As some of us grow older we start to over-analyze social encounters which often leads to awkward or uncomfortable situations. As the master of social awkwardness, I am here to run you through 3 terribly uncomfortable situations you may encounter and how to walk away from them with your pride still intact.
1. Holding the Door for Someone
This may seem like an absolute no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how daunting or confusing this menial social gesture can become for certain people. You're walking into your apartment building and as you are holding the door you lock eyes with someone across the street who is clearly going to the same place. You, being the people pleaser and social assassin that you are, stand there like a fool holding the door open for this stranger for nearly 40 seconds. The alternative is equally damaging.
Letting the door slam in someone's face who was clearly close enough to accommodate is not a good look. So how do you approach this issue? Simple. The two key factors here are eye contact and proximity. If you lock eyes with someone you're basically signing an invisible contract stating that you will hold the door open for them. If you don't make meet eyes then you can safely assume that no one nearby is aware of your existence. You should also quickly examine the distance between you and said person, and determine roughly how long your door holding services will be required. With these two factors in mind, you will now be the king or queen of door holding.
2. Seeing Someone You Know in Public
Although this may come naturally to many, awkward individuals such as myself have the tendency to butcher this simple interaction. Walking around a public place where you are likely to know a handful of individuals such as a college campus can be a very annoying, sometimes demanding task. Especially when someone you know well, or through little association, catches you off guard. It's often hard to tell if you're supposed to reduce yourself to a "stop and chat," or instead offer a follow-up salutation and continue on your merry way.
More times than not, when someone catches me off guard I'm not mentally prepared to have a mini conversation or interaction, I may end up saying something awkward. If someone extends a simple hello I sometimes have this sudden instinct that I must continue the conversation and find a way to relate to them, so I usually end up asking something irrelevant and random such as: "have you done the homework?"
What a truly lame thing to say. Unfortunately, this awkward question that no one cares to be asked has followed me from high school to college. This may not be an official solution to this social dilemma, but it sure will make you fundamentally less approachable without any social repercussions. My simple method is to wear sunglasses and earbuds. Sometimes I don't even listen to music. I just find comfort in the fact that people will see the earbuds and realize that I cannot hear them. I don't do this every day, but on the days when I'm feeling especially tired or anti-social, it's a quick fix that yields strong results.
I think elevators are inherently awkward for everyone, but some people can handle it better than others. It seems like no one has figured out what to do with themselves in an elevator. What do you do with your hands? Where do you look? Do you make small talk, or avoid it at all costs? There is no right or wrong for any of these questions, it's totally open for interpretation. When the elevator is full of people this makes it easier because the general consensus is to remain on your phone and not talk. But when it's you and one other person who is not glued to their iPhone, what do you do? It depends on a handful of variables. Is the other party itching to make eye contact and interact or are they actively trying to avoid you altogether?
They will usually provide some sort of cues or hints. Keep in mind that it never hurts to be friendly. Even if it does come across as somewhat awkward, asking them how their day has been is unlikely to offend them. If you are totally unsure of which direction to take, maybe the best option for you is whipping out 'Old Reliable' aka your cell phone. The only mistake you can make while on your cell phone is when you quickly and mindlessly hop between apps without even examining the content. People will notice this and quickly catch on, only to smell your social awkwardness from a mile away. You need to pick one app and stick with it, even if it's a text message from two years ago. Read it like you're reading it for the first time and appear to be deeply invested in the content you're viewing.
Let's be honest here, none of these situations matter in the grand scheme of things, but believe me, I understand that they can be extremely uncomfortable at times. My best advice to anyone struggling with social anxiety or awkwardness is to realize that you're not alone and that you'd be surprised at how many people encounter the same kinds of challenges. These menial interactions don't define you as a person and it's unlikely that people will even associate you with the awkward encounter they shared with you last Wednesday. Good luck to all of you awkward individuals, you can do this!