Ask Emma: How do I interact normally with other people?

Cater your social skills to specific situations; ask questions to get to know someone new



For those anxious to be back in social settings, Ask Emma has some advice for you.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear Emma,

I am super awkward. I need all the help you can give me to improve my social interactions. My social anxiety has been through the roof since COVID hit, and I’m afraid my classmates and potential new friends will think I am strange.

How do I act appropriately in an unknown social situation? How can I relate to others if it seems like we have nothing in common? I specifically need help in classes and clubs.

Thanks in advance!

Socially Awkward Bean

Dear Socially Awkward Bean,

After over a year of having abnormal social interactions, your anxiety is completely understandable. I can definitely relate, so we’ll see how useful my tips are for you.

First of all, your social skills really depend on what type of situation you’re in. It sounds like you mainly need help with classes and clubs, so let’s tackle those separately.

In classes, one thing to keep in mind is your professors expect a professional setting. This means your social interactions with your classmates should not disrupt other people from learning. Keep your joking or laughter to a minimum, raise your hand if you want to participate and avoid passing notes to get your neighbor’s attention.

Getting to class early may help you scope out the social scene. Figure out what type of people you want to sit by. People who are very attentive usually sit in the front, so if that is your style, head there. Otherwise, pick a seat in the middle or back, depending on your comfort level.

If you’re trying to meet people, it is helpful to sit next to someone who doesn’t look like they are already in the middle of a conversation with someone else. Don’t interrupt them if they are talking to another classmate, because that would be rude.

Save your chatting for before or after class, at least until you know your class friends a bit better. At that point, you can whisper a couple times, as long as you aren’t being too distracting.

As for clubs, the restrictions are much looser. You are no longer in a professional setting, so you can make more jokes — if that’s your vibe.

Try to meet a few people right off the bat and sit with them. You could do this simply by asking if the seat next to them is taken.

Alternatively, you could sit through the club meeting and identify who seems interesting to you. Wait until after and then try to strike up a conversation with them. I don’t recommend asking for their contact information on the first interaction unless you really feel like you have some things in common.

You will not always be able to relate perfectly to everyone. If you meet someone who you don’t connect with right off the bat, don’t write them off. Instead, ask them questions to try to get to know them better. Don’t talk about yourself the entire time because that can be off-putting.

When I’m in social situations where I don’t have much in common with someone, I break out my journalism skills. I’m not saying you should treat them like the subject of an interview, but you can ask them all the questions your heart desires in order to get to know them better.

If you apply these simple steps, I’m confident you’ll be functioning normally in any social situation. You’ll be a real social butterfly in no time!

Hope this helps,