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The best way to get a nervous person to try something new

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
a nervous person is trying something new and worried they'll look stupid
Photo by John Kinnander / Unsplash

I’ve noticed that if someone wants you to try badminton or a party game or trivia or whatever, and you tell them “I’m not good at sports/boardgames/improv” or whatever it is, 9 times out of 10 they will respond, “Nah don’t worry, it’s easy, you’ll pick it up.”

And if you insist, “No, seriously, I’m REALLY clumsy / bad at thinking on my feet” or whatever, they’ll double-down: “It’s basically impossible to fuck up, you’ll be fine.” THIS IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN SAY TO A NERVOUS PERSON TRYING SOMETHING NEW.

The more you sell how easy it is, the stronger you’re sending the message “you will look like an idiot if you fail at this. I am incapable of imagining how someone could find this difficult. They would have to be some sort of clueless baby.”

The way to encourage someone is to say “yeah, you probably will fuck up, everyone does at first, it’s normal.” Don’t try to convince them they’ll be good at it (they won’t believe you). Try to convince them it’s normal to be bad at it and no one will judge them for it.

(If they’re not actually interested in trying the new thing, the way to not be rude is to ask them with the specific context that trying it would be doing you a favour, because it would. Don’t wheedle, or try to convince them they’ll love it, or phrase it in any way like you are trying to do them a favour because you just know they’ll love it so much if they give it a go. You’re allowed to ask people favours! especially friends! but you’re not allowed to act like it’s for their benefit not yours.)

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #12 – subscribe to get the next issue in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceEQ & Interpersonal


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