You know the feeling.
You hop on a zoom call with someone you’ve never met before. They’ve seen your work and would like to talk to you. You’ve exchanged a few dms and tweets, but what’s happening here is on a whole ‘nother level. You’re talking face to face with this total stranger.
Well, you’re supposed to, anyways.
You’re not talking face to face. You’re stargazing at your wall. You’re distant. Your attention is divided between what this person is saying and what the most impressive way to respond is.
Wait, what are they talking about now? The weather? Oh yeah the weather’s great here hahaha! Wow, that was dumb. Why did I laugh so hard about the weather? I wonder if they know that I have no idea what the weather’s like here. I haven’t been outside in like 3 days, this damn lockdown’s killing me. Huh? Oh yeah I was working in marketing for uh like 6 years and then you know I sort of like just pivoted to uh — Someone call 911. This is an absolute dumpster fire.
If you’ve read literally any book or blog on networking, then you know that first impressions are everything. But we’re not talking about networking and we’re not talking about first impressions.
We’re talking about conversations. We’re talking about being in the present moment, paying attention, and not taking ourselves so seriously.
Because you can’t spell ‘impressions’ without ‘impress’, we’re fooled into thinking that we need to show ourselves off like a soccer mom with a “my kid is an honor roll student” bumper sticker.
You’re not supposed to impress whomever it is you’re talking to. You’re supposed to talk to them. If you’re nervous about coming across “a certain way” to someone you’ve never met before, stop. I’m not a betting man, but I’d put all my NFTS and Crypto* on that “a certain way” being “intelligent.” Everyone wants to come across as intelligent. Even I do. But I can’t, because I, in the immortal words of Steve Harwell, aint the sharpest tool in the shed.
So, laugh at yourself. If your conversation partner says something impressive about themselves or their work, try to come up with something comical about how the opposite is true of you. I promise you that this will annihilate awkwardness immediately. Only jackasses won’t laugh with your self-deprecation, so you don’t have to worry about sucking the air out of the (zoom) room.
Making fun of yourself is like bug spray that kills pests 99.9% of the time. So, basically 100% of the time. It gets rid of the awkwardness and tension. Better yet, your conversation partner will feel more at ease. Who knows, maybe they’re feeling just as awkward as you are. Maybe they’re intimidated by YOU and all your wild accomplishments.
You must laugh at yourself or else you will die. Seriously. Learn to poke fun at yourself. Learn to make fun of where you live. I always tell people that San Diegans do nothing but drink IPAs and take long walks on La Jolla beach, so it’s a miracle I’ve done anything because the weather’s so damn distracting.
Put yourself on blast. I promise you it’ll work. And if it doesn’t, I promise you that you can punch me in the face if you ever bump into me at an Arcade Fire concert.
*All zero of them