How to Make Friends When You’re Socially Awkward

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“I’m so socially awkward, and I have no idea how to make friends. Whenever I talk to people, there are awkward silences, or I say something weird, and they look at me strangely. How can I make friends when I’m so socially awkward?”

Making new friends can seem impossible when you’re socially awkward and don’t know how to talk to people. The discomfort can make you want to avoid social situations altogether. Here are a few ways to overcome feeling socially awkward and build friendships.

1. Let yourself feel awkward

Feeling awkward around other people is uncomfortable. It brings up physical discomfort as well as feelings of shame and inner judgment. As a result, we want to avoid these feelings.

Wanting to avoid feeling socially awkward may lead you to avoid social interactions. Don’t fall into this trap. When you are around other people and start to feel awkward or anxious, don’t try to leave the situation.

Instead, think to yourself: “I’m feeling anxious and awkward right now, and that’s OK.” And then continue your conversation. Teach yourself that you can cope with social situations.

2. Join a support group for social anxiety

An in-person or online support group can help you learn new tools that other people find helpful. You may become friends with people in the support group, which can be great as you already likely have things in common.

You can join a group dedicated specifically to dealing with anxiety and depression or a more general men’s group or women’s circle. Try a few meetings to see which suits you best regarding accessibility and clicking with the other attendees.

Try asking your general practitioner or therapist if they know of any local support groups. You can also check Meetup.com or Facebook to see if people know of any good support groups. Otherwise, try one of the following support groups.

We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and is much cheaper than going to an actual therapist's office. They are also cheaper than Talkspace for what you get. You can learn more about BetterHelp here.

3. Say “yes” when invited

When someone invites you somewhere, accept when you can. Try to say yes more than you say no. Your mind may come up with all sorts of reasons not to go. Ignore it if you can. You may surprise yourself by having fun.

You also need to take the initiative. If you rely on other people to make plans, they may start to resent you because they will always have to take responsibility for arranging meetups. Our article on how to make friends that includes tips on how to stay in touch with a new friend might help, together with our guide on how to ask someone to hang out without being awkward.

4. Meet other introverts if you’re introverted

Being overwhelmed by spending time in groups doesn’t necessarily mean you’re socially awkward. You may just be an introvert (or both).

Try meeting and spending time with introverts who will be able to understand why you feel uncomfortable in big groups. You can meet fellow introverts in places like board game nights or writing groups. You can meet up in less anxiety-inducing situations, like watching a movie together.

Related: How to know if you’re an introvert or have social anxiety.

5. Be open about being socially awkward

Own the fact that you’re socially awkward. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we’re all still worthy of friendships and appreciation.

Stop trying so hard to be someone you’re not. Make a joke out of being socially awkward (we have a guide that can help you be funnier). People will appreciate your openness and honesty.

6. Join a class or course

Meeting people through a shared activity is a great way to meet people when you’re socially awkward for several reasons. For one, it allows you to see the same people consistently without needing to deal with the awkwardness of asking them to meet up again.

The other reason is that it gives you a built-in topic to talk about, which hopefully interests you both. Some ideas are language classes, a meditation class (there are several types of eight-week meditation courses targeted towards reducing stress or depression, like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction), or a class that teaches skills or social hobbies.

7. Volunteer

Volunteering works similarly to taking a class in many ways. It lets you meet people through a shared goal and gives you built-in topics to talk about. It’s a lot easier than trying to make friends with strangers.

To find a place to volunteer, consider what your skills and interests are. Do you like animals? Are you good with telling stories? Are you comfortable with children or the elderly? Do you prefer working with people or doing things with your hands?

You can find volunteer opportunities in your area through a website like VolunteerMatch. You can also go directly to places you may be interested in volunteering in, like libraries, animal shelters, daycares, and nursing homes.

8. Go online

Most of us spend a lot of time in front of screens but don’t always use our online time in the best possible way to make new friends. Online friendship can be just as meaningful as friends you see in your daily life.

Making online friends can also be a great practice for making friends in person. You can practice making conversation, being honest and open about yourself, and asking the right type of questions to get to know someone.

We have an in-depth guide on how to make friends online, including some of the best apps and websites to use.

9. Practice key social skills

No one is born fated to be socially awkward. While it’s true that someone can be socially awkward due to genetic predispositions or certain conditions, like autism or ADHD, one can learn how to be less socially awkward through practicing social skills.

Learn how to make conversations less awkward. Practice getting comfortable with eye contact. Read our tips on being less socially awkward.

You may not notice changes on a day-to-day basis, but after a few weeks and months of consistent practice, you’ll see how much you’ve changed.

10. Keep your focus on other people

When we feel socially awkward, we may think we’re focusing on other people. But when we examine our thoughts closely, we find that these thoughts are really about what they’re thinking about us.

We regularly overestimate how much other people notice about us. It’s known as the spotlight effect. So when you’re sure everyone noticed a mistake you made or a stain on your shirt, you might actually be wrong.

Remind yourself of the spotlight effect when you talk to other people. Try to move your focus from what they’re thinking about you to curiosity about what they think about other things.

Related: how to be more outgoing.

11. Keep your standards realistic

Social confidence is a lifelong process. Most people don’t feel entirely comfortable socially.

Fortunately, you can be socially awkward and still have friendships and rewarding connections.

If you slip up, try to forgive yourself and think about what you’d do differently next time around. If you tend to hold on to embarrassing memories or dwell on awkward moments, see our guide on how to let go of past mistakes.

Common questions about making friends when you’re socially awkward

Why am I socially awkward?

Feeling socially awkward may be a sign of autism or anxiety. You may be lacking in social skills, which you can practice. It’s also possible that you’re an introvert and get drained by social situations quicker than extroverts, which can make you feel awkward around other people.

How do I get over being socially awkward?

Practice your social skills consistently. Put yourself in social situations that make you anxious; this will prove to yourself that you can interact with other people. Talk to at least one person every day. This could be someone you know at work or school or a service worker such as a barista.

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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