I’ll never forget the day I met my in-laws for the first time. This was before my husband and I got married, so clearly, I was worried about that first impression. I may have been a little nervous (okay, maybe a lot) because most of what I remember is hazy.
…Except for one scary moment which, unfortunately, is still pretty clear.
So, we all go out for ice cream that was meant to be eaten on a plate with a spoon (don’t ask me why) and we’re all sitting inside the car. I tried to be polite and “pretend” to enjoy it—but since I really wasn’t, the ice-cream was melting faster than I could eat it and almost brimming over the edge of the plate. Everything was fine until someone, or something, hit my elbow and the plate (which I was trying to balance on my purse) tipped over.
You can probably imagine what happened next…
…Ice-cream inside my purse, ice-cream on my clothes, ice-cream on the car floor. It was a mess! And so was my very first impression.
I now realize that it was more my nervousness and inability to refuse the ice cream offer, move comfortably, or even eat sensibly that caused the accident! Had I been more “comfortable” in this uncomfortable situation, my first impression would have fared better.
So is there a way I could have prepared myself for this situation? Self-help gurus and experts would say there is. Here’s a list of ways people can practice being calm and relaxed at times they are ill at ease.
How to Practice Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations
1) Practice being around new people
Have you ever been to a career or networking event where you felt totally out of place? That’s your comfort zone telling you that you’re in the “danger zone” or experiencing discomfort. Instead of listening to that inner voice, challenge it and step beyond what you believe to be your comfort zone. Don’t stick around in a corner and leave with only a card or two in hand. Meet as many people as you can and start conversations out of the blue. What’s the worst that can happen?
You’ll say something wrong and they may move on to the next person. Sure, it may hurt your ego a little bit but you’re never going to see them again, are you? Once you get into the habit of doing this and learn all of the tricks (with practice), you’ll be able to extend that zone line beyond the normal boundaries every time you meet a new person.
2) Hang out with diverse thinkers
We tend to stick around with people we like or can easily relate to. However, if you want to practice being comfortable in uncomfortable situations, you should open yourself up to diverse people with diverse thoughts. Sure, it may be a little uncomfortable and first and you may even find yourself arguing with them every once in a while. But you’ll eventually realize that such people always challenge your assumption of what you believe to be true and ask tough questions you may never have thought of before.
A large part of learning and being ready for any challenge in life is accomplished by deliberately putting yourself in challenging situations and being around people who challenge you.
3) Do the unusual
What are you “used to” doing? Perhaps, you love taking a shower immediately in the morning and allowing that to wake you up. How about a daily dose of endorphins instead to wake you up and kick in that good mood? Rush yourself to work every day? Try waking up an hour earlier and making sure you fix yourself a scrumptious breakfast before you leave.
Used to dressing it your usual jeans and t-shirt every day? Why not try a formal attire and surprise everyone with your new look? We’re sure you get the idea by now! Try doing unusual things every now and then to move beyond your level of comfort.
4) Clear your head
One of the most obvious ways to react to challenging situations is to bring yourself at ease. Stress tends to cloud our minds and have us thinking several things at once. These thoughts usually lack clarity and disrupt our focus. Every time you experience this, the first thing you should do is take a deep breath and clear you head.
Think only one thought at a time and prevent others thoughts from forcing their way in. This will allow you to think prudently and act immediately when you know a challenge is headed your way (in my case, the predictable challenge was the dangerous level of ice cream in my plate!).
5) Write about it
Not all of our uncomfortable situations are experienced on the spot or are temporary. Some of these uncomfortable situations are long-term, resulting in anxiety that piles and adds by the day. For instance, you could be nearing a deadline for a presentation in front of board members.
Writing about your anxiety and the pressure during this time will allow you to express your feelings, clear your head, and get a better picture of what lies ahead. This will also allow you to get organized and figure out what you have accomplished or should be doing to accomplish in the future.
6) Practice public speaking
Public speaking is probably one of the most awkward and uncomfortable situations we often face. In order to overcome the fear of public speaking, or fear of any other awkward situation for that matter, its best to face this fear head on until it simply stops being the boogie monster under our bed. We can assure you that it will do a lot to improve your confidence and the way act, react, and talk, and behave in uncomfortable situations!
7) Travel a lot
Now, this one is certainly not easy for everyone. But if you have the time, money, and courage to do so, being a passionate wanderer is certainly going to prepare for even the most unexpected of situations. Traveling teaches you a lot about adventure, taking risks, spontaneity, quick decision-making, and being comfortable with the “uncomfortable”. Hey, who says you always have to go beyond national borders to travel? There are so many new places, people, cultures, cuisines, and environments to explore within our own national borders.
Be comfortable being uncomfortable: I’ve experimented with this technique several times, and I found it works really well! It’s pretty simple. All you have to do is tell yourself, “Okay, I know I’m going to be facing an uncomfortable situation right now, but it is okay. Anyone would be uncomfortable if they were in my position. Just relax and be yourself”. Just try it, because it works like magic!
In the end, don’t stress over your mistakes when you’re finally out of the dreaded discomfort zone. Always tell yourself that you’ll do better next time, and with practice, you’re bound to!
Incase you were wondering about how my story ended—my in laws were pretty cool. I do get teased (mostly by my husband) about the incident every once in a while, but thankfully that first impression was never a lasting one.
Photo credits: mallix