As an adult there are still plenty of scenarios where I am required to ‘find a partner’ in a classroom situation (e.g. dance class). So as a follow up on my last video I thought it would be a good idea to contrast how I was in primary school with how I am today. This also gives me the opportunity to give you some insight into what my coping strategies look like. In many cases they can be categorised as well informed, well calculated pre-emptive strikes.
I actually don’t like giving ‘tips’ as such since there are so many different ways to do things. Instead, what I will share are some absolutely crucial pieces of information that allowed me to go from last to first.
The information here is a slightly different take, over and above what I’ve summarised in the video.
- There is absolutely no reason to be anxious
(video version: there is only one reason why someone would turn you down)
Knowledge of several basic facts can quickly show that there is no rational basis for anxiety and KNOWING that there’s no reason to be anxious goes a long way, though often not all the way, toward ACTUALLY not being anxious. Another helpful fact is that it is completely NORMAL to be nervous in unfamiliar situations. So if for whatever reason I do feel anxious… that’s OK!!
First, if you know what to do, the chances of success are incredibly high. Second, the consequences of failure are incredibly low. If for whatever reason I do end up on my own, so what? Are people judging me? Will people think I’m a loser? No, if anything they’re probably thinking, “I’m glad that’s not me!” No-one is out to get me. If there are uneven numbers, someone has to be alone. It’s not the end of the world. It most CERTAINLY does NOT reflect on my popularity or status or anything like that. In fact, I’ve been in dance classes where because I didn’t come with a partner the women went out of their way to make sure I was never the one to have to sit out!
So the essence of No. 1 is DON’T STRESS!!! It’s a safe, friendly environment and there is EVERY reason to be very confident.
- I need to pay attention to my surroundings.
(video version: the most important factor is time)
If I want to do well in any situation it’s important to be PRESENT to my surroundings. (I.e. not off in my head somewhere.) This may take some practice, but it is usually possible to anticipate that we are ABOUT to be asked to get into pairs. Paying attention means I am quick off the mark and already puts me a step ahead of the competition. After the instruction is given, there is no time to think, only act. All thinking must be done in advance.
- Control over this situation is all about pre-positioning
(video version: It matters where you are when the instruction is given)
A step above being aware of my surroundings is to subtly manipulate it in advance. For example, if I want to partner a particular person, I need to be standing next to them when the instruction is given (preferably a little in front to make it easier to quickly get their attention). The key here is to be subtle. Subtle actions do not attract conscious attention. Most people don’t think twice about their ‘social strategy’ and simply rely on their instincts. The more people act on instinct, the more predictable they become, and the easier it is to get a desired response. For example, if I ask the person next to me to be my partner, they will naturally accept (unless there is a conscious reason not to). In contrast, if I intentionally walk half way across the room then ask someone, I will likely spark the conscious question, “why did you pick me?” Without an adequate answer to this question it is likely that the person would feel hesitant, try to stall for time, or at least look around to assess their other options before accepting. The “why not” effect is very powerful, but it relies on eliciting an immediate instinctual response.
There are lots of other strategies I could talk about, but I’ll mention only one more. Eye contact is an easy way to get someone’s attention, however it is human nature to avoid eye contact with strangers. To overcome this, a simple, engaging, ‘hello’ at the start of class can be enough to break the ice and ensure that the person does not treat me like a ‘stranger’.
So maybe now you can see why I use the ‘pre-emptive strike’ analogy. I anticipate any resistance (e.g. awkwardness meeting the gaze of a stranger) and neutralise it in advance. This gives the appearance that everything just ‘works out’ naturally and without conscious effort on my part… I’m quite happy for people to attribute my success to luck if they wish… oh, would you look at that, everything worked out perfectly again! I must be really lucky! 😛