Awkwardness can be a tough obstacle for many to overcome. It mostly affects us in social situations, but it can also make it hard to find work, love, and lasting friendships. Fortunately, awkwardness is something that can be largely overcome, even for those of us that have that awkward “air” about us. Good friends, especially, can help you grow to look past awkwardness and embrace your beautiful self.
In this article, we’ll walk you through some techniques for overcoming your awkwardness, how to avoid or get out of awkward situations, and building lasting relationships despite your fears.
You’re Not Alone
The first thing you need to realize about having trouble with awkwardness is that you’re not alone. While not all of us would describe ourselves as “awkward,” we have all had our fair share of awkward situations. It happens to even the most charismatic of people from time to time.
Knowing this, you can be a bit less embarrassed about your awkward situations when they do happen. Others will be able to sympathize with you, and many will understand. You probably think that you’re a lot more awkward than you actually are, and this belief is one of the most significant ways that you limit yourself in social situations.
It can feel especially difficult to step into social situations if you have social anxiety. However, the first step towards overcoming these anxieties is to familiarize yourself with social conditions and build your confidence. Knowing that you’re not alone and that the people around you will understand is critical for this.
People who think they’re awkward tend to believe that they don’t measure up somehow in the eyes of others. They feel like they need to perform all the time to be liked by others. Contrary to what you may think, showing off like this is usually more harmful than helpful. It’s exhausting to you, and more often than not, it doesn’t convince those around you, either. It can even contribute to awkwardness.
Resist the urge to perform others. Your own likable, genuine self will be the most appealing to those around you. It’s easy to start thinking that those around you are judging you as you socialize, but in most cases, they’re trying to make a good impression just like you! Remember that there’s no wrong way to socialize with others. While you might not mesh well with everyone, there will be people out there that you get along with as your natural self.
If you’re someone who finds yourself performing for others in social situations, try to avoid the following things:
- Thinking about what you aren’t
- The urge to act “cool”
- Fake laughing or acting in a way that isn’t genuine
- Closed or unconfident body language
Track Down the Source
When we experience feelings of awkwardness, there’s always a source involved. Whether it comes from deep down inside our personality or just from our shallowest looks, when we feel awkward, there’s something directly to blame. More often than not, it’s another person who makes us feel uncomfortable and insufficient.
While this might seem inconvenient, having someone else make us feel awkward is actually a good thing. It helps us to track down the source quickly. If we feel uncomfortable around attractive people, for example, we might feel self-conscious about our looks. If we feel awkward around charismatic people, the issue might be shyness or social discomfort.
When we know what’s making us feel awkward in the first place, it’s several times easier to address the issue. When we see what the problem is, we can figure out what steps will work best to make the issue go away. If it’s our appearance, for example, looking our best might help us overcome our awkwardness. If it’s shyness, practicing talking in front of the mirror might bring us from relief.
Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is the most crucial step on the road to overcoming awkwardness. When we don’t feel awkward, we inevitably come off as more confident and self-assured. While we may not be able to eliminate all of our awkwardness this way, when you’re comfortable in your skin, other people will sense and respect that confidence.
It’s important to realize that a lot of what we might consider awkwardness could actually be regarded as charming by other people. Not all awkwardness is necessarily a bad thing! Many of us are used to overlooking it or even appreciating it in other people.
When you’re worried about what the other person thinks of you, not only will you come off as stiff or fake, but you’ll never be able to enjoy your social interactions, either. You’ll end up feeling inflexible and stressed instead of enjoying yourself. When you’re stiff and stressed when interacting with others, they’ll wonder why, and it could affect the quality of your interaction.
If you’re feeling stressed, stiff, or awkward in a social situation, try some of these strategies:
- Take some deep breaths
- Excuse yourself to the bathroom briefly to relax
- Uncross your arms and relax your body
- Get a pep talk from a friend or family member
- Go to a more private location
Practice, Practice, Practice
The very best way to get better at handling social situations is to put yourself in more of them. This is especially true for those who consider themselves socially awkward. It is all about practice, whether you decide to practice in a mirror or with new people.
It’s always best to meet new people because every person you meet will be a bit different. By being more social, you’ll expose yourself to new social cues and situations. This expands your knowledge of how to interact in these situations in the future. While practicing in front of a mirror can be helpful, especially if it’s your mannerisms that you’re self-conscious about, its effects are more limited.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of ways to meet new people. You can meet strangers in chatrooms online, in mixers in-person, and in clubs, among other places. In actuality, you can meet people just about anywhere, but we encourage doing it in a place where everyone is looking to socialize in the first place. This way, you’re setting yourself up for positive social interaction.
One of the foremost worries of an awkward person is what to do when the conversation runs dry. Sometimes, the other person will stop talking, the discussion will reach a lull, or our minds will blank on what to say. This is an awkward person’s worst nightmare.
Fortunately, there are ways to recover from this kind of situation, especially if you’re prepared ahead of time. If you’re looking to keep a conversation going, the best possible thing to do is to ask plenty of questions. Of course, if the other person is busy asking you questions, it’s best to take turns, but if the conversation has reached a lull, why not ask a question to fill the silence?
