How to Talk to a Guy, Awkward Home Edition
October 29, 2013 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm awkward, and I want to approach this guy that I know, but I'm not entirely sure how to do it.

I am a socially awkward female in her mid-twenties. I haven't had much luck with romance, and the past few crushes I've had have crashed and burned. As a result I've been gun-shy w/r/t romance for years now. I'm also really, really shy due to the social awkwardness/ineptitude. I also have self-esteem/confidence issues. Yes, I'm in therapy for pretty much all of the above.

I take these exercise classes at this gym near me, and there's a guy in one of my classes that I'm kind of attracted to. He's slightly older than me. He may or may not have a girlfriend-- I saw him leaving another class with a girl this one time, and I'm not sure whether or not they were/are dating. In any event, that time he recognized me and either said hi or nodded. I really can't remember. There have been times during class when I see him looking at me; I try not to stare at him too much, and we really don't stand near each other in class anyway. He seems friendly and nice, but not overly so.

I'd like to talk to him, but I don't even know his name. Well, I take that back. I do, but only because I looked at the class sign-in sheet one day (he signed in after me). My therapist thinks I should too, and so I've made it a goal to talk to him the next time our class meets, which is in a few days. I've even picked out a topic-- another class that's new and has been advertised recently. But I'm really, really scared to talk to him. It's almost like high school all over again. I'm just afraid something will come out wrong, or he'll think I'm weird for even talking to him. Also, I really don't hang out after class (although maybe I should), and sometimes he doesn't show up until right before class starts, so I may not be able to get a chance to talk to him then.

I just want to get over this enough to be able to talk to him, and also to have it all go well. I know that this will also benefit me in the long run-- no one ever meets the right person by not talking to them. But I'm just too anxious. How do I do this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Just introduce yourself.

"Hi, I'm So and So. I've seen you in this class a lot. Have you seen the flyer for Class X?"
posted by srboisvert at 11:48 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing, no matter what you say, or what he thinks, this is just a small blip in a day.

So you ask him, "Did you see that kickboxing class? I'm thinking of checking it out, what about you?" And he answers you. That's it.

I think the shy/awkward/confidence thing is actually someone who believes that the world is watching and judging them 24/7. So the first thing you need to understand is that most of the world is paying no attention to you whatsoever. None!

I had a friend and she'd buy a new outfit on a Saturday, but she's wait days to wear it because she didn't want people to think she was wearing a new outfit. So I said to her, "So what if they think you bought it the night before, instead of two Saturdays ago?" Who cares??? Wear your outfit, enjoy it.

Some people are anxious for no good reason.

So what if you go up to him and say your dealie about the class?

Here's what might happen:

1. No, but it sounds interesting. Want to try it together?

2. Yes, my girlfriend and I were talking about doing that one.

3. No, I have a hip injury and that would be too hard for me.

4. Get away from me you freak!

Here's what you say in each case:

1. Sure! Tuesday works for me.

2. Cool, let me know when and I'll join you guys, it's always good to have a buddy in the class.

3. Bummer, I'll let you know if it's cool.

4. Wow, you're a ball of stress aren't you?

Beyond that, the only person for whom this is a BFD is you.

So just do it. They can kill you but they can't eat you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2013 [24 favorites]

You do it by not thinking about it till it happens and then starting really small. Stand closer to him, make a comment or ask a question that relates to the class or the gym such as "hey i noticed new class is being offered, do you know who's teaching it?"

I'm a total stranger on the internet and I would bet money that I'm thinking about your interaction with him more than he will. It'll be ok seriously you don't need to ask him out just start with something small. The worst case scenario will be that it doesn't turn into a conversation and that's ok you can be proud of yourself. I get pretty self conscious in a lot of social situations too and its ok, you'll be ok.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:55 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're overthinking this. Just talk to him.

"Hi. We see each other all the time in this class, I thought I'd introduce myself. My name is _________".
He'll then tell you his name.
You can continue with "nice to meet you, ___________! Hey, have you heard about that new class being advertised?"

ta da.
You're talking.

Good luck!!!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:05 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

If talking is what you're on about, my advice would be to find something (anything, really) interesting about the class that day, get somewhere near him, make eye contact and say "Wow, that thing/exercise/extreme heat was pretty funny/hot/cold, wasn't it?"

After a few sentences back and forth, you can put your hand out, smile and say "I'm __".

