Summer is here. BBQ’s, weddings, reunions, graduation parties, family parties—opportunities for ‘awkward conversations’. Am I right?!
“Mrs. Can’t Wait To Leave” over there clutching her purse with umbrella—just in case, light jacket, and sunglasses each placed in their own chair, letting everyone know, “seat’s taken.” She didn’t come to the family reunion to sit with a “stranger.”
Middle aged and straight-laced couple hugs the aisle seat at a wedding—wearing the ‘don’t make me scooch’ —no eye contact—smile face.
And there’s “Mr. Bringing-Sexy-Back” at the BBQ playing it cool while holding a beer hoping everyone will notice.
We show up to these events with expectations of “celebration and joy” and what often seems to happen are meaningless conversations, forced smiles, half-hearted waves, and, my favorite—the I see you— but I won’t look at you.
Sound familiar? I used to define my social life as “awkward.” Red-faced, sweaty palms, nervousness, “I don’t feel well I think I’ll stay home”, abrupt exits, tripping over my words…it was painful and humiliating.
It’s sad what we let fear do to us.
Fear hides us behind babies and “talk” about the kids so we won’t say anything vulnerable about ourselves.
Fear keeps three seats between the other couple in the pew.
Fear assumes that we have nothing in common, and “that person” isn’t worth the effort.
Fear watches from a distance then posts smiling selfies #ipartysohard.
Fear does all the talking and doesn’t ask about the other person.
Fear stays put and doesn’t say anything.
The truth is that we all want to have a great time together.
We wish we didn’t feel scared, clunky, or awkward.
And this is what often happens. We pay attention, just for a moment to that longing inside that says ‘more’. More to fun, more to heart-felt, more to real and honest.
But the fear loop says, ‘…we’ve always done it this way. We’ve always sat in the back, smiled and nodded, played it cool—and that’s what we are good at. Don’t do anything differently. You don’t know what will happen and that is terrifying. Don’t change because we’ve always…’
The truth is there’s nothing good about what fear is doing.
And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way!
We can be different.
We can have different conversations instead of the one where every response starts and ends with “good.” We can be surprised by honesty instead of the humdrum of “canned” and “cliche” responses.
How? Here are a few ideas to try if you want to shake things up.
- Be the first to introduce yourself. Shake hands and try, “Hi, I’m Brittani—I’m friends with the bride/I married into the family/I know Bob from work…how are you connected?”
- Before the party, take a moment to think about something real going on in your life that you could share with your cousin, the acquaintance, or new face at the wedding. When asked “how ya doin’?” you could share something real like “I’m well, in fact just this morning I took a walk at my favorite park and noticed all the new flowers popping up along the path. I never used to notice flowers and I’m so glad I do now.”
- Seize the opportunity to listen and ask another question. “How was your morning?” Oh, good. Just hung out. “Cool. Needed some r&r huh?” Yeah, we had such a crazy week. “Oh man, what was crazy about it?” I got a flat on the way to the…
Conversation, listening and speaking is a skill. We do it every day, and like everything else that we practice this can improve too.
The possibilities of where a conversation can go open up when we do.
Give it a try! Take a risk! You already know what will happen if you don’t. More of the “same old same old.”
For those that might be thinking that the suggestions above seem too scary to try or you aren’t getting anywhere with these strategies, you are not alone.
The truth is you are designed for connection and relationship. So the “stuff” you need is already in your heart. When we believe that God says we are lovable, valuable, cherished—wanted. We can’t help but treat others in the same way—loved, valued, cherished—wanted. When we are loved we can take risks, try something new, say something honest, be messy, be silly, and even be ‘awkward’—and the truth of who we are doesn’t change.
And the good news is that kicking fear to the curb is a skill too!
Here’s what could happen if we decide to take risks.
“Mrs. Can’t Help But Mingle” floats around greeting her soon to be friends at the BBQ, not letting the food stain on her shirt stop her.
“Uncle Awesome” is having a helluva time wrestling, and howling with the kids who are laughing so hard it hurts.
“Wild And Crazy Cousin” shows up anyway and talks with “Jolly Paw” finding comfort in his wisdom.
And “Mr. and Mrs. Kind” couple at the wedding make dinner plans with their new friends after all the bumping and scooching to make room.