Most people thoroughly enjoy talking about themselves, and this is why asking questions is so successful. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about yourself, steering the conversation toward the other person is the next best thing. While this won’t work in every situation, especially if the other person is trying to use the same strategy, it’s an excellent tool to keep in your back pocket.
Practicing your sharing techniques is the companion process for asking questions, and it’s another way to keep a conversation going smoothly. Many shy or awkward people find it difficult to talk about themselves. Usually, this is because they worry about others will think of the things they share. Kicking that habit of worrying about what others think is essential on its own, and not just because it makes socializing easier.
When we refuse to share things about ourselves, we come across as secretive, unwelcoming, or closed-off. It also makes other people uncomfortable, because they feel like they’re monopolizing the conversation. As such, while asking other people questions is an excellent strategy, it only works well if you can use it while sharing things about yourself, too.
What constitutes sharing, exactly? Well, to start, you can share things like:
- The most exciting things you did this year
- Your dreams and goals
- Your favorite things
- Anything you’re passionate about
- Your day
Listening is more than just asking the other person questions in a social situation. Listening has to do with tuning into and absorbing the information that the other person is giving you. Even if you’re participating in the conversation and asking questions, it quickly becomes apparent to the other person if you’re not listening to and absorbing information.
Listening to a conversation with someone else means hearing what they have to say, reacting to it, and telling the other person about how you feel. If you’re not engaging with what they say and giving your own opinions on it, the other person will be able to tell. A non-awkward conversation is all about flow; there’s a natural give-and-take to the discussion.
It may take you a bit of time to figure out for yourself how this give-and-take works, but this is okay! Practicing with a close friend or family member is an excellent idea to help you get the hang of this, and if all else fails, you can talk to someone online or practice on yourself in the mirror.
Confidence is the opposite of awkwardness, so in this case, it pays to foster self-confidence within yourself. Fostering self-confidence takes time, though, so we have an even better recommendation for the meantime: faking it! If you’re familiar with the phrase, “fake it ’til you make it,” you probably know that confidence is very well-suited to this philosophy. Faking confidence is one of the best ways to build it, after all.
We know we recommended not faking anything earlier on in this article, but confidence is a bit different. Self-confidence comes out in your body language, the way you speak, and many other places, so it pays to have it when you don’t! It’s always better to tackle the real roots of your confidence issues over time, of course, but faking it until then is not a bad strategy.
Self-confidence isn’t challenging to build. On your quest to get rid of awkwardness, you’ll end up building self-confidence naturally. This is especially true as you begin to make new friends and push your boundaries. Once you start to realize how much of your awkwardness has been your self-consciousness getting in the way, you might be surprised by your personal growth!
Besides faking it, if you’re looking for a few more exercises to help you improve your confidence, try some of these:
- Stay positive
- Challenge yourself
- Ignore your inner pessimist
- Set some personal boundaries
- Practice good self-care
Improvisation makes up a massive part of having smooth conversations with others. Preparing a speech beforehand is not helpful – it can make what you say feel forced and overly-formal. However, while having a shortlist of questions memorized isn’t a bad thing at all, you shouldn’t try to make your conversations follow a script.
Instead, a conversation should flow like water. You should be able to redirect the flow of it based on what the other person says, how they react, and what’s happening at the moment. You can’t do this with a script or set plan of things to talk about. It’s always helpful to have a backup plan for if the conversation stalls – that way, you can get it back up and flowing again when it stops – but that’s about as much as you can prepare ahead of time.
This is why improvisation is so crucial. As such, if you’re not confident in your improvisation skills, it’s a good idea to do things that will help you improve them. Enrolling in a class is one great idea, but you can practice with willing friends and family members, too.
If you’re having trouble facing the idea of improving your social skills on your own, there’s another option available to you: teaming up with someone else. Having someone else with excellent social skills there to help you is suitable for many reasons. For one, you can watch or take part in their conversations and learn social cues in the process. Having someone confident in social situations with you will make you feel more confident in yourself, too.
A close friend or family member is a great person to help you with this, but remember that you can’t lean on them too much. Just tagging along and being silent for the duration of their encounters will only help you minimally, if at all. You will need to step up and socialize a bit yourself, too, but your social friend can help with this.
If you don’t have a friend or family member that can fulfill this role, it may be time to find one! We don’t have any specific recommendations for finding a social helper friend, but you may be able to find some resources or opportunities online. Posting a classified ad might be an idea to try, too. As a general rule, though, visiting places where socially-gregarious people tend to go, like parties, clubs, or mixers is a good (if intimidating) place to start.
When we feel awkward, it often boils down to not knowing what to do in a given social situation. We don’t know how to react to something we’ve been told or how to respond to someone in a respectful and socially-acceptable way. Sometimes, we don’t know how to interact with a specific age group or demographic. Fortunately, the root of the issue with all of these scenarios is just a lack of knowledge, which is easy to remedy!
