How To Not Be Socially Awkward

If you feel awkward in new situations to the point where it’s hard for you to connect with other people, this guide is for you.

We’ll cover how to be less awkward in different situations, but also how to stop feeling awkward.

Sections

My goal is that by the end of this guide, you know exactly how to feel and be less awkward. You’ll learn how to avoid awkwardness in social settings, how not to feel awkward when talking, and how to improve your confidence.

Signs that you might be awkward

“Am I awkward? How can I know for certain?”

So, how to know if you’re awkward? Use this checklist as a starting point. Do any of these sound like you?

  1. You are uncertain about how to react to others in social settings.[1]
  2. You don’t know what’s expected of you in social settings.[1]
  3. People you’ve previously met don’t seem interested in talking with you again or seem to want to get away from the conversation. (Note: This point does not apply if someone is busy)
  4. You always feel nervous around new people, and this nervousness makes it hard for you to relax.
  5. Your conversations often hit a wall, and then there’s an awkward silence.
  6. It’s hard for you to make new friends.
  7. When you enter a social setting, you worry a lot about what others think of you.
  8. You find it hard to make eye contact with people.
  9. When you receive an invitation to a social event, you feel anxious or even have a sense of dread.
  10. Your friends have told you that when they first met you, you seemed awkward or shy.
  11. You often beat yourself up for the things you say or do in social settings.
  12. You compare yourself unfavorably to people who seem more socially skilled.

If you can recognize yourself in several of the signs above, you can do this “Am I awkward”- quiz to get customized advice for what areas you should work on.

Read on to find out how to not be socially awkward.

Is it bad to be awkward?

“Is being awkward a bad thing? In other words, will my awkwardness make it harder for me to make friends?” – Parker

Being socially awkward is not bad as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing the things you want. For example, awkwardness can be bad if it makes you so uncomfortable that you can make friends, or that you offend people. However, doing an occasionally awkward thing can even make us more relatable.

Examples of when being awkward can be a good thing

Awkward everyday mistakes happen to everyone. Common examples include mishearing what someone says and giving the wrong answer, stumbling or tripping over something, or saying, “You too!” when the cashier at the movie theater says, “Enjoy the movie.”

Studies find that people who have social anxiety are unusually sensitive to any mistakes they make around other people.[2] So if you have social anxiety, you probably feel that your minor slip-ups are worse than they really are.

For example, while saying, “You too!” to that cashier may have felt like the end of the world, he or she probably didn’t even think twice about it. Or, if they did, they almost certainly thought it was just slightly funny and found you human and relatable as a result.

Examples of when awkwardness can be a bad thing

Awkwardness can become a problem if you have a hard time reading social cues. As a result, you might act in a way that isn’t appropriate for a situation. That can make people feel uncomfortable.

There are many ways to be awkward in a way that can make it harder to befriend people. Here are some examples:

  • Talking too much.
  • Not making eye contact.
  • Not picking up on the mood of the room and, for example, being happy and energetic when everyone else is calm and focused.
  • Feeling so nervous that you can’t be yourself.

Not being awkward around people

In this chapter, we’ll cover how to avoid being awkward or making others awkward.

1. Read up on people skills

We tend to feel awkward when we don’t know how to act in a social situation. By reading up on people skills you’ll feel more confident about what to do.

Important social skills to improve are:

  1. Conversation skills
  2. Social confidence
  3. Empathy

See our guide on how to improve your people skills.

2. Practice reading social cues