We’ve all done it— made a joke that wasn’t funny, left an awkward silence hanging, 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 a lot of them. But some people just can’t get past that feeling of awkwardness.
Maybe you have social anxiety. Maybe you’re an introvert, and you prefer not to bother with social interactions as much. Maybe you’re a hermit and you never leave your cave (no judgement here)! For whatever reason, you just can’t figure out how to navigate those social interactions.
Fear not, because we’ve compiled a list of ways to avoid awkwardness in public.
1. Stop Scrutinizing Yourself
When you’re unsure of yourself, you tend to be over-critical of every little thing you do. This is true of just about every situation, but nowhere is it more obvious than when you’re trying to be social. Being too obsessed with your own awkwardness can actually hurt your efforts to be more cool, 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 one 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 very tiny details and cues, but it needs time and exposure to those cues in order 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 every little thing you do wrong. The truth is exactly the opposite! Most people are more concerned with how they’re acting than how you’re fidgeting with your shirt or the way 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 someone who 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 looked 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 in an attempt to hide how uncomfortable they are. 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 own 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 just shift your focus to listening.
Being less awkward has a lot to do with confidence, which isn’t something you just magically wake up with one day. That means the bad news is that you won’t be perfectly suave and charismatic overnight. The good news is that anyone, no matter how “weird” or uncomfortable in public they are, can overcome their awkwardness with hard work and patience.
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 just stay at home with a close friend or two. It’s up to you.