I've been pretty socially awkward myself from time to time, and I find introductions with no context are pretty hard, but if I can get us to exchange words, the rest is a lot easier.
posted by Mooski at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2013

There have been times during class when I see him looking at me;

Wave with a smile. You can't talk even if you wanted to.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:16 PM on October 29, 2013

Practice with other people in your class first! You'll see it's not that hard and you might feel less anxious when you finally talk to him.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Smile. Don't giggle or wink or fidget (if you can help it), but do smile. Even if you come up with The Perfect Words, those words delivered with a fearful or concerned face will lose appeal.

Also, imagine that he's quite shy, and even consider that he may be. Here again, a smile helps both of you. Forcing a smile can be tricky and icky. You don't know he's not pining for you, so assume he is and be cheerful while you're friendly enough to make his day. You can do this--have fun!
posted by whoiam at 1:00 PM on October 29, 2013

It's almost like high school all over again. I'm just afraid something will come out wrong, or he'll think I'm weird for even talking to him.

What if those things happened? I suggest you type out all of the things you think would flow from those two things happening and ask yourself if those things are so bad that you need to worry. I mean really write them out so that you've done the work. Its a common CBT technique and can be quite helpful.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:24 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can totally do this. At the very least, I think once out of high school most people are bound up in enough of their OWN fear of social judgment that they're unlikely to exhibit the kind of overt cruelty that can happen in middle or high school. So really the very worst that's likely to happen is you'll have a polite but mildly stilted conversation and both go about your lives. And that's the very worst!

Really, I think just about any outcome that is likely here is going to be a win for you. Either you'll hit it off right away, or you'll make an acquaintanceship that does or doesn't turn into something more long term, or you'll have a semi-awkward exchange that gets forgotten by evening time, but no matter what you'll have gotten some practice in talking with someone in a low-stakes setting. You're safe, and nobody's going to point and laugh at you, or put gum in your hair, or shoot you out of class in a circus cannon (although if that happened it would make for an amazing story down the road). If you haven't already, you should read the Mental Hacks thread for ideas on how to put this exchange in perspective - your life is so much bigger than this one interaction, and you're going to be just fine no matter what.

Finally, if it helps, when you go to say hi to him think of all the folks in this thread who are rooting for you! Well, okay, I can't speak for everyone who's taken the time to respond, but I'll be rooting for you. You can do this!
posted by DingoMutt at 2:30 PM on October 29, 2013

I would not go with, "My name is X," and a handshake. Seems too formal. Is getting a spot next to him in class and striking up a casual conversation an option? Like, "Are you noticing any effects from this class? I was sore the first time." Something like that. If you can do this a few times, you can strike up a rapport. Just go into it looking for a friendly conversation. Think of him as a potential friend, not an Imminent Love Object.
posted by amodelcitizen at 2:45 PM on October 29, 2013

I'm awkward too. You know what works for me sometimes?

"Hi! I'm really awkward at talking to new people but . . .. "

I would probably follow the but with, "I'm hoping that someone I recognize is going to take this class I've seen a notice for. Have you seen the flyer? I'm dchrssyr, by the way." and then I'd probably blush uncontrollably and fidget. I might even giggle and snort. Because I'm that awkward.

I've learned to embrace my awkwardness. I'm never going to be not awkward. I figure that the people who are going to like me are going to like because of my adorable awkwardness, or at least be accepting of it.

Of course, it doesn't work 100% of the time. Some people are just too cool, or too busy, or too oblivious to pay me any mind. But you know what works 0% of the time? Saying nothing.
posted by dchrssyr at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

As an awkward guy who is now mostly but not totally over his awkwardness, what really helped me get to a better place with the kind of stuff you're talking about here was realizing that I didn't have to somehow become non-awkward in order to start talking to people. What finally worked in the end was simply permitting myself to be awkward and trusting that most of the time, with the people for whom it really mattered, folks would be willing to look past a little awkwardness (especially in the first few encounters) and see my fundamental decency and goodness.

You sound as though your medium-term goal regarding this particular guy might be to find out if he's single, see if he's interested in you or not (there is no "make him become interested in you," he either will be or won't be and there's not much you can do about that), and if all goes well to arrange a date with him. I agree that having a short-term goal of just having a short conversational interaction with this guy is a good one, but if your hypothetical next steps are along the lines of what I just described, there are a few things you should bear in mind.

