If you find it difficult to initiate and maintain conversations, live in constant fear of being judged in social settings, struggle to read social cues, and have a tendency to discuss inappropriate topics, you may suffer from something called ‘social awkwardness’. The good news is that communication and socialization are skills you can learn, and we’re excited to share 7 simple tips you can start practicing TODAY to improve your social life.
What Does ‘Socially Awkward’ Mean?
As human beings, we tend to be social by nature, but for some people, interacting with others is challenging. People who are socially awkward feel anxious and distressed in social situations, causing them to talk too much or too little, say inappropriate things, and overshare personal information, and they often have difficulty reading social cues from others.
Social awkwardness is often confused with social anxiety (a medical condition that causes serious distress in social situations along with psychological symptoms like a racing heart, shaking, trembling, and sweating), autism (a developmental disability that causes challenges with communication, interpersonal relationships, and social interaction, as well as repetitive behaviors and unique strengths and differences), and introversion (a personality trait characterized as being quiet, reserved, and focused on internal thoughts and emotions). While there is certainly overlap in some of the traits and characteristics of people with social awkwardness, social anxiety, autism, and introverts, there are distinct differences between each condition/trait.
How Can I Tell If I’m Socially Awkward?
We all have moments in which we feel socially awkward, but for some people, socializing and networking feels like a form of torture. If you can relate to any of the following, there’s a high degree of probability you are socially awkward.
- Feeling shy and anxious when socializing with others
- Fear of being judged and/or rejected by others in social settings, which often results in weird behavior
- Have difficulty understanding social expectations
- Have difficulty making/maintaining eye contact
- Have difficulty interpreting social cues
- Have difficulty maintaining the flow of conversation
- Notice that others try to avoid socializing with you
- Have a tendency to focus on certain subjects, even when others have moved onto another topic
- Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time
- Overthinking social interactions
How Not to be Socially Awkward: 7 Tips
While social awkwardness can have a negative impact on your self-confidence and self-esteem, and affect your interpersonal relationships and career goals, rest assured that there are ways you can overcome the challenges and difficulties you experience in social situations. If you want to know how not to be socially awkward, these tips will help.
While avoiding social situations may make you feel better in the short-term, avoidance behavior typically makes things worse over time. If you’re socially awkward and want to improve your social life, it’s important that you put yourself out there and practice your social skills as often as possible. By using the tips in this post, and evaluating your progress, you can fine-tune your social skills along the way until you find strategies that help you feel more at ease in social situations.
2. STAY FOCUSED
If you’re socially awkward, you probably find it difficult to stay focused while socializing with others. Whether you’re struggling to come up with something interesting or funny to say, worrying what others think of you, or looking around to see if other people are watching your every move, your non-verbal cues will give you away. The person or people you are engaging in conversation with will notice you aren’t giving them 100% of your attention, which can make them feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. Do your best to stay in the moment – it’ll make you look more engaged and natural.
3. BE PREPARED
If you struggle to initiate and maintain conversations with others, set aside time to prepare yourself ahead of social situations. Do a little research on the people you’ll be socializing with to see if you have anything in common you can discuss, and brainstorm relevant questions you can ask in an effort to get to know other people better. Having a list of general questions at the ready can also be helpful, like:
- Where are you from?
- What brings you here today/tonight?
- What are you studying? / What do you do for a living?
- Where in the city do you live?
- Do you have any travel plans coming up?
4. AVOID SENSITIVE TOPICS
When meeting people for the first time, be careful not to bring up sensitive topics, including politics and religion. You can broach these topics in subsequent meetings, but if you struggle with social awkwardness, if may be better to stick to safe topics, like family, school, work, and common interests.
5. LEARN TO BE A GOOD LISTENER
Learning how to be a good listener is a great skill to focus on if you are socially awkward as it leads to more meaningful relationships with others. Whether you have a tendency to be more reserved in social situations, or feel the need to fill the silence, remember that people like to be heard. Get into the habit of asking open-ended questions that require others to elaborate and share details about themselves, and resist the urge to interrupt.
6. FOCUS ON MAKING OTHERS FEEL COMFORTABLE
If you’re socially awkward, you probably spend a lot of time worrying about how others perceive you. You spend so much time trying to say the right things at the right time, worrying you aren’t reading other people’s body language correctly, and berating yourself for the things you did or didn’t do or say. If you change your focus, and concentrate on ensuring the people you’re with feel comfortable instead, you will take all of that pressure off yourself, allowing you to interact more naturally. Staying present, asking questions, being a good listener, and complimenting your audience will take the pressure off of you, allowing you to engage and connect with others.
7. LOOK FOR A MENTOR
If you’re really struggling with social awkwardness and want to improve your social life, consider seeking help from a mentor. If you have a family member, friend, or co-worker who socializes with ease, ask him or her to accompany you to a variety of social settings so you can observe how they communicate with others. Put these skills into practice under their guidance, and ask for feedback so you can refine your approach over time.
If you think you’re socially awkward, I hope the tips and ideas in this post inspire you to approach social situations in a different light. Remember to practice often, to stop worrying what others are thinking of you, to ask questions and be a good listener, and seek the help of a mentor if possible.
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