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awkward turtle

November 17, 2009

I’ve discovered that I’m horribly awkward in social situations. I stick to my group of friends, people I trust and care about… and when I have to branch out? I flop. This seems so unlike me so I thought it over in the shower. The shower is the best thinking spot ever, btw. Here’s what I came up with… and I know I’m painting myself in an unfavorable light, but keep in mind that I met Joe almost as soon as I got back from Rome aka after I got my shit together.

When I was in college (before I met Joe) all I had to do was put on a scandalous shirt and a pair of shiny heels and I would have plenty of people to talk to. I was not above wearing red pants to parties. I laughed a lot, flirted a little, and mostly talked about what I knew best – myself. But when you’re a decent looking girl and the cheap beer keg is flowing, boys didn’t care that all I talked about was myself and girls were bitchy enough to ignore me.
It worked.

And then I met Joe and became “Joe’s girlfriend.” I was accepted by a ridiculously fun group of guys without question. Joe gave me the best insta-friends I could ask for. No awkwardness there, even when I was still around for breakfast. It was great!

Then we graduated, moved in together, got married… and have only a handful of friends in the ‘burbs. So that means we have to do our part in making friends. And, you guys? I’m socially awkward. I can’t default on booze and impressing impressionable boys anymore. Seriously, though…

WHAT DO 20-SOMETHINGS TALK ABOUT?!

What’s the 20-something equivalent of “What’s your major? Where are you from? What dorm do you live in? Do you want to hear about how awesome I am?”

I can’t really talk about myself anymore because… well, what am I going to say? “I work in a coffeeshop and I have a cat and I’m an old married lady and OMG I HAVE THIS AWESOME BLOG.”
Lame.
(I was way more interesting in college.)

I’m going to set a scene for you guys and you’re going to role play how Real Twenty-Somethings meet people and make conversation.
Scene: You’re sitting in a pub you’ve never been to before, surrounded by one person you know from work who invited you plus her 12 other friends you’ve never met. Your husband (or boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or partner or dog) has left the seating area to hit the bathroom. You’re awkwardly silent now with no one to talk to. You take another sip of your black and tan and look around like a kitten being weened from his mother. Your sudden lack of social skills is palpable. The girl next to you is quiet. You want to strike up a conversation but her shirt and purse kinda suck so you can’t even compliment her. What do you do?

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2009 10:12 pm

    Ask about their favorite spots in your town/city for eating, drinking, walking/running/working out, what kinds of things they do on the weekends, etc.

    Find yourself a really interesting story or article in the paper or online and ask “Hey, did you hear about such and such?”

    You could also invite them to your coffee shop where you can make them a delicious beverage!

    Stuff like that.

    I totally get it. I am SUPER shy and awkward around new people.

  2. November 17, 2009 10:18 pm

    Umm… I text. I’m lame. I’m usually not super socially awkward (or I just don’t notice, ha.) but I always have my phone nearby so I can text while I’m waiting for someone I know.

  3. November 17, 2009 10:45 pm

    I was in a situation like this a few weeks ago. A few main questions everyone seemed to default to:
    1. So how do you know [insert common friend here]?
    2. What part of the city do you live in? (assumes you live “in the city” or something)
    3. So what keeps you busy? (Sounds a bit awkward, but I’ve actually seen this used successfully as a general introduction)

    On another note, I’m not sure how far you are from the city or how crazy your hours are, but you should try to make it out for book club if you ever get the chance. Lots of fun, and always something to talk about.

  4. November 17, 2009 11:21 pm

    haha I’m no good at this either. Mostly I just default to talking about Canada or travelling because everyone in Australia likes Canadians, or has had a cousin’s sister’s friend who went to the opposite side of the country from where I lived.

    Otherwise I ask about how they know the ‘common friend’, what they do for work, and then “Ok well everyone always says “what do you do?” implying ‘job’, but we all do so much more than that. What else do you do?”

    And in between times I totally talk about myself. I try to insert funny anecdotes or relate in some way. Even if it’s totally opposite ie “Oh I have a ton of friends in Marketing but I’m so not creative enough for that. I do blahblahblah….”
    But if the person you’re trying to chat with is a snob/bitch/annoying and gives you one word answers or doesn’t reciprocate questions then I totally give up and text or something.

    In basic ‘making friends’ chat we all still talk about ourselves, or colleges, our jobs, our iPhones etc. It’s not like I have in-depth chats on politics or world issues or anything until we’re like actually ‘friends’

  5. Liz permalink
    November 17, 2009 11:23 pm

    Hmm, she isn’t wearing anything compliment worthy? I always try to think of something they may have said or anything at all I know about them and then ask about that. Sometimes I compliment things that I don’t like just to break the ice because it is, indeed, the easiest way.

  6. November 17, 2009 11:28 pm

    Um, I’d lie and compliment the bag. I try and ask a billion questions, even if they’re stupid/cliche: what do you do? What are you drinking? Did you grow up around here? How do you know ___________? Have you been to this restaurant? And then I try and build from there, working in an embarassing story or two if possible. It really is hard to do. I’m sure that you’re not as awkward as you think—most people are super nervous when they first meet others.

