Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has felt socially awkward or has interacted with someone who might come across that way. It could be a friend, a family member, or someone you work with.
They might struggle with making eye contact, or they might say things that seem out of place.
Sometimes, it might feel like they’re not following the same “social rules” that everyone else is. This group of people are described as being “socially awkward”.
Just like some people might have difficulty with math or cooking, others might find it challenging to interact in group settings or one-on-one conversations.
They may not always pick up on social cues, or they might feel anxious about saying the wrong thing. And in this article, we’ll discuss how to deal with such people.
What Causes A Person To Be Socially Awkward?
Social awkwardness isn’t the result of a single factor, but a blend of several. One common reason is a person’s upbringing and early social experiences.
Those who grew up in sheltered environments or didn’t have many social interactions as children may not have developed the social skills that are deemed “normal” by societal standards.
Certain mental health conditions, such as social anxiety disorder or autism spectrum disorders, can contribute to social awkwardness. Genetics, family dynamics, and past traumatic events can also play a role.
It’s crucial to approach this topic with sensitivity, as everyone’s experiences and reasons can be deeply personal.
How Can You Tell Someone Is Socially Awkward?
Identifying social awkwardness often involves observing behavioral patterns. Socially awkward people might have difficulty maintaining eye contact, understanding social cues, or responding appropriately in conversations.
They might seem out of sync in group settings, perhaps interrupting others unintentionally or laughing at inopportune times. Physical cues, such as appearing uneasy, can also be indicators.
[Related: 9 Signs Of A Socially Awkward Guy]
How to Deal with Socially Awkward People
Dealing with such individuals requires a degree of sensitivity, understanding, and patience. Here are some practical tips to guide your interactions with those who might be feeling a bit out of place or nervous in social settings.
1. Make Them Feel at Ease with Your Body Language
When interacting with someone socially awkward, your posture, gestures, and facial expressions can help create a comforting environment. Maintaining an open posture, for instance, can make you seem more approachable and less intimidating.
Avoid crossing your arms or appearing closed off. Your goal is to create an environment where they feel like they can be themselves without fear of judgment.
Making eye contact, though not too intensely, can also establish a sense of trust. Just remember, everyone has their comfort level with eye contact.
If you notice them looking away frequently, don’t push too hard. It’s all about finding the balance and letting them know you’re genuinely listening and engaged.
A warm smile can work wonders. It’s a universal sign of friendliness and can instantly lighten up the atmosphere. It sends a signal that you are friendly and approachable.
2. Avoid Sarcasm
Sarcasm, while often humorous to some, can be difficult for socially awkward people to understand.
They might take sarcastic remarks literally, leading to confusion or potential hurt feelings. It’s essential to be clear and direct in your communication.
When making a playful comment, gauge their reaction. If they seem puzzled or unsure, it might be beneficial to clarify or steer the conversation in a different direction.
Always prioritize clear communication over making a witty remark.
[Also read: When A Guy Acts Awkward Around You, Here’s Why]
3. Put Their Insecurity to Rest
Socially awkward people often feel insecure about their interactions. They might worry excessively about saying the wrong thing or being judged. As someone interacting with them, you can play a pivotal role in alleviating these fears.
Engage in active listening. This means fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what the other person is saying.
When they speak, show that you’re interested in their stories or opinions. This can boost their confidence and encourage them to open up more.
Avoid interrupting or finishing their sentences. This can be seen as dismissive or that you’re not truly interested in what they have to say. Allow them to express themselves fully, even if it takes a bit longer.
4. Compliment Them Genuinely
A genuine compliment can go a long way in boosting someone’s confidence. When you notice something praise-worthy about the person, don’t hesitate to mention it.
This can be related to their skills, appearance, or any positive trait you observe.
Be sincere in your compliments. People, especially those who are socially awkward, can often detect insincerity. So, ensure that your praises come from the heart and are not just empty words.
[Interesting: How To Be More Social (7 Practical Tips)
5. Pay Attention to Their Body Language as You Interact
While it’s important to be conscious of your body language, it’s equally crucial to be observant of theirs. Their gestures, facial expressions, and posture can provide valuable insights into how they’re feeling during the interaction.
If they seem tense or uncomfortable, consider changing the topic or making the atmosphere lighter.
Maybe share a light-hearted story or ask them about their interests. The goal is to make the interaction as smooth and pleasant as possible.
Being observant can also help you identify topics or situations that might be triggering for them. This way, you can avoid these in future interactions and ensure a more positive experience for both of you.
6. Mirror Them
Mirroring is a technique where you subtly mimic the body language of the person you’re interacting with. This can create a sense of rapport and make the other person feel more at ease.
