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How to Deal with Social Awkwardness

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_deal_with_social_awkwardness

greatergood.berkeley.edu

How to Deal with Social Awkwardness
Psychologist Ty Tashiro explains why some people are more socially awkward and how they can use their strengths to connect with others.

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Social awkwardness

Social awkwardness

Some people experience awkward moments, but it doesn't necessarily impact their relationships too much.

However, for other people, awkwardness can be a way of life where they miss important social cues. This creates painful misunderstandings that lead to social exclusion.

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Inside the awkward brain

Awkward people tend to see things differently. They highlight parts of their perceptual world that others tend to overlook.

Neuroscience research suggests that awkward people have less activity in their "social brains" and require extra effort when interpreting social cues. This is draining and can cause anxiety.

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How awkward people can adjust

Awkward people can learn to feel more at ease in social situations.

  • Showing a real interest in what others say will send a message that you are invested in their well-being. Awkward people can learn to stop talking and instead ask questions to further the conversation.
  • Awkward people can be taught to pay attention to social cues like eye contact during conversations, and not chip in when someone else is busy speaking.

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Raising an awkward kid

The awkward kid may say or do things that others will interpret negatively - such as correcting people's grammar or strictly sticking to rules and routines (which helps them to function but could be perceived as stiff).
Parents can do the following:

  • They can act as coaches by teaching their children social scripts that help them fit in.
  • They can teach them social expectations for dress and behavior.
  • They can help them find their passions and connect with others who have similar interests.
  • Social media could be a good tool to set up face-to-face time with friends.

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The upside of being awkward

The nerdy kid or adult is not all bad.

  • Their deep focus gives them a particular perspective that no one else takes the time to notice.
  • Their narrow attention can help awkward people to develop unique expertise. Famous examples would be people like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein, whose obsessive interests helped fuel innovation.
  • Awkward people may be more likely to excel at systematic problem-solving tasks.

Those who are not socially awkward could practice a greater appreciation and empathy, reaching out toward those who struggle socially.

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Decreasing Awkwardness

Decreasing Awkwardness
  • Find common interests and discuss them.
  • Encourage others to talk about what interests them.
  • Be gentle or help someone out, even if it is on a small thing.

Situations That Lead To Awkwardness

  • Walking into a room where you don't know any of the other people.
  • Being in a situation in which you don't know what you are supposed to do.
  • You are all talking amongst yourself and an unknown person approaches the group.
  • When a conversation does not go smoothly. 
  • Discomfort around food. 
  • Invading someone else's personal space—or having your own space invaded.
  • Not remembering someone or their name or not being remembered.
  • Been put in the spotlight or when others start talking about you while you are in the same room.

Forgetting Someone's Name

  • If you haven’t already, ask for their business card.
  • Ask for their name and pretend you just didn't know their last name.
  • Introduce the person to a friend and hope th...

Making Small Talk and Dealing with Awkward Silences

  • Have some good go-to stories.
  • Use the FORD technique (asking questions about Family," "Occupation," "Recreation" and "Dreams) to turn small talk into an actual conversation
  • Just enjoy the silence.

Going on a First Date

  • Pick a great first-date activity.
  • Keep your expectations in check.
  • Learn the science behind the perfect first date.
  • Try not to sweat it even if things do get uncomfortable.