Every game day since he was a high school football player, NFL slot receiver Cole Beasley has gotten so nervous about what he’s about to do that he literally throws up.
I can relate.
Despite the fact that I love the IDEA of meeting and socializing with new people, it also totally makes me want to barf.
Well, anticipating the thing does.
When I’m in the middle of schmoozing, hobnobbing, mingling, or whatever you call social glad-handing, I’m actually enjoying it.
The rush of back-and-forthing with live humans keeps my brain too occupied to get nervous.
It’s the thought of these social meet-ups that gets my insecurities reeling. In the weeks, days, hours leading up to a gathering, my mind starts racing with all the ways I will most likely screw things up. I dwell on all the dumb things I’ll undoubtedly say, all the parsley nubs that will get stuck in my teeth and all the jokes I’ll tell that will probably fall flat and all of a sudden, I feel the urge to start Cole-Beasley-ing all over myself.
Perfect example, last year at Copy Chief Live.
It’s Copy Chief’s yearly Comic Con for Copywriters and it involves meeting a lot of new and used people for three days straight. The first day I flew into St. Pete and arrived at the Hilton, and in the lobby I saw there where a group of Chiefs whom I recognized from their involvement in the forum and the Chief Chats and I instantly froze.
There’s THE Abbey Woodcock and her husband KC.
There’s David Power, winner of RFL7’s Ultimate Authority Package talking to that lovable Irish USP scoundrel Ross O’Lochlainn.
There’s Kevin Rogers and his gorgeous wife, Michelle.
As I stood there for that first second, I had to swallow back the rising urge to Beasley in my mouth and instead I focused on five things I’ve learned to do to survive nerve-wracking social situations.
They’re five things that are fairly easy to make happen, and you’d be surprised at how helpful they are when you’re standing there looking eye-to-eye with strangers whom you’re hoping to connect with.
And knowing you have a go-to plan for your one-on-many situations might help settle down your pre-event nerves just a tad.
Well, it does for me.
Next time you’re having a schmooze, give these a try:
1. Read the room
Figure out what kind of crowd you’re schmoozing and adjust your social game accordingly.
Right when you arrive, look around, take in the scene and ask yourself:
- Is the occasion a serious one or is it lighter?
- Are they drinking or sober?
- Is this business or pleasure?
- Are these folks in the mood for long stories or quick banter?
- What city and what country am I in?
- Will these people appreciate or abhor public nudity?
There have been many times I’ve saved myself a lot of social embarrassment by reading the room (dude, you’re among co-workers!) and not said or done certain things (time to keep my clothes on!).
Of course, there have been many times I have not.
2. Smile and make eye contact
As Mr. Mangini so famously told Donny-San in the Disney classic The Karate Dojo, “Always look eye.”
Granted, there’s nothing more awkward these days than having to look up from your cell phone screen and make direct eye contact with someone as you force a self-conscious smile but it truly is a powerful way to connect with other meat bags.
3. Remember their names
I’m terrible at this one, but so are most people, so if you can get good at remembering names you can rule the room.
My trick is when somebody says their name, I immediately say it back to them a bunch of times.
“Nice to meet you, Bobby. So tell me, Bobby, how often does Bobby do the whole, Bobby-goes-to-St.Pete thing, or does the Bobby-man keep it simple and only Bobby-fy periodically? Bobby…”
4. Keep politics out of it
The biggest mistake you can make is to think you can change somebody’s political opinion, so don’t even bother trying.
If the conversation drifts the political way, instantly talk about your dog or your new shoes or worse case scenario how that itch could be telling you something.
Virtually anything is less disgusting and harmful to social connection than bringing up Trump.
5. Stop yer blabbin’ and start asking questions
People love to talk about themselves, so instead of spending time fretting about what you’re going to say, start asking questions and watch folks open up and let loose.
In fact, in the Copy Chief Radio episode where Kev talks to voice coach Susan Berkley, Ms. Berkley politely points out that anxiety comes from over thinking (and over-worrying) about ME ME ME.
(do I look okay? do I sound like an idiot? who am I to be in this group?)
Her advice – turn your attention to whomever you’re speaking with and ask questions.
Don’t you agree that’s brilliant?
But don’t stop there – also try LISTENING to their answers and instead of immediately relating it to something in your own life, ask them a few follow up questions.
You’ll blow people’s minds that way.
Afterwards they’ll say,”You’re such a great conversationalist. So refreshing…” when what they really mean is, “Thanks for making it all about me! So refreshing…”
You’re welcome, Bobby.
No matter what, socializing will get on the nerves of even the most confident people, but jump in prepared and your fears and imagination won’t get the best of you.
Sure beats having to keep the ol’ Cole Beasley down.