It happens to the best of us. For whatever reason, you’re in a totally new situation. Everyone else seems to know what they’re doing, but you’re completely out of your depth and ready to panic. Take a deep breath.
Here are some tips for looking like you’re totally comfortable and relaxed even though you can hear your heart pounding and stomach squirting.
Act confident, even when you’re sweating gravy
Easier said than done, obviously, but pretend you’re fine. This isn’t the end of the world. You’ll get through this. Most people are more focused on themselves than you, and probably aren’t paying as much attention to what you’re doing as it feels like. Stand up straight, walk with confidence and make yourself look like you belong.
Do some quick research to get the basics down
One of the greatest things about having a supercomputer in your phone is the ability to look up almost any piece of information you need. One of the other great things is that there’s probably a quick “how to” guide for your situation. Head to the bathroom and spend five minutes getting acquainted with the rough outlines. You won’t be an expert, but it’ll help you through some tight spots.
Shut up and listen
When some people get nervous, they turn into fast talkers in an attempt to cover up their lack of knowledge. But in a lot of cases, the best move is to let the conversation flow around you. Pay close attention to what people are saying – it’ll help you pick up relevant information and vocab. “Watch and learn” is also appropriate here. See what other people are doing and copy them (this is especially useful advice during fancy meals with lots of weird cutlery).
In conversation, ask lots of questions
Generally speaking, people love to talk about themselves. You don’t want to come across as an interrogator, but if you end up in a conversation where you feel like you have nothing useful to add, it’s often better to get the other person to do the talking. Active listening is a great life skill, and it’ll get you through a lot of otherwise awkward situations.
Don’t freak out if you make a mistake
This is a major one. Chances are, at some stage you’re going to do something wrong for the scenario you’re in. That doesn’t mean you’ve blown it, and you should focus on moving past it instead of dwelling. As we mentioned before, that doesn’t mean you start fast-talking in a blind, sweaty panic. If you can, make a bit of a joke at your own expense and keep that relaxed smile going. No one can read your mind.
Remember: everyone has a first time
Nobody is born knowing how to behave in every situation. As we grow, we build up our knowledge base and pick up information about what to say and do. Don’t be scared to ask questions – just make sure you pay attention to the answers and do your best to remember them for next time. And if you see someone looking awkward in a scenario that’s second nature to you… go easy on them.