of making eye contact and smiling at people
- Cue: The first five people you see on your morning commute
- Routine: Smile and make eye contact
- Reward: Reward yourself with a cup of coffee or 10 minutes of guilt-free web surfing when you get to the office
Create a habit of introducing yourself someone in the first 60 seconds of walking into a social event
- Cue: Time- first 60 seconds of a social event
- Routine: Introducing yourself to someone there
- Reward: Boosting your confidence and gaining momentum to talk to more people
Tip 3: Write things down
Writing your thoughts and feelings before a high-stress situation can do wonders in calming you down and helping you be more confident in conversations. Similar to how computers tend to slow down if too many tabs are open, filling our brain with too many speculations will exhaust you. To free yourself of this, form a habit of writing down your stream of consciousness, or even a creative story that visualizes the event.
Here are two exercises you can use right before a social event, to calm your mind and perform better.
A half-hour prior to a social event, take a moment to sit in silence and write down your thoughts about the event you’re going to or any worries on your mind that are totally unrelated.
Getting down any negative feelings on paper will help you release yourself of them.
Write a narrative about the upcoming event. This will give you more structure if you don’t like free-flowing your thoughts on paper. Describe the situation you’re facing and share it like you’re telling a friend about it. Provide all the details of the event, like who invited you, why you’re going, what you want to get out of it and anything else you find relevant.
Social snafus can kill your confidence and lead to some awkward moments. However, understanding what is going on in your brain can help you better prepare for social events.
Speaking of social events, find out how to survive the office holiday party.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.