While experience plays a significant role in getting rid of awkwardness, too, learning is the natural companion of experience. While there’s no replacement for getting out there and learning by doing, if you’re not ready to do that yet, you can also learn from some other sources with varying degrees of success. Self-help books exist in droves on the subject, of course, and you may even be able to talk to a coach or counselor in-person or online to learn more.
Many of those who feel socially awkward feel that way because they never learned the social cues they need to succeed in conversations and the like. While it can seem overwhelming when we think about all we have yet to learn, it’s essential to stay positive and not lose hope. With enough determination and courage, anyone is capable of learning a new skill and putting it to use!
We’ve mentioned a few different sources that you can use to learn from in this article already, but we’ve listed a few more here:
- TV and radio (be careful with these, as many of them are rehearsed and don’t reflect reality)
- Therapists, psychologists, or coaches
- Family or friends
- Social gatherings (i.e., people-watching)
Brush It Off
Everyone finds themselves in awkward moments or situations from time to time. Conversations are unpredictable things, and there are times when one or both parties aren’t on the same page about things. Despite our best efforts, we might fire off something that’s a social miss, or we could miss a cue by the other person and derail the conversation somehow.
It’s vital in these situations to do your best to brush it off. Dwelling on a social mishap by the other party will make them feel uncomfortable, and dwelling on your own mistake will embarrass you and affect your ability to stay social. Know that your conversation partner will appreciate when you allow any errors to slip by, too.
If you find that you can’t dismiss a social faux pas by another person, politely excuse yourself, find a plausible reason to leave, or ask for a friend’s assistance. Just as you would prefer that those you talk to don’t dwell on your mistakes, those around you will sincerely appreciate the same courtesy.
One of the most significant parts of avoiding awkwardness in new situations is just to relax! There’s no secret to this. When we’re stressed, we tend to be tense, distracted, and off our game. However, when we’re relaxed, we can be ourselves around other people, and we’ll have the presence of mind to give the right social cues and avoid awkwardness as best we can.
When you don’t feel relaxed in social settings, others will notice. They will wonder why you’re not relaxed, and while they may understand that you’re not great in social situations, they might also end up taking it personally and believing they’re making you uncomfortable. Not only will being more relaxed enable you to perform better in social situations, but it will put those around you at ease, too.
There are many techniques you can use to help yourself relax and calm down in social situations, both in the position itself and out. Try some of these strategies:
- Mentally counting down from ten
- Taking a walk outside for some air
- Getting reassurance from a trusted friend
- Tackling your social situations in short bursts, rather than all at once
Another essential part of improving your social awareness and avoiding awkwardness is to watch the way you interact with others. Everyone gets into an awkward situation from time to time, but some people do this more than others because they miss more social cues and see social conditions differently.
If you’re one of these people who tends to miss social cues more than others, a vital step towards getting better is to observe and reflect on how you’re different. Like we mentioned earlier, tagging along with a socially-adept friend is an excellent way to get started, since you can evaluate their social cues as well as the other person’s. If this isn’t an option for you, getting out there yourself to people-watch is the next best thing.
Pay attention to how these other people interact in social situations, and try to absorb that knowledge into yourself. Do your best to put it into practice in your social encounters. Don’t copy every word they say, of course, but try to emulate their style and methods. Are they more polite than you are? Do they try to make the other person feel more comfortable? Keep an eye out for these things, then try them yourself. See what happens!
Many of us who feel awkward around new people tend to forget that we’ll never see the majority of these people ever again. If you’re out at a party, a club, or some other social gathering, unless you take down people’s contact information, the chances are that you’ll probably never run into them after this! Don’t be afraid to be yourself, test out some new techniques, and find your “groove” with other people.
Experimentation is the secret to science, after all. Why not the secret to social interaction, too? Strangers provide the perfect opportunity to test new ideas, social techniques, humor, and mannerisms to see if they work for you. It’s a great way to test how they go over in social situations before trying them on people you’ll see again, too.
There’s something freeing about socializing with total strangers when you realize that you might never see them again. You can be as silly as you want or as polite as you want without fear of repercussions. You can try out new personalities, speak in different ways, or even emulate the techniques of those you admire.
These people don’t even know that you’re awkward yet! Try on some different faces and techniques while you have the chance, and see if you can learn anything valuable from the experience.
Avoiding awkwardness, especially in social situations, is a bit different for each of us. Some of us have trouble changing the way we socialize (or even socializing in the first place), while for others, something seems to “click” that lets them experiment in ways they may never have thought of before.
This guide is full of the best variety of tips and tricks for overcoming awkwardness that we could accrue in one place. We hope that one or more of them might help make the difference for you in helping you to overcome your awkwardness.
The truth is that everyone, no matter how charismatic, is awkward at some point, whether it’s their fault or someone else’s. You’re not the only one who feels that way! People are not judging you for being awkward nearly as much as you might think; on the contrary, we all have been there and know your pain.
Once you know that it’s all in your head, you can work towards learning those social cues that you need to leave awkwardness behind. While not all of us can overcome our ignorance completely, the tips and tricks in this guide will help you to have a great start.