Awkwardness doesn't need an intro, we've all been awkward at one point in our lives and we've all experienced someone being awkward. As with everything embedded in our brains, awkwardness has a useful purpose that, unfortunately can get out of hand and become detrimental, as we saw with denial.
When this system goes haywire it can lead one to panic and avoidance, then these experiences can become central to a self-perpetuating pattern of social fear and avoidance, causing, in the long run, anxiety and other social phobias.
Nonetheless, there are ways to prevent this from happening and even turning the tables and overcoming these feelings every time, as I did. So let's get straight down to it!
What Is Awkwardness?
Before we can address feelings of awkwardness we must first understand why we get them in the first place. Essentially, awkwardness is there to alert us of social expectations and boundaries, think of it as a social early-warning system.
It's that feeling of being uncomfortable and not knowing what to say in a situation. This arises in situations that catch you completely off-guard to which you don't know how to react, such as, a completely unrelated event happening that you don't know how to react to, or someone being rude out of nowhere. I'm sure I don't need to list more examples.
What's important to notice is that it comes in degrees. Even the most socially fluent person occasionally experiences awkward moments when they don't know what to say. Still, some people are on the extreme end of the awkwardness spectrum.
These people are usually people who are less socially fluent and are often unable to read and use the right social cues or scripts that people take for granted. You might be wondering what I mean by social scripts, think of a business dinner for example, the script at such an event follows a certain range of topics, you wouldn't talk about your latest sexual encounter at a formal dinner.
To let you know that something awkward has happened, the people around you will display certain reactions: pauses, looking around perplexedly, or staring intensely. At the same time, they are aware of their own physical discomfort or cringe, internally. Chances are that the culprit of the awkwardness will be too.
Benefits Of Being And Feeling Less Awkward
As we already discussed, awkward experiences can lead to panic and avoidance. Frequent experiences can lead to social disorders. Hence, I don't need to explain that significantly diminishing these experiences will also acutely decrease the chances these behaviors and disorders will present themselves.
On top of that, decreasing the frequency at which you act awkwardly will give you more confidence in social events, on night outs, at church, or even at work. Higher confidence means that you will have more success in your dating life, and even in your career!
Without going into much more detail - as it could fill up a whole other article, if not a couple - social confidence affects every single aspect of our lives. Being social creatures we base a lot of the information we process on the opinions of other people, whether it seems shallow or not, it's a fact.
So, how do we stop being so awkward?
How To Stop Being Awkward
I'm going to break this section down into two parts: your mentality, and your actions.
How to stop feeling awkward.
1. Know It's Normal
As I said, even the most socially fluent people get awkward. It's completely normal and widespread. Because of this, I assure you people don't care as much as you do about your awkward mishaps, if they did they would have a whole lot of events to dwell on. Most of the time, when you feel this way and you start replaying it in your head, everyone else likely has already moved on. However, if you keep dwelling on it, it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. Get a reality check
One way to interpret these events? As the end of the world. If you believe that having awkward conversations is the end of the world, well, say goodbye to your social life. They will happen every once in a while, and as I said in the previous point, people don't really care.
So, give yourself a reality check. The next time you have the thought, "Oh my gosh, she thinks I'm a total idiot,' ask yourself, "Is there really evidence to support that thought?" What makes you think she will keep remembering this event every time she thinks of you? Ask yourself, of all the time you've spent together, is this really the highlight?
3. Call it out
We all have felt the pain of the awkward silence after something weird happens. It just makes everything 100 times worse! What's the remedy? Break the silence! Laugh it out, or even better, make a witty joke about it.
This has the plus of exuding confidence, which further downplays the awkwardness you dealt out. On further thought, it actually completely reverses it, it makes you seem cooler and funnier when you call it out and laugh at it.
4. Get Out Of Your Head
The final point to note with respect to your mentality is that maybe the awkwardness you feel is just in your head. The whole article so far has been going off the assumption that when you feel awkward it's because you are. But, it may be the case that you're not as awkward as you think.
This happened to all of us: we had something stuck in our teeth and someone finally tells us after half the day has passed. Now you're there thinking about all the people you've met that day that saw this huge, bulging chunk of spinach in your teeth, and you just cringe.
The reality is that mishaps like these draw in unwanted attention to yourself but are less offensive and noteworthy to others than they are to you. It's all in your head, so get out of it!
How to stop acting awkward
1. Firm Handshakes
A firm handshake is a sign of strength, both physical and mental, as well as a sign of status. Starting off your interaction as a high-value person will significantly diminish the negative impact of awkward events. This feeds off the halo effect I talked about recently, where people will see you as someone who can do no wrong if they already see you as someone important.
A smile is the best way to overcome socially awkward symptoms. Smiling actually increases your perception of yourself as much as it affects others. It will ease you and others in the presence of each other, making you seem more friendly and outgoing, and therefore, less likely to be weird. Which means that if you do happen to act a little awkward, it is more easily forgiven, and may even be seen as quirky, which is the positive version of weird, not a bad thing at all.
3. Team Up With Someone Confident And Charismatic
If you still don't feel like you can act in a non-awkward manner, bring someone who is charismatic and confident out with you instead. This is the same concept as a wingman. Why does this work? Association. When people see you being friends with a really cool person they attribute that coolness to you as well.
It is an easy hack to feed off a person who has already built and established their presence and take it for yourself free of charge. Of course, this won't last forever, but it'll give you time to establish your persona too, with a starting advantage.
. . .
Awkwardness (I feel like I wrote this word way too many times in this article) is a natural response we have that lets us know where the boundaries of our social interactions lie. When this feeling starts to overtake and you see yourself going down a dangerous path which leads to social phobias, it is probably time to change things up.
Luckily, because of how normal it is even for the most charismatic people to be in awkward situations, it is not something that will make you lose friends forever. There are fixes to your behavior and mentality which you can implement that allow you to be able to change peoples' perceptions of you, as well as, your perceptions of yourself.
Hi, I'm Matthew, my mission is to spread knowledge about motivation, productivity, and enabling people to achieve the best that they can be! I have a vast background in psychology and a passion for self-improvement. I literally can't remember a time when I didn't have a psychology book in my hands. On top of that, I've traveled around the world from a very young age, and seen many different courses of life, forming friendships with highly successful people, as well as people who are willing to do anything to make ends meet. My own life took me down a roller coaster of highs and lows, and I'm forever grateful that I've been able to overcome everything it threw at me. Now I want to take the opportunity to give back, and help others learn tools and methods for becoming who they were born to be!