Recently, a parent sent a question about how to help their teen feel less socially awkward when meeting new people. Here are some thoughts which may help anyone feel more comfortable in new relationship.
When we’re being introduced to someone, or introducing ourselves, we often feel a little nervous, stumbling for what to say or to do. Being self-conscious distracts us from an obvious fact: THEY are likely to be a bit uneasy too!
So next time you’re meeting someone, keep in mind that it’s MORE than a handshake. Begin by focusing on being courteous to them. It’s an old-fashioned word but a never-out-of-fashion idea. It just means trying to put someone else’s comfort before you own. Here are some tips for easy ways to do that:
As a courtesy to others you’re meeting:
1. Put on a clearly written, easily visible name tag – Many times I’ve been in groups where someone makes a very decorative, cute name tag and places it at her waist or, even worse, on her butt! Now, it’s helpful to think about why DO we wear a nametag? So people can read our name, say it easily and hopefully, remember it. Why do we do that? Not so much because we need someone to say our name but because it puts THEM at ease, reduces THEIR anxiety as they meet us.
2. Put the nametag on your right shoulder since they’ll be reaching toward your right side – In western cultures, we reach to shake right hands… the other person will already be looking toward your right shoulder. Put your name tag there so they can easily and unobtrusively read it and get your name right. Remember, you’re making it easy for THEM.
3. Even if you have met them before, say your name as a gentle reminder. Again, it goes under “courtesy” to say your name as you shake hands. If they’ve already met you (like your grandmother’s good friend who can’t quite recall your name) this makes it less embarrassing for them. If they haven’t met you, you’re making it so much easier for them to hear how to pronounce your name and maybe even remember it better in the future.
4. Offer a firm-but-not-vice-like handshake, as if you meant to do it, not an afterthought – Believe it or not one common handshake complaint is when people offer a wet-fish, limp handshake. It can feel as if the other person doesn’t really want to connect with you….a subtle but sort of mean “Yuck!” On the other hand, crunching their hand in yours can feel intimidating, overwhelming! Definitely NOT courteous.
5. If they offer their name too, speak it back to them – That might sound like “Hi, Jane.” Speaking someone’s name is sort of like saying “I see you. You matter.” They’ll warm up to you and like you from the start.
6. If you want to really get off on the right foot (or hand!) add a short greeting as you shake hands. Something like “Jane, it’s good to meet you.” If the idea is to kick off a conversation, you can add some tiny hint of a topic you both might enjoy. In that case a greeting might sound like, “Oh Jane, it’s nice to meet you. Your sister tells me you love soccer like me. Are you on a team right now?” Notice the very subtle way you’ve opened the conversation door making it easy for the other person to join in…courteous, right?
All of this is to say that meeting someone is MORE than a handshake. But a courteous exchange around a handshake can set things off to a really good, comfortable start for you…but even better, for the other person. When that happens, it’s a win for you both!