  7. November 18, 2009 7:18 am

    I could carry on a decent conversation about turtles actually. Which is what I thought this post was going to be about. And then I was a little sad because I used to have two turtles. They’re dead now. Gee thanks for bringing THAT up.

    God…

  8. November 18, 2009 9:39 am

    This post is devastatingly relatable! Welcome to the socially awkward club.

    In that situation, I would probably say something equally awkward like “Well, this isn’t awkward..” or some weird random joke at the expense of an innocent bystander. I’ve found that being a smart ass either works out really well & in my favor OR I offend someone & should probably exit ASAP. You should try it! Just be honest.

    OH, or you could ask for a tampon.

  9. November 18, 2009 10:14 am

    I suffer from the same affliction…and the problem is that I have some awesome friends who think I am hilarious and great to be around, but in new social situations I have trouble letting that person come out. And then I feel lame.

    The “What do you do?” line usually works to break the ice.

  10. November 18, 2009 10:21 am

    I’d just ask how she knows your mutual acquaintance. Or if she lives around the area. Or… yeah. Maybe where she shops so you can avoid that store.

  11. November 18, 2009 10:29 am

    The best way I’ve found to get through situations like that is to ask questions. It helps that I’m a naturally nebby person (I prefer curious). Ask what they do for a living (the real world equivalent of what’s-your-major) and branch from there- do you like it, how long have you been doing it, etc. For me, the questions tend to go from there. If they don’t ask anything about you back (which I think is rather rude, but some don’t think that way), you can still say it, because who knows, it might lead to another conversation (“I work in a coffee shop.” “Oh really? I love coffee.”)

    I’ve found people in cities tend to be more outgoing and accepting of new friends than in the suburbs. In the ‘burbs, people are more settled down relationship-wise, have had the same friends for a long time and aren’t particularly looking for new ones. So it’s not you.

  12. November 18, 2009 10:52 am

    I am the worst at breaking the ice! And like you, Dave came with a HUGE group of friends who are awesome. But with new people? I kinda suck.

    And the shower is TOTALLY the best thinking place. My boss and I will come into work all the time saying “So, I thought of this in the shower…”

  13. November 18, 2009 10:55 am

    I was SUPER interesting in college. Well, at least I was when everyone was out drinking.

    But now – I got NOTHING! Which is why I’ve latched on to my high school friends and I am NEVER LETTING GO. I can’t bear making new friends, it’s so terrible and terrifying.

    I’m a grandma lady who sleeps, drives, works, drives, sleeps – repeat. And now that I’m married, I’m terrified to talk to men.

    Oh man, my pathetic is showing.

  14. November 18, 2009 11:00 am

    Oh my god, this is the exact horrible circumstance I’m in right now. I have no friends here, except Trent or people he knows, which is painfully less than a handful. I’ve never been good at making friends and find myself awkwardly shy in group situations. I want to make friends, but I have no idea where to make them and then I go to French speaking nights (where there are no possible friends) and knitting nights (where no one was there) and I’m still without friends. Then I moan about how much I wish everyone I know and love (including you and Becky) were close by so I could have girl time and hang out. Fuck you distance.

  15. NotAHitchingPost permalink
    November 18, 2009 11:11 am

    I think every city needs a newbie bar and you have to have lived there for less than a year to get in… then we would all be in the same boat!
    I am so socially inept it’s not even funny. I just posted about how being married has made all my friends disappear, and the biggest problem is that I am to awkward to make new friends! The biggest comment was to join a class or book-club or generally put yourself in situations where you are forced to meet new people.

  16. November 18, 2009 11:25 am

    Well, I’m a thirtysomething, so maybe I’m totally uncool anyway. But it usually seems appropriate to ask what people do for a living and go from there. Or ask if they have any pets. People love to talk about their pets. And I second the suggestion about complimenting the person on their outfit/bag/earrings/scarf/shoes/whatever.

  17. November 18, 2009 11:37 am

    “You want to strike up a conversation but her shirt and purse kinda suck so you can’t even compliment her. ” LOL I burst out laughing when I read this, this is so unspeakably awesome and totally how girl conversations work so much of the time. Love it!!

    I would follow Doni’s advice, and ask about the mutual acquaintance- and then just ask questions. People really love talking about themselves & listening to someone carefully and drawing them out through questions is a great way to keep the ball rolling.

    That and wine.

  18. November 18, 2009 12:02 pm

    “Tell me about your greatest adventure.”

  19. November 18, 2009 12:24 pm

    Haha, I’m an awkward turtle too! I hate parties and such … and that’s why I like to avoid social situations and instead stay home and be an old married woman with my cats & puppy. Hmmm. I’m really bad at this whole advice thing. But yeah, I like other commenters’ suggestions to ask about how they know the host + their job + pets. And I’m also up for giving the other person a compliment even if their purse is not-so-cute. Good luck!

