We’ve all done it— made a joke that wasn’t funny, left an awkward silence hanging, or did something socially awkward. We weren’t all born charismatic social wizards, after all! At some point, you had to learn all those silent social cues, and there are many of them. But some people can’t get past that feeling of awkwardness.
Five Causes of Social Awkwardness
Maybe you have social anxiety. Maybe you’re an introvert. So you prefer not to bother with social interactions as much. Maybe you’re a hermit and never leave your cave (no judgment here)! For whatever reason, you can’t figure out how to navigate those social interactions.
Several factors can contribute to someone feeling socially awkward, including the following:
- Lack of social skills or experience: Some people may not have had many opportunities to develop social skills and may feel nervous or unsure in social situations.
- Anxiety or shyness: Social anxiety and shyness can make it difficult for someone to feel comfortable in social situations, leading to awkward behavior.
- Low self-esteem: Feeling insecure or self-conscious can cause someone to feel awkward in social situations, as they may worry about being judged or rejected by others.
- Neurodevelopmental disorders: Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle with social interactions, leading to awkward behavior
- Brain injury or trauma: Brain injuries can impact social behavior and lead to awkwardness in social situations.
It’s important to note that social awkwardness is a shared experience, and many people experience it at some point in their lives. With time and practice, people can improve their social skills and reduce their feelings of awkwardness.
Whatever the cause, fear not, because we’ve compiled a list of ways to avoid awkwardness in public.
Five Tips to Avoid Awkwardness
1. Stop Scrutinizing Yourself
When unsure of yourself, you tend to be over-critical of every little thing you do. This is true of every situation, but nowhere is it more evident than when you’re trying to be social. Being too obsessed with your awkwardness can hurt your efforts to be more relaxed, calm, and collected in the future.
This sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to be better at socializing and stop being socially awkward is to stop thinking so much about how to avoid awkwardness. Relax! Being too tense and worried about every little detail of how you’re acting makes things worse.
2. Force Yourself to be Social
This sounds like putting out a fire by pouring gasoline on it, but there’s no better way to learn social cues than throwing yourself right into the thick of things. The human brain is great at picking up on tiny details and cues, but it needs time and exposure to them to learn them.
In a way, this is like developing muscle memory. Nobody knew how to type correctly or ride a bike perfectly the first time they did it, but practicing it over and over despite frankly sucking at it is how you learn to do pretty much anything. Go to a party, invite someone to dinner, or find some other way to talk to people. Practice makes perfect!
3. Remember: Everyone is Not Staring at You
When you’re unsure of yourself, it can be easy to feel like everyone is picking up on everything you do wrong. The truth is precisely the opposite! Most people are more concerned with how they’re acting than how you’re fidgeting with your shirt or how your voice cracked.
Everyone is navigating the same situation as you. If you’re feeling awkward, chances are nobody is internally laughing at you— they feel the same awkwardness that you do! Laugh it off and keep going. That leads to the next tip…
4. Learn To Laugh It Off
Even the most confident people make uncomfortable comments or jokes that fall flat. Nobody is safe from awkward silences or lulls in the conversation, and certainly, nobody is perfect! The difference between someone who’s socially awkward and seems to master every conversation they’re in is how they deal with the bad moments.
Laughing it off and moving on is the best way to avoid awkwardness. Dwelling on how much of an idiot you think you look like doesn’t help anything, and in fact it only serves to make the situation worse. So what if your joke wasn’t funny? Shrug it off and change the subject.
5. Listen More, Speak Less
This might sound like a quote you’d find on an embroidered pillow at your grandma’s house, but it is good advice. People who feel uncomfortable in social situations tend to over-talk to hide their discomfort. News flash: that’s the most obvious way to reveal your awkwardness! You’ll run out of things to say pretty fast, too.
Let the other person in a conversation lead. Interject with your comments whenever you have something relevant to say, but don’t talk over them. Listening is half of a conversation, after all, and you’ll automatically become a better conversationalist if you shift your focus to listening.
Final Thoughts on Mastering Tips to Avoid Awkwardness
Being less awkward has a lot to do with confidence, which isn’t something you magically wake up with one day. The bad news is that you won’t be suave and charismatic overnight. The good news is that anyone can overcome their awkwardness with hard work and patience, no matter how “weird” or uncomfortable in public.
Be less hard on yourself and have fun. While they can be hard sometimes, social interactions are supposed to be enjoyable and light up your life. You can take your newfound confidence to a party or stay home with a close friend. It’s up to you.