“How to not be socially awkward,” I desperately Googled.
Heck, if you’re reading this, then you probably did the same.
See, according to Ty Tashiro, Psychologist, and author of the book, Awkward, the average person exhibits about 32% of the characteristics associated with being socially awkward.
Hence, if you ever feel socially awkward, then you’re not alone. There are millions of people around the world who are feeling the same.
However, you need not simply live with anything that holds you back or prevents you from living your life to the fullest. Instead, you can and should change.
So, how do you get rid of it?
What Does It Mean to Be Socially Awkward?
“Awkward people are neither better, nor worse than anyone else — they simply see the world differently and have to exert more effort to master social graces that come intuitively to others.” –Ty Tashiro
In essence, to be socially awkward is to not feel completely comfortable in social situations. You may be alright around friends and feel that you can say or do anything.
However, be put into a novel situation, and you feel completely out of your depth. You’re lost for the words to make a proper conversation. You may have the right words or ideas in your head. However, you just can’t seem to say em.
If such is true, then that was me too.
For years, I had been socially awkward. Simply picture the guy who would sit awkwardly in the corner at a party and that was me to a T.
From struggling to talk to girls, laughing at the wrong jokes, or making a fool of myself in public, you could guarantee that if I got into a social situation, then there would probably be issues.
And the result?
It’s hurt my life in more ways than you could know. Honestly, it’s held me back from engaging in decent conversations and building proper relationships.
Thus, I knew I had to change. For a start, I began to vigorously study the lives of my socially adept peers, and with practice, I’ve begun to turn my social life around.
Of course, I’m still not a perfect conservationist. I can’t always read a room with perfection, and nor do I always have the right words to say. However, when I do feel socially awkward, here’s what I try to remember:
1. Overcome a Few Seconds of Fear
“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” -Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo
Will Smith has famously said, “The best things in life are on the other side of fear.”
And he’s completely right. Of course, entering a new social situation may be scary. However, it’s not going to kill you.
Indeed, it is completely safe to talk to a woman on the street. You can talk to the cashier at the supermarket or introduce yourself to a new group of friends without losing your life or dignity.
However, the only thing holding you back from doing any of these things is your fear of the feelings accompanied with doing these things.
Hence, Benjamin P. Hardy has said,
“Get used to pain and failure and nothing can stop you.”
Thus, it’s time to overcome a few seconds of fear. When your mind is telling you “Yes” but your body is telling you “No,” you must “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
The next point will help you get started:
2. Talk About Whatever’s Interesting to You
“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” -Oscar Wilde
“I don’t know what to say,” “What if the topic is boring?” “What if I run out of things to say?”
Does any of this sound familiar? The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what you say. Instead, what matters is how you say it.
When you’re passionate about something, you’ll talk with meaning and be far more engaging.
Not only that, but it will also make it harder to run out of things to say. For example, Writing, Bodybuilding, and Digital Marketing are all topics I could talk for hours about.
And you’d be lying if you didn’t at least have one topic in which you could do the same. Although, I can already hear your mental wheels spinning:
“If I talk about my passion the whole time, then I’ll just bore them to death.”
In fact, the opposite is true. When you talk about something that you’re truly passionate about, then you won’t bore them. Instead, you’ll have them practically begging to know more.
Said James Altucher,
“The greater your own internal fire is, the more people will want it. They will ignite their own fires. They will try to light up their own dark caves. The universe will bend to you.”
Of course, it also works on the contrary; if you constantly talk about something that you’re unpassionate about, then the other person won’t be able to get away quick enough.
Thus, you may want to keep your conversations heading in a positive direction.
This is not to say that you should never express your negative feelings, although, it is to say that everything has a time and a place. We all know someone who’s constantly complaining isn’t much fun to be around.
3. Ask Questions and Be Interested in Others
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie
Here’s an idea: If you can get other people talking, then you’ll hardly have to talk at all.
And the brilliant thing is that although the world is full of amazing places, people, and ideas, everyone still loves talking about themselves.
One study found that people will even happily forgo money in order to talk about themselves! Another study found that talking about yourself activates the same areas of the brain as eating good food, taking drugs, and having sex.
