Starting at a new group

Some more from my newly finished book...
I’ve come in new to enough groups of people that I know what usually happens. I also know how bad I usually feel, and have worked out a way to get over it. What is normal, and how will you feel when you walk into a new group? This is the rough mental plan that I rely on.

First 5 minutes
Probably will happen...
Not many people will talk to you although they might eye you curiously. This doesn’t necessarily mean they hate you. It just means they feel shy too. You’ll feel uncomfortable, out of place and a little lost. You might get an overwhelming desire to turn around, leave and never come back.
Keep going! These are completely normal feelings. Act confident, breathe deeply and you’ll come through it.

Probably won't happen...
As you enter, you probably won’t see people with outstretched arms pointing at you and laughing (unless you arrive in a bunny suit). You probably won’t have things thrown at you. You probably won’t be attacked verbally or physically. If this does happen, take off the bunny suit. But either way, you should probably turn around and walk out! Who needs the abuse?

First 10 minutes
Probably will happen...
If you’ve found your contact person, you’ll probably be introduced to a couple of people. You’ll have some slightly awkward and stilted chat. You might not know where to go to get to the facilities. You’ll still feel weird and embarrassed. Keep going! This is normal. It will get easier. Remember, you’re not the only one who’s talking to someone new. The others are just as shy as you. If you need to, ask your way to the bathroom, put on some lip gloss for confidence, pray and regroup with some deep breathing in a stall!

Probably won't happen...
It would be unusual for absolutely no-one to have spoken to you at all by this stage. If looks of pure hatred and disgust are still being shot your way, you might want to consider a few things: First, check your body language and appearance. Are you suitably dressed? Does your body language say ‘I don’t want to be here?’ Do you look confident? Ask yourself if you’re just paranoid. Find someone you know and ask them to introduce you around.
If none of this works, or someone spits in your face, perhaps you have stumbled into a group of neo-Nazis about to elect their new leader, and you probably should get out while the going is good.

First half hour
Probably will happen...
By this stage, hopefully you will have participated in the group in some small way. You should be feeling more comfortable in the room. You may have had some conversations with a few people. You’ll still feel like you’re doing a lot of work and expending a lot of effort for not much return, but rest assured, this is still normal. Keep going. Make it a challenge to yourself to last another half hour!

Probably won't happen...
If anyone is going to throw fried eggs at you or set an explosion, it would probably be at this point. If you collect a fried egg around the head, you are absolutely within your rights to leave. And fast.

At the end
Go home, write down everyone’s names that you remember for reference for next time. Put the next meeting in your diary. Take a nice hot shower, treat yourself (my choice is chocolate) and feel pleased that the worst is over! You’ve done really well! If you come home bruised and battered physically or emotionally, hop in the bath and have a long soak. Nurse your wounds and remember – you’re not a failure just because you encountered an unfriendly group of people!