For instance, if they lean forward while speaking, you can do the same. Or if they use particular hand gestures, you can incorporate similar ones in your conversation.
However, ensure that it doesn’t come off as mockery. The key is subtlety.
By mirroring their body language, you’re sending non-verbal cues of understanding and agreement. This can enhance the connection and make the socially awkward person feel more understood and accepted.
7. Find Common Interests
One of the easiest ways to smooth out a conversation is by finding mutual interests. This could be a hobby, a TV show, a book, or even a place both of you have been to.
Talking about shared passions can provide a comfort zone for them, making the conversation flow more naturally.
Listening actively is the key here. As they speak, pick up on any hint or mention of something you both might share an interest in.
Once you latch onto that, you’ll often find that their comfort levels rise and the conversation becomes more animated.
Also, sharing personal experiences related to those interests can strengthen the bond. It creates a sense of camaraderie and might just turn the interaction into a memorable one.
8. Limit Overwhelming Environments
Some socially awkward individuals may feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed in crowded or noisy environments. So, when planning a meet-up or interaction, consider places that are calm and not too hectic.
Choosing a quiet café over a bustling restaurant, or a serene park over a crowded mall can make a world of difference. Such environments allow for clearer communication and can help them feel more at ease.
Moreover, a calm setting reduces external distractions, making the conversation the primary focus. This can be particularly beneficial if they have a tendency to get distracted or anxious easily.
[Also read: How to Be Charming in Social Interactions]
9. Be Patient and Kind
This might sound like a given, but it’s worth emphasizing. Patience and kindness can be a beacon of comfort for someone feeling out of place.
If they fumble their words, take a bit longer to articulate their thoughts, or seem unsure, a gentle nod or a reassuring smile can be just the encouragement they need.
There’s no rush. Let them take their time to convey what they want to say. The act of simply being there, listening, and showing understanding can have a profound impact on their confidence.
Over time, your consistent kindness and patience can even play a role in helping them feel more relaxed and less socially awkward in your presence.
10. Avoid Drawing Attention to Their Awkwardness
If they do something that might be considered socially awkward, avoid drawing unnecessary attention to it. Instead, continue the conversation as if nothing happened. This can prevent them from feeling embarrassed or even more anxious.
For instance, they might spill a drink or say something out of context. Instead of making it a focal point of the interaction, casually move on. They’re likely already aware of the misstep, and harping on it won’t help.
11. Respect Their Boundaries
Some people may not be comfortable with physical touch, while others might need more personal space or time alone.
Being attuned to these boundaries can make a significant difference in how comfortable someone feels.
Observing their reactions during interactions can provide cues. For instance, they might flinch or step back if they’re not comfortable with physical closeness.
Always be aware of these signs and adjust accordingly.
Understanding that everyone has their comfort zones, and being flexible enough to adapt, can go a long way in nurturing a positive relationship.
How do you distinguish between someone who is introverted and someone who is socially awkward?
Introversion and social awkwardness are often mistakenly equated, but they’re fundamentally different.
An introvert is someone who often feels more comfortable or energized in solitary or low-stimulus environments. They may prefer small gatherings over large parties and often need time alone to recharge after social interactions.
It’s a natural temperament, and many introverts can handle social situations without feeling uncomfortable.
In contrast, socially awkward individuals might find it challenging to navigate social situations because of uncertainty about social norms or anxiety about how they’re perceived.
Their behavior might come off as odd or unexpected. It’s not about preference, as with introversion, but rather about a lack of confidence or understanding in social scenarios.
Why do some people develop social awkwardness?
Social awkwardness isn’t a trait one is necessarily born with; it can develop due to various reasons.
Childhood experiences, including bullying or feeling outcast, can contribute to someone feeling socially awkward in their later years. Additionally, certain developmental disorders or mental health challenges, like autism spectrum disorders or social anxiety, can manifest as social awkwardness.
Environmental factors also play a role. For instance, someone who grew up in a very sheltered environment might not have had the opportunity to develop strong social skills.
Can social awkwardness be overcome?
Yes, with time, effort, and the right resources, many people can overcome or significantly reduce their social awkwardness.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one approach that has shown efficacy in treating social anxiety, which often manifests as social awkwardness. This therapy focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and behaviors and replacing them with healthier, positive ones.
Beyond professional therapy, joining social skills groups, attending workshops, or even reading books on the subject can be beneficial.
Like any skill, social interaction can be practiced and improved upon. With consistent effort and a supportive environment, individuals can build their social confidence and navigate social scenarios more comfortably.
- All photos from freepik.com