Thus, this is an area of conversation gold. What makes it even sweeter is when you can get people talking about themselves and their passion.
Simply ask some questions like:
- What was the last thing you did that made you truly excited, and why?
- If you could wake up and do anything tomorrow, what would you do?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of, and why?
When you ask these questions, they like yourself will be able to talk for hours and find you incredibly fascinating. Although what’s interesting, is that you barely said anything.
And with that, comes the next point:
4. Don’t be afraid of “Awkward Silences”
“Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?” -Mitch Albom
If we’re really being honest, silences in conversations are only awkward if you allow them to be.
You don’t also have to say something to fill the air. In fact, sometimes it’s better if you don’t.
Can’t we just simply enjoy the moments we spend with another and not feel that the conversation needs to be continued at whatever cost?
We could enjoy the silence while doing a recreational activity or just keep out conversations relevant to the people we are presently with.
5. Learn Social Routines
“When you build a habit, you don’t have to waste mental energy deciding what to do.” -David Kadavy
One thing I’ve learned in observing my socially adept peers is that they don’t always have something new to say, but rather, they simply repeat the same thing in different conversations.
For example, they tell the same jokes, ask the same questions, and tell the same stories.
Sure, it’s not overly imaginative or exciting. However, people love them, and thus, you can do the same.
If you simply try out a few different questions, stories, jokes, and ideas, you’ll be able to see which ones stick and which don’t, and then repeat them over and over again.
This will save you from having to come up with new conversation ideas on the spot, and consequently, you’ll be a lot more confident in your speech and body language.
And now that you’re trying to learn some social routines, the next point will come in handy:
“Excellence demands effort and planned, deliberate practice of increasing difficulty” -Anders Ericsson, Peak
Ty Tashiro explains that like some people struggle with algebra, being socially awkward is much the same.
Conversation is simply a skill you have yet to properly learn, and thus, it takes practice to master it.
Indeed, you cannot expect to read a couple of blog articles and be socially adept overnight. Instead, you must get out in the real world and put your knowledge into practice.
Of course, Napoleon Hill has famously said,
“Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.”
So, what does practice look like?
It means you put yourself out there and seek to engage in more conversations with others.
Unfortunately, there is no way to downplay this; you will have to get outside of your comfort zone if you’re serious about transforming your social life.
As Anders Ericsson has said, “This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.”
Of course, you can start small, however: begin by simply talking to the cashier at the supermarket, you could ask a stranger on the street for the time, or talk to someone while waiting at the bus stop, etc.
From there, you will have a social base from which you can build.
As Ryan Holiday put so perfectly, “Thinking big is great, but thinking small is easier. And easier is what we’re after when it comes to getting started. Because once you get started, you can build.”
Here’s how to not be socially awkward:
- Overcome a Few Seconds of Fear: Nothing about a bit of slight discomfort when entering a new social situation is going to kill you. Thus, rather than allowing your instincts to take over and prevent you from escaping your comfort zone, you must “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
- Talk About Whatever’s Interesting to You: This really isn’t rocket science. When you truly care about a topic you’ll speak with meaning and be far more engaging. Additionally, it will make it much harder to run out of things to say.
- Ask Questions and Be Interested in Others: When other people are talking, you barely have to say a word. Hence, getting other people talking about themselves is your best bet. Ask questions that make them open up their deepest passions, and they’ll be away.
- Don’t be afraid of “Awkward Silences”: Silences in conversations are only awkward if you allow them to be. You don’t also have to say something to fill the air. In fact, sometimes it’s better if you don’t. Allow silence to not be awkward and your conversations and relationships will be a lot more meaningful.
- Learn Social Routines: When you learn a routine, you take out most of the work. Rather than having to come up with a conversation topic on the spot, you already know what to say. You’ve done it before, and thus, you can do it again.
- Practice: Not all things come naturally. For some people, that’s algebra, and others, it’s social situations. Neither are a good or a bad thing. However, it simply means that these areas need practice. If you’re serious about transforming your social life and not being socially awkward, you will need to escape your comfort zone and be deliberate about engaging in more conversations.
“Whenever you leave a person, ask yourself, “Does that person honestly feel better because he has talked with me?” -David J. Schwartz
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.