You are awkward. It's OK, lots of people are awkward. Almost everyone is, really, when it comes to talking to people who they are attracted to but don't know well. The thing is, if he likes you and if there is ever to be a possibility of something romantic happening between the two of you down the line, he's going to have to like you and your awkwardness. Perhaps he'll even like you in part because of your awkwardness -- that's certainly happened to me before, believe it or not people sometimes find it endearing! Also some people seem to find it rewarding when they can work past my awkwardness and get me to open up and relax with them.

My point is, your awkwardness isn't something you need to get rid of in order to talk to guys, go on dates, have relationships, etc. It's just something you have to come to terms with, something you have to accept about yourself, and something you have to be willing to work past when it gets in your way. For me, one way my awkwardness manifests is as anxiety about introducing myself to and striking up conversations with people who I find attractive. Sounds like it's the same for you. Fortunately that anxiety doesn't last long if I can steel myself and just power through the first thirty seconds of interaction -- after that it's like "Hey, I'm talking to this cute person! Wow, they're actually responding, and smiling at me!" and while I remain a bit socially clumsy I am generally just so happy to be having the conversation that the anxiety vanishes.

You may find this to be the same for you. If you can accept your awkwardness and push through the barrier of anxiety you might come out the other side feeling happy, confident, pleased with yourself and your newfound ability to chat people up -- and who knows, maybe even with a date! With someone who doesn't mind that you're a little bit awkward! Or at least with the opportunity to talk to them again later without quite so much anxiety to get in your way.

Give it a shot. Just hold your breath and jump into it. Even if you somehow manage to crash and burn horribly, you can still congratulate yourself on your bravery in taking a chance and going for it -- and there will be plenty of opportunity in your life to practice and get better. It does get easier with practice, though it never gets exactly easy per se. You can do it! Just because you're awkward doesn't mean you can't talk to people. You sound like a great person and you shouldn't let a little awkwardness hold you back.
posted by Scientist at 4:55 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, practice with others in class! You're jumping into the deep end here. For my work, I have to go to a lot conferences and talk to a lot of people. Don't start with talking to your most important target. Warm up. Figure out what conversational openings work. My first attempt often comes out weird. (Ooookay, guess I'm the only one who think this conference venue is like the hotel in Twin Peaks...?) So I recommend you work up to talking to This Guy by chatting with about two to three other people in the class over a class or two. He may even spontaneously join one of those conversations. You'll get to warm up, practice a few approaches to starting conversation, gather material ("yeah, Mary over there is going to try the kickboxing class, too. You should join us"), and feel a bit less self-conscious and obvious about the whole thing. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 7:36 PM on October 29, 2013

You might find the 100 Rejections Project interesting and inspiring. In times like these I find it helpful to move the goalposts: "success" here is not living happily ever after with this guy; it's practicing how to have a conversation with someone you're attracted to. This means that even if it does not lead anywhere (he has a girlfriend, your conversation is awkward and uncomfortable, whatever), you've succeeded by speaking to him and made it easier for yourself to do this with the next guy. With that "next time" goal in mind, it should take some of the pressure off of this specific interaction.
posted by judith at 1:25 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you talk to other people in the class?

Maybe warm up by saying hey to a couple of other people, then say hi to him. You can start small - eye contact, smile, and "Hey." And if he smiles and says hey back you can say, "I'm NAME." And go from there.
posted by bunderful at 4:30 AM on October 30, 2013

I think you're nervous because this feels high-stakes to you. Can you recall other times that you have spoken with people in lower-stakes environments? For example, a checkout clerk at a supermarket? Or, you mention a therapist - what was meeting him/her like for the first time? That is pretty high-stakes. It might help to just reenact some successful meetings, both low- and high-stakes, in your mind, to reinforce to yourself that you can do this: you've done it before, after all.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 6:57 AM on October 30, 2013

Man, I know the feeling. I still get weirdly terrified of talking to new people — even after having a job for a couple years where my whole day was about striking up conversations with strangers professionally.

The thing that I have to repeat to myself is, "So what?" Like, if they think I'm a dork or are dicks to me, so what? Fuck 'em. There'll always be someone else to talk to, and if I get strung up in the details, I'll never actually pull the trigger on any of it. So what if he thinks you're a weirdo for talking to him? I mean, setting aside the fact that pretty much nobody thinks someone's weird just for making small talk, so what? Fuck him if he thinks you're weird.

For me, faking being blase helps me be blase, and remembering that other people won't obsess over these minute minutes makes it easier to just do it and be done.
posted by klangklangston at 3:05 PM on October 30, 2013

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