Who hasn’t thought they just didn’t ‘fit in’ from time-to-time? It is often associated with a concern in your school years, but I know from personal experience it can come up in the adult world as well. There may be certain situations where the thought comes to mind. It may be with certain people. It may happen once-a-week or once-a-year, but it can happen. Let’s look at how to successfully manage those situations.
Take the temperature – Whether it is walking into a room or interacting with specific people, if you feel awkward or out-of-sync make a specific effort to take the temperature of the situation. What does that mean? Well, just like you would notice a change in 5 or 10 degrees going from one place to another, you are noticing a difference in this case. Try to put your finger on what is making you uncomfortable or uneasy. Below I will provide a checklist of items you can think about, but before you get to that point you have to realize it is happening.
There are things you can watch for in the ‘I don’t fit in’ situation: Conversation doesn’t come easy. Long pauses can hang between you when you are interacting with this person or group. The topics or issues they discuss make you feel uneasy. Perhaps you never seem to know where they are going with the discussion or the sense of humor in the room is not your cup of tea. Sound familiar? Has this ever happened to you? Okay, let’s take control!
Energy level in the room – One of the quickest ways to put your finger on the specific issue is to measure the energy level in the room. Are you more or less energized than everyone else? How quickly do you move, speak and react? The best way to adjust for others is to take your measure of that energy level and accommodate what you are sensing.
One of the most important things to understand in this process is that I am not asking you to ‘become somebody else’ when you do this. Instead, this is about having respect for others by understanding they have a speed at which they move. If you need to connect with them, it is important for you to keep this kind of information in mind. You may normally be pretty quiet, for example, but if this is a high-energy group, you may have to adjust a bit to get them to hear you.
Watch your volume level – Speaking of getting them to hear you, assess the volume level of those who are in the room or meeting. That simple fact is a great way to realize the difference you represent. Let’s say you are normally pretty energized, but then you walk into a room filled with older folks – either senior level leaders or even a family gathering with grandparents. Check your volume level, because you can easily be out-of-sync. The wrong volume level can be jarring to your audience and set things in the wrong direction quickly.
How about the jokes? This is a minefield of potential issues. Think before you joke! I am still amazed at the number of men who will make inappropriate jokes about women. Really? I think we should be past that era. And what if you are serious and this is a light-hearted group or person? At the very least, establish your value in the areas where you are comfortable and the person or group will hopefully pick up on it.
Finally, when you are on either end of this equation, let’s all agree to be aware of these issues. Increasing the comfort level of those around you can only make you more valued and appreciated – and that’s always a good thing!
A longer version on this topic will be found in my new book, which will be available this fall. Stay tuned!
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.