There are plenty of situations throughout life where we feel nervous. It’s not a nice emotion to go through, but it seems necessary if you want to get anywhere.
Interviews, starting a new job or course, meeting new colleagues, meeting your partner’s family members, joining a club – there’s just so many opportunities to feel nervous, edgy, out of place and unsettled.
But today, we’re not concerned with you; nope. Today we are concerned with others. We all know what it’s like to feel crappy and outside the loop, so here we’re going to talk about ways we can make people feel at ease quicker.
There’s no failsafe, snap-second way to make someone feel better in an awkward situation, but there are a number of things you can do to make their ride a little bit smoother.
And, if their ride is eased thanks to you, you will feel better about yourself for doing the right thing, and they will think you are the bee’s knees.
That sounds a little pompous, I admit, but it really means adhering to some pretty standard way of behaving. Basic manners. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of manners Nazi, I’m not all about using the right truffle spoon when it’s a full moon or whatever.
What I mean is shaking people’s hands, not swearing until you know them well enough. Introducing people to each other – that type of thing. Learn the other person’s name, ask them if they’re OK – simple, basic stuff.
It might seem a bit wooden, but people respond well when you’re following ingrained etiquette. You don’t have to keep it up forever; just initially, until everyone is settled in.
Don’t Be Frightening
Some people don’t realise that they are imposing. You might be one of these people. If you are particularly tall, make sure you sit down. If you have loads of gory tattoos, cover them up. If your face naturally frowns, make an effort to smile.
It’s All About Empathy
Empathy comes up a lot these days. It should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately it isn’t. Because people have become so insular and self-absorbed, we forget that other people actually have feelings, too.
If someone new is coming to your work or school, take a moment to think about how they would feel. How would you feel in their shoes?
Just by understanding a little more about the way in which someone might be suffering, you will be able to help them feel a little more at ease. If you can guess the type of thing they might want to happen, you can make it so. Would they like to be offered a seat? Would they like to be shown around? That sort of stuff.
If someone else is feeling mighty uneasy, being around someone who appears to be in control (even if they aren’t) can be like a breath of fresh air. Think of yourself as the rudder of their ship in a storm. Ha ha ha. You don’t have to do that really, that’s a bit overly poetic – but you get my point. People like to see that someone knows what they’re doing.
By talking straight, looking them in the eyes, answering their questions and shepherding them (if need be) they will know they are in good hands.
If you are someone who finds themselves needing to put people at ease on a regular basis, it will pay to keep yourself informed.
Half of the battle can be won by a good conversation. If you only know about Star Wars and duck herding, you’re not going to get on their level very quickly.
Make sure you read the newspaper, subscribe to a few news feeds and keep up to date on the big issues. That way, if you are struggling to start a conversation with someone who sorely needs to be put at ease, you’ve got more weaponry in your arsenal.
You shouldn’t just waltz up to the new kid and say “what’s your feelings towards the rise of the right in Central and Eastern Europe?” That might spin someone out. No, just be aware of current stuff so that you are well versed in any conversation topic that might put them in a comfortable conversation mode.
Humour is good. It defuses the atmosphere and helps people to bond quicker. It can go wrong though – no jokes that you wouldn’t tell your mother. Keep it above the crotch; nothing about religion or politics, and definitely nothing about excrement or jizz.
Don’t feel like you have to reel out one-liners or stock Christmas cracker jokes – just be jovial. Smile.
Once again, this has to be done in the right way, but eye contact is an important skill that we’re all losing. By maintaining someone’s eye contact as they are speaking, you show them that you are interested and that you care. You also help them to forget about their surroundings and remember that they’re in safe hands.
At the same time, you don’t want to be right up in their grill and eyeballing them in a menacing way. You’re going to have to judge this one for yourself, but smiling as you maintain eye contact is much better than making your eyes go as wide as possible and grimacing. OK?
And finally, if you are feeling particularly nervous about putting someone at ease, you are the exact type of person who will naturally put someone at ease; so don’t sweat it.