  20. November 18, 2009 1:41 pm

    I’m tragically socially awkward too. I’ve become that person who makes the joke that kills the conversation. I’ve become the person whom my husband stares at out of embarrassment. It is definitely more difficult to relate to people after college. So, when I give this advice, just know that I can’t seem to follow it either 🙂

    First, if you’re just looking to ease the awkwardness, you can always ask about work–how they got into their job, how they like it, etc. It’s also common to talk about where people are from originally since most 20-somethings don’t live where they’ve grown up.

    Here are some other questions/topics that I’ve seen lead to a more in-depth conversation:

    “Who cuts your hair?” “Where did you get those shoes?” (This is a good way to compliment and get the other person talking.)
    You can also ask for recommendations for local businesses like, “Do you know a good Chinese restaurant?”
    Use a pop culture quote/reference
    Talk about upcoming parties/events. “Do you like board games? We’re thinking of putting together a game night in a couple weeks…”

    Lastly, since you have this great job at the coffee shop, can you use these situations as a networking tool? Bring a coupon or a business card and pass it around? It could spark conversation about coffee drinking, and it gives the other people a reason to talk to you again in the future when they come by your shop.

  21. November 18, 2009 1:43 pm

    im ditto-ing kyla and doniree…get someone to talk about themselves with a question about where they’re from, where else they like to go around the area, how they know your mutual friend, etc.

    good luck! it gets easier i think the more you practice it.

  22. November 18, 2009 5:30 pm

    1) I am the most awkward person on the planet. @angilio and @elle_michelle can vouch for me.
    2) I have the twitter name @wkward.
    3) @angilio is going to make me an awesomely awkward award/badge for my blog. I’ll pass it to you when she makes it.
    4) If you can’t compliment I don’t know what to do. I always go for the “nice suspenders, where did you get them?” or “i just saw a pair of thigh high boots JUST like yours on whatthehell.com!?”

  23. November 18, 2009 6:18 pm

    I’m so bad at situations like this. I don’t even like to go out if I’m not going to know most of the people there. It just makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. So yeah, I don’t really have any advice because I’m such a homebody.

  24. November 18, 2009 7:45 pm

    um usually i’d ask how they know your friend or where they live or what they’re drinking. and then i can usually bring a conversation to something i’m good at talking about like music or movies or silly stories. you can do it, i know you can! because let’s face it you are quite awesome.

  25. November 18, 2009 9:51 pm

    I’d spill my drink a little when I try drinking it. It breaks the ice with old fashioned humor and allows me to start talking about my “hard day” that caused me to be this clumsy. This usually causes the girl to share her “hard days”.

    I swear this works!

  26. November 18, 2009 11:43 pm

    You should definitely start every single conversation from now on with, “OMG I HAVE THIS AWESOME BLOG.” And then give people my number. I’ll vouch for ya 🙂

  27. November 18, 2009 11:51 pm

    I would probably try to be a likeable bitch. I would make up a story about someone else at the bar and let her in on the secret. Something like, “See that man and woman over there? They haven’t seen each other in 20 years, and what she doesn’t know is that his wife is waiting in the car.” Actually, I would probably awkwardly look at her and smile, and hope she makes the first attempt at conversation. But in the perfect world that exists in my head, I would be witty and brave and conspiratorial.

  28. November 19, 2009 7:58 am

    I would totally text. Or do something on my phone to look busy….especially if my significant other was in the bathroom. If I was alone for the night I’d probably ask the same old questions, “”Do you live around here?”, “What do you do?”, “Do you heart Glee as much as I do???”

  29. Jennie permalink
    November 19, 2009 9:09 am

    You are adorable!! I watched your video (via. Shop Girl’s blog) and then checked out your blog. Awesome!

    I’m Jenniefir on twitter if you accept my request to follow!

  30. November 19, 2009 7:20 pm

    Okay, I didn’t read through all the comments, but the point of asking people questions is so that you show an interest in them. The point of showing interest in people? Because they like it! And it usually makes them talk more! And the less you talk, the bestter, right? 😀

    See, this is fantastic on so many levels!

  31. November 21, 2009 10:02 am

    Hey! I just found your blog and wanted to say hey.

    I CAN TOTALLY RELATE! I just graduated from college in May and meeting people in non-college related situations is definitely weird because there isn’t that common lingo anymore. Plus, not everyone has been to college so I can’t even fall back on that. I always fall back on the “so..how do you know so and so” routine.

    I loved reading everyone’s suggestions!

  32. November 29, 2009 6:00 pm

    yeah, i’m with amy. when in doubt, lie.

    i’ve had that situation happen a couple times, but i find that “so, what do you do?” works pretty well. until they ask me what I do. and my job is sort of hard to explain, so i usually just say “oh i work for xyz bank.” and then by the time they manage to weasel some sort of explanation out of me, my friend is back!

    although one time at this super awesome wine bar standing in line for the bathroom i struck up a conversation with the woman behind me by saying “what is she DOING in there, her TAXES?!” try that. it works.

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