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TDot’s Tips #7: Own your awkwardity

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 23, 2009 in TDot's Tips

Law school, in many respects, reminds me of kindergarten. Your entire grade is divided up into a few groups. You stay in one room for the entire day and different teachers come to you instead of the other way around. Several professors have you fill out index cards with basic info and facts about yourself (I even had to buy a glue stick for 2 of them — first time I’ve used glue in well over a decade). You have your teacher’s pets in the front of the room (not me), your cool kids in the middle (not me), and your miscreants in the back (me).

And awkwardity seems to be everywhere you look.

My guess is that it’s a result of everyone being in a foreign environment studying foreign material and not knowing what answers to provide to the professor’s foreign questions, but even the suave kids find themselves thrown off their game.  And I, being the incredibly suave guy I am (no snickers please), seem to have already enjoyed my fair share of awkward moments.

The first week of school was kind enough to continue that trend.  On Friday mornings we have a lab section for Legal Reasoning & Analysis, which is the only class where our 60ish students are divided up into groups of 20 or so.  Professor LRA announced the sections we were in on Wednesday and passed around an attendance sheet that included info on it.  I signed it, then dutifully wrote down the room number I was to report to on Friday.  Friday morning arrives, I get to class on time (barely), see DMoff and M.P. (both part of the Gang of Eight) in the back, go to join them… then get quizzical stares from several people.  DMoff asks if I’m in the right section, pulls up the roster on his computer, and sure enough it says I should be in a different one than I am.

The professor, ready to start class, wants to know what we’re talking about.  Now with the light shined firmly on me, feeling like a goober (again), I note that it appears I’m in the wrong section, re-pack my stuff, and walk myself across the hall.  Come in to the new class late, hand the professor in there my homework assignment, and tell her it seems I wrote down the wrong section info yesterday and should have been there instead.  She starts class as the attendance sheet is going around.  The attendance sheet gets to me… and my name isn’t on it.  Turns out I was right the first time, and that the roster which was posted online was an older edition.  So I gently raise my hand, tell the teacher about my  now-2nd screw-up, grab my assignment from her and go back to the class I was at the first time.

Ordinarily I would have been beet red from embarrassment before walking into the other class, but I realized after orientation last week that I was/am destined to end up being “that guy” (not to be confused with That Guy).  So before I left that first class the first time, I cordially announced that knowing my track record I was probably wrong and would be back shortly (which of course I was), and upon my return intentionally waved in an idiotic fashion to the professor and the other students in the room.  Apparently at least a few folks thought it was endearing.

I suspect the overwhelming majority of us are socially awkward creatures, and the reason we laugh at someone else’s faux pas is out of a nervous gratitude that “at least it’s not me!”  So the easiest way to preemptively cope with that reality is to take ownership of your awkwardity. Make a joke out of it.  Self-deprecating humor is a staple of lawyers and politicians alike precisely because it disarms people and builds a bond between you and them.  It conveys to the other person that you know exactly why they’re laughing, and it’s OK because you agree that it was pretty damn funny.

That’s my take on it at least, and it seems to be working well so far :)

I’m off to read Civil Procedure and Torts cases for the rest of the night.  Have a great evening folks! :D

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