Social People Share Their Secrets For How To Be Less Socially Awkward
No greater nightmare exists for those with social anxiety than knocking over a plate of appetizers or accidentally sneezing on the person you just were introduced to. For many, it's a tricky obstacle course to run and it can feel like only the most adept can succeed. However, one Reddit user set out to try and help out those who feel their social interactions could use some work. Reddit user, r/idkmanidkman, asked the following:
Socially fluent people of Reddit, What are some mistakes you see socially awkward people making?
1. Walk In With Your Head Held High
I heard a quote once that helps me whenever I talk to strangers: "Confidence is when you walk into a room and assume everyone already likes you."
Obviously, this isn't true for every case, but in my experience, if you start off every interaction by imagining that good feelings exist, good feelings WILL actually exist. Everyone just wants to be liked, so if you pretend they already like you, you'll like them, and then they'll be happy that you already like them. It's a warm, fuzzy cycle.
A mistake I see that socially awkward people make is assuming that everyone DOESN'T like them. And then the cycle becomes awkward, rather than warm and inviting.
2. Leave Your Behind In Your Past
I think bullying in school can lead to this mindset, and it can be hard to break. It's important to remember that HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT REAL LIFE. In real life most people are generally not looking for every little reason to dislike someone.
I commented on this before, am repeating it because I feel it's important, especially for people in their early 20s to break from the high school social mindset. It can be difficult; it was for me.
3. Consider The Other Person's Interests
I don't consider myself amazingly socially fluent, but I work with a lot of engineers who make me feel like I am in comparison. The biggest mistake that I see them making is talking about themselves (or their work) nonstop without acknowledging that there's another person in the conversation. It's like . . . dude, you're in a conversation.
Gauge the other person's interest. Ask a question of them occasionally!
4. Ask Them Questions and Let Them Answer
People LOVE talking about themselves. And most people have some form of life experience that is genuinely interesting. You can lean on that- ask them questions and let them talk, it's flattering and it'll actually take strain off of you too. If you're socially awkward, you're probably more focused on yourself than the other person.
I recently dated someone who I really liked, but was more awkward than me. I noticed that I spent the entire time asking them questions about [themselves], and they'd never reciprocate, since they were anxious and just focused on answering.
In a weird way social awkwardness becomes unintentionally selfish; you're worried about the other person's opinion of you, so you spend the entire time thinking about yourself.
5. "Confident Modesty"
I've met a lot of people who speak in very self-deprecating ways to an uncomfortable extent. I understand not wanting to appear vain and opting to humble oneself, demonstrating self-awareness. However, some people will take this a bit too far.
When speaking about yourself, do so with confident modesty; don't reduce yourself to only your flaws.
6. Context Is Key
One of the most important things is to understand who you're talking to and make the conversation match the relationship.
How you talk to a stranger, service worker, close friend, SO, and family, are all different - context is everything and what's perfectly acceptable or even amicable to say to one person is not acceptable to say to another.
7. Sometimes, You Gotta Work The Crowd
Or even just being a buzzkill. I have learned that when with a new group of people (who I'll probably never meet again) it's not always necessary be a downer, even if it's the truth.
For example, when they hear I have twin stepchildren (a boy and a girl) maybe they'll reference how girls and boys dating/driving/other milestones are different. Now, if I'm honest, I'd say, "well, my stepson is developmentally disabled/has autism and he'll probably never do those things and he's going to need lifelong supervision," but, if I want to have a nice night and not bring everyone down I'll just say, "yeah you're right!! My husband is crazy protective of my daughter...lol." Sometimes it's not worth the pity on their faces and the resulting depression I feel for the rest of the night.
Know your audience.
8. You Don't Have To Plan Ahead
I've found the one basic thing very awkward people tend to do that totally screws them, is trying to prepare for a situation or contemplate what they will do, go through scenarios in their heads.
What happens is that once they get into the actual situation they spend a ridiculous amount of time matching every thing that happens to what they wanted to happen. Then you get that weird and very awkward lag time effect where you will ask a person a question and they stall and break and use filler words.
Best thing to do is to not really factor in people being part of something socially speaking. If you notice very socially fluent people will pretty much take other people at face value as opposed to trying to investigate them in their heads.
9. Pump The People Up
Sometimes you need to be a cheerleader in a conversation.
"I did this." "You did that! Hey, great. Did you hear he did that?!"
If its sincere, it goes along way.
10. Admit When You Don't Know
And if someone is taking about something you have no knowledge of that's fine, don't pretend because it will be weird when you start trying fool them.
Instead something like "I don't know anything about football, have you always been a big fan?" gives them the hint you're not into it and can't really take part in the conversation, and steers them towards taking about things more abstractly; "I enjoy going to live events because of the buzz" or and opportunity for them to give you a question that opens up new avenues; "how do you spend your Saturdays? "
11. Sometimes, You Need To Dial It Back
Being purposefully weird and random is off putting to those who don't know you.
12. Peep The Peepers
Not making eye contact! It shows engagement and confidence when you do!
This is a seriously important thing. Acknowledging your mistake and laughing it off does amazing things socially. Laughing is contagious and everyone understands doing or saying something dumb. They're with you not against you. And then don't bring it up again unless it's relevant. If it is relevant then you're just creating a tiny inside joke that can only strengthen whatever there is between two people. But don't force it in.
14. Get To The Happy Medium
You don't have to always be talking. At the same time don't be as silent as the grave.
Theres a happy medium where good conversations live.
15. If You Don't Know, You Don't Know
Trying to have a comment on everything. It's perfectly fine to remain mostly quiet throughout conversations that either don't intrigue you or you know little about.
I'm easily the loudest and most verbose member of my group, but sometimes the topic changes to one I'm not a large part of and I'll be a much smaller part of it.
16. Remember What People Said
Something I started doing a few years ago; when I notice someone get interrupted mid story or sentence and the conversation goes someplace else for a minute, I'll try to remember the person and the last thing they said. Once there's a break in the conversation, I'll urge the person who was interrupted to continue what they were saying.
Many people just don't feel like making a "big deal" out of being interrupted, or lack confidence and assume what they were saying wasn't interesting. Sometimes they'll just say "It doesn't matter" but oftentimes they appreciate someone remembering what they were trying to talk about and giving them an opportunity to finish.
And the person who interrupted them almost always apologises when they realise what they did, which is nice. Most people aren't d---s and are just eager to say something, not realising they're cutting someone else short.
17. Where Do I Look?
If you are talking to someone face-to-face one-on-one with less than a few feet between the two of you. It is unbelievably obvious when you're looking at their forehead, or at their nose, or somewhere else that's meant to look like you're staring at their eyes. So don't do it. It makes you look silly.
If you are speaking to several people (an audience) in a closed room DO NOT look at the back wall. Once again, very noticeable, makes you look silly.
In both of these situations, you need to make quick, subtle, fluid eye-contact.
However, if you are giving a speech to a massive audience (think auditorium, pep rally, political debates), then as long as you aren't looking at your feet, it doesn't matter. No one can tell at this point.
18. Clean It Up
Hygiene and grooming. It's amazing how quickly a poorly dressed or smelly person will kill a moment.
Iron your shirts, get proper fitting pants, and make sure to wear deodorant. Get a good haircut, not some Supercuts hack job. Beards are awesome, but keep it groomed. That doesn't mean short, but properly manicured facial hair is better than patchy, or unkempt manes.
19. Surprisingly, Not Everyone Has Seen 'Star Wars'
A friend of the family has limited social skills, and all of his ancedotes are from television and movies. In particular, odd fantasy/sci-fi flicks that have limited audiences. He constantly makes 'inside jokes' or refers to them, and everyone looks at each other and goes "We have no idea what you're talking about."
Don't try to be funny if you're not (if you're not sure, the default is "you're not"). If what you're about to say relies heavily on TV or movies, skip it and just say what you wanted to say.
20. It's Okay To Walk Away
keeping conversations going when no one else is into it. conversations naturally die off, usually within a minute or two. it's ok to say 'see ya later' and walk away.
21. You CAN Practice
Thinking that being an introvert is the same thing as being socially awkward. The introvert-extrovert scale runs on the X-axis and social skills run on the Y-axis. It is entirely possible to be a socially skilled introvert just like you can have a socially awkward extrovert.
One of the biggest mistakes I see socially awkward introverts make is conflating those two issues and thinking, 'well my personality is introverted, therefore I am socially awkward'. Social skills are SKILLS and they can be improved. Thinking, 'I'm an introvert', gives people an excuse to not work on or practice those skills.
22. And Above All...
Don't tell the other people/person that you think you're socially awkward.