Body language expert and entrepreneur Vanessa Van Edwards will be the first to tell you that she used to have some real trouble in social situations.
“I say that I’m a recovering awkward person,” Vanessa explained in her first CreativeLive class. “Because whenever I would pitch, I just felt so uncomfortable. I didn’t know where to put my hands, I didn’t know how to interact, I didn’t know how to hold my body. I was just always uncomfortable.”
The problem, Vanessa says, is that everyone learns the technical skills needed for their field, but not any other skills — like how to be around other people.
“We’re never taught people skills,” says Vanessa. “We’re never taught how to interact with people in a concrete way.”
As a result, some of us are just naturally better at responding to social prompts, coming up with interesting responses, and asking the right questions. Others of us are…well, not. And that’s lack of shared skill or communication prowess is usually what we read as awkwardness.
Awkwardness is also a feeling; whether you’re uncomfortable in a situation because it’s new, or you just don’t thrive in the kind of environment you find yourself (like an office), when you don’t feel competent and confident, you may find yourself interacting or reacting in ways that just don’t feel right.
But your own awkwardness, when you can actually get ahold of it, examine it, and look for it in others, can actually be a good thing, says award-winning lifestyle wedding photographer Jasmine Star.
“The awkwardness that I possess helps me identify awkwardness in other people in uncomfortable situations,” explains Jasmine. “In those uncomfortable situations, I’m well-suited to ease it.”
If you’ve done the work to curb your own awkwardness and become a more confident, adept social person, you probably still are more empathetic to the uncomfortable nature of others. As a business person, this can make you seem extremely warm, gracious, and generally like someone that a potential client would like to work with.
This largely boils down to the issue of what’s most likable in a person — and when you’re a freelancer or a small business owner (or even if you’re not!), often, what likability looks like is actually quite similar to vulnerability.
By opening yourself up and really being candid and authentic with your potential clients, you not only set up a trusting relationship, but also establish the kind of rapport that results in a more pleasant working environment.
“On a wedding day, I will be the first to admit that there are any number of uncomfortable situations,” says Jasmine “we have to know these things. We have to navigate these things.”
As a freelancer or solopreneur, you’re as much a part of the product as whatever you’re selling — and it’s better to be clear about what the many shades and facets of you, as a product, truly are.
If you’ve struggled with awkwardness, you can certainly find ways to better handle those situations (Vanessa has tons of examples in her class), but know, too, that that’s who you are, and that your experience living that way is valid. Embrace the parts about you that are unique and learn to view them as strengths — it’ll make you a more genuine person and a more marketable worker.
If you’re starting a freelance career, or looking to grow your existing business, download our Free eBook, The Essential Guide to Launching a Freelance Career.