How to Avoid Being Socially Awkward

Four Parts:Adjusting Your MindsetUsing Techniques to RelaxImproving Your Social SkillsHelp Overcoming Awkwardness

Social awkwardness comes from a sense of not appearing "normal" or "socially clued in" under the gaze of others. Generated by our own fears and worries of what others think of us and by social expectations, social awkwardness can prevent us from fully interacting with others out of fear of being ridiculed or even ostracized by our peers. Once you realize that everyone is afraid of being socially awkward and that there are ways to move on from awkward situations with grace and confidence, you'll be on your way to embracing social interactions instead of dreading them.

Part 1
Adjusting Your Mindset

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    Realize that you're not alone. You may think that every person in your orbit is socially smooth, but in reality, most people worry about being socially awkward in public. They worry about whether or not people like them, whether they're making a good impression, or whether people are bored by them.
    • You may think that some people around you just naturally exude confidence and never have to worry about how they come off, but every person is insecure about some aspect of social interaction. We all want to be liked and have friends.
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    Ask yourself where your feelings of awkwardness come from. For many people who experience social awkwardness, the feelings stem from anxiety, fear, insecurity, or low self-confidence. Each of these sources can be tackled if you're willing to push your boundaries a little at a time and to find ways to build your confidence. In each case, try to identify the root cause of what's making you feel awkward so that you can address it directly. The sooner you know the real source, the sooner you can get to tackling it.
    • There are many other reasons for feeling self-conscious, such as having had a bad past experience, feeling that you're not understood, feeling pressure to interact in situations (such as work, peers, or parental pressure, etc.), or feeling confused about the motivations and actions of those around you.
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    Work to overcome shyness. Being shy can really inhibit your social interactions. Shyness can vary from feeling shy around all people, or just certain groups. You may be reluctant to interact for fear of embarrassment.[1] You can work on feeling more relaxed during social interactions and coming out of your shell a bit more.
    • If you are shy, you may want to participate in social events but feel afraid of being embarrassed or left out.
    • See How to Overcome Shyness for more information and realize that shyness is something that can be managed.
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    Stop worrying about what other people think about you. Though it may sound easier said than done, one major way to avoid social awkwardness is to stop caring about how others perceive you. Most people are worrying what others think of them, which is something worth reminding yourself when you start to worry about what other people think of you.[2] If you're too busy worrying about what the person you're talking to really thinks of you, then you'll never be able to relax or to enjoy a social interaction. Once you let go of this worry, you'll find it easier to be yourself and to speak calmly and naturally.
    • Remind yourself which opinions matter. Maybe one person didn’t like you, but will you see this person again? As for your friends, real friends will stick with you, even if you mess up here and there.
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    Know if you have social anxiety. Social anxiety is a disorder in which a person is not able to function in daily life, including at school, work, or social events. A person suffering from social anxiety tends to keep close to family and trusted friends and avoid all public interpersonal relationships. Social anxiety stems from a constant fear that other people are scrutinizing the sufferer in order to humiliate or embarrass them.[3]
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    Acknowledge your feelings. Be conscious about when you feel awkward. By being more aware of your own bodily sensations when you're feeling awkward and anxious, you can consciously recognize that your adrenaline is flooding you and causing you to want to run or hide.
    • Be aware if you feel unusually warm, sweaty, jumpy, uneasy, or overly aware of your body. Watch your thoughts and see if they are overly critical of your social performance. Also watch your emotions, whether you feel helpless or ineffective. Get in tune with these feelings so you can learn to identify them.

Part 2
Using Techniques to Relax

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    Use self talk. Self talk will help you to shift the focus from worrying about what others are thinking of you and back onto calming yourself so that you can project a sense of ease with yourself.[4] Some of the things that can be helpful in overcoming moments of social anxiety include:
    • "I’m going to be okay. My feelings are not always rational, so I can relax and calm myself."
    • "I am paying too much attention to my bad feelings in my body."
    • "People are nice and I'm having fun being around them."
    • "I am here to enjoy myself."
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    Learn to relax. Learning to relax should begin at home, where you're most comfortable. Relaxing before you go into a social situation can help you open up more, be honest with people, and to let your guard down when you're in a social setting. If you're not feeling tense, you'll also be more likely to embrace social situations instead of fearing them. Plus, relaxation will help calm any anxiety you may be feeling.[5]
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    Lighten up. Random unpleasant and downright embarrassing things happen. Lighten up and see the funnier side of awkward moments. Not only will doing so help you to place such occurrences into better perspective but humor will often break tension, allowing people to laugh with you, not at you. One of the best things you can do to avoid being socially awkward is to stop taking yourself so seriously. This will take the pressure off and will help you relax.
    • Often we don't have control over awkward situations, such as the long silent gap in a conversation, the inelegant and noisy passing of wind when we least expect it, and the trip over the edge of the rug as we walk up to accept an award. Choose to laugh it off.
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    Focus on the positives. While socially awkward moments can tend to make us focus on everything that is going wrong at that time, it is helpful to deliberately make yourself focus on the positives. What is going well around you right now? Pinpointing some positives can help restore your perspective about how minimal the awkward occurrence is in the greater scheme of things.[6]
    • Be careful not to heighten the relevance of one bad occasion and apply it to your general impression of social interactions; focus as much as possible on all of the social interactions that you have enjoyed, that have worked out just fine.
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    Increase your confidence. Even if you don't feel confident, you can either fake it until you make it or you can remind yourself to be friendly as much as possible. It is definitely hard to find confidence in situations that bring up fears, anxiety, panic and a desire to hide or run away.[7]
    • Asking yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" and trying to do at least one thing to engage with others around you is a good start. Chances are, the worst thing won’t happen!
    • Read How to Build Your Self Confidence for suggestions on improving your personal confidence.
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    Be kind to yourself. Being socially awkward is not a state of being, it's a temporary phase. You will move through any particular incident and you will experience many more positive experiences in its place. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has at least one mortifying experience they can recount. It's a sign of self-kindness that you can look back on such occasions with a smile and realize that it didn't break you but is now a rather entertaining dinner table tale.

Part 3
Improving Your Social Skills

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    Learn to be a good listener. If you don't feel ready to jump into a conversation with a witty anecdote, there are still other ways to connect with others: become an active listener. This relieves some of the pressure of social interactions, because you don't have to worry about sounding smart or interesting; you just need to listen carefully and ask questions. Remember, people love talking about themselves, especially if the other person appears to be really taking an interest.[8]
    • When actively listening, show the other person that you are engaged by paraphrasing their message and repeating it back. You can say something like: "So, it sounds like what you're saying is..."
    • Ask follow-up questions. You don't want to get inappropriate or too personal, but continue asking the person questions or their opinions.[9]
    • Show the person you are listening by nodding, making good eye contact, an making sounds or saying words that affirm you are listening (like "Uh-huh" or "Sure").
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    Use prosocial body language. Don’t look closed off, but instead, invite people in by showing that you are open and welcoming. The body communicates this easily. By crossing your arms or legs, it appears as if you are disinterested in social interactions. If you avoid eye contact, this also makes you appear disinterested. Be careful not to cross your body, slouch, or keep your head down, and instead engage in eye contact and maintain an open body posture.[10]
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    Make small talk. Making small talk is what can help you get people to open up, and to have short conversations with people you have just met.[11]
    • Ask people how they are or how their day is going.
    • Search for common ground. Find casual ways to find out if you and the person root for the same sports teams, watch the same shows, or have the same pets.
    • Use your environment to help you. If you run into the person in a coffee shop, ask if she's tried the amazing baked goods. If you're outside and it's a gorgeous day, ask the person if he's going to take advantage of the beautiful weather to do something fun outdoors.
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    Be friendly. Assuming that someone wants to connect with you allows you to be more open and friendly toward other people. While it's true that no matter how friendly you are, some people will respond as if their mouth and mind are perpetually soured, this isn't a reason to scuttle off or blame yourself. After all, you are not responsible for the behavior of other people. They could have a difficult background or they might be having a bad day. Either way, it's not a reflection of how you are as a person. By being friendly you will put others at ease, find ways to break the ice, and give others the freedom to be more open and vulnerable around you.
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    Tell a joke. Telling a joke at the wrong time can blow your "social cred" right out of the water and leave you looking awkward. Yet, telling one at just the right time, with just the right tone can smooth over even the most tense moment.
    • Get a feel for the situation. If things are a little heavy, the perfect joke can lighten the mood. But if people are having a really serious discussion like discussing the deaths of their grandparents, then you should back off with the humor until the tone of the conversation changes a bit.
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    Give meaningful compliments. When it comes to giving compliments, the most important thing is to keep them sincere and drop them at the right moments. If you're not genuine, don't compliment. I you're a beginner in complimenting, watch others for timing of compliments and follow suit. You can compliment a person's jewelry, sweater, or new haircut, and move on to give deeper compliments as you get to know the person better.
    • Complimenting an aspect of a person's personality, such as telling your friend that he has a great sense of humor or that he's good at talking to new people, can make a person feel more special than a compliment about physical appearance.
    • If you're complimenting something physical, make sure it doesn't come off the wrong way. If you're complimenting a woman's appearance, stick to her face or hair and avoid complimenting her body or your comment may come off sounding more forward than you intended.
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    Know what to avoid. Though every social situation is different, there are a few key things that you may want to avoid when it comes to being socially savvy. There are certain comments or actions that tend to come off as socially awkward and are worth avoiding if you want to feel comfortable around other people. Here are some things to watch out for:
    • Avoid saying that you're so awkward. You can guess the outcome.
    • Avoid asking people overly personal questions if you don't know them very well, like why they're not dating anyone or if they've gained weight.
    • While you don't have to stand miles apart from other people, give people space.
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    Improve your etiquette. If you don't know the social norms for the group you're spending time with, make the effort to learn them. Not knowing social norms can leave you feeling socially awkward. This is especially relevant when visiting a different part of your country or going to a different country. Use good manners and don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you.”[12]
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    Get out there. Staying at home, behind your computer screen, hidden behind your cubicle barrier, or dodging lunch dates won't help you to avoid socially awkward moments.If you spend most of your time at home or in front of the computer for fear of interacting with people, then you'll never be able to work on your social skills.
    • Realize that some people are snobby or standoffish. They are not the norm, nor do they represent a reason for hiding away. For such people, learn a simple way of detaching yourself with dignity, such as a quick nod and an "It was nice to meet you" before swiftly turning your back on them.
    • Learn How to End a Conversation as well as how to have one. For many people, it is ending a conversation that is going nowhere or that is excruciatingly boring that leaves a sense of awkwardness, out of fear of appearing rude or uncaring.


  • Many people outgrow feeling socially awkward. Awkwardness is a trait commonly associated with teenage and early adult years and as people age, they tend to find many ways to overcome these feelings that once loomed large in their lives.


  • Don't worry and in particular, don't over-analyze. The simpler you make the purpose of social interactions, the better.
  • Avoid bragging as a means of trying to connect with or impress others. If you feel yourself gushing about your exploits or things you own, then stop yourself and either apologize or simply move onto asking about the other person.

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