Are you one of the many people suffering from awkwardness?  Would it help to know that awkwardness is a vicious circle, but one that can be broken, allowing you to move on?

You’d probably agree that being noticed lifts your spirits and brightens your day.  Our lives are so busy nowadays that we are worn down by the constant whirl of things to do, so it’s the simple things that count: a smile exchanged with someone as you pass each other by in the street or a touch of kindness when someone retrieves a lost object.  Perhaps dropping a welcome card round to a new neighbour.  These are the small but significant shared moments that ground you in the here and now.  They connect you and build a sense of community.  

Sometimes the opportunity passes by.  Often this is because of shyness or embarrassment.  Then the vicious circle of awkwardness kicks in.  Perhaps you struggle with self-image and worry about how you will come across.  Maybe you want the occasion to be ‘perfect’.  This instinct can unleash your inner critic and encourage unhelpful self-editing.  Often this is accompanied by an internal dialogue that says, ‘don’t bother; it’s better not to risk rejection.’

Before you know it, the chance is lost to make a new connection.  It is only human to want to say and do the right thing.  Nobody wants to look foolish, so sometimes you do nothing or, worse, make a smart comment at another’s expense.  So, how do you break the vicious circle of awkwardness?  Back to the simple things:  

Be curious and non-judgmental about others.  Banish your inner critic by focusing on the other person and demonstrate a genuine interest in them.  This technique trains your brain to be more open and accepting in your communication.  It will also help create a relaxed frame of mind so you can enjoy the experience.

Build rapport more rapidly by focusing on the other person’s interests.  Witty words and dramatic gestures do not outweigh being attentive to the concerns and interests of others.  The best conversationalists are those who respond to others points and then introduce their own ideas.  Listen first and discipline yourself to not jump in with a ‘better’ story.

Start than with a simple acknowledgement. All it takes is a pleasant greeting or just a ‘thank you’ for a service rendered or a job well done.  Try to remember someone’s name.  Think about the words of Dale Carnegie, the famous writer and trainer who created courses to help with interpersonal skills: “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Banish multi-tasking when building personal connections.  Don’t sabotage your efforts to develop relationships by multi-tasking in the other person’s presence.  Show respect by giving them your whole attention.  Put down your book or smartphone and look away from the television when you someone is talking to you.  Whether in the office or at home, there is no better way to express that you value them.  So, make eye contact and fully listen when someone speaks; it will make all the difference.

Sincere appreciation is always welcome.  It is a gift to feel connected and share an experience of mutual discovery.  Try for yourself: acknowledge and smile, take the time to listen and be fascinated by the issues and interests of another.  You are now on your way to creating a virtuous circle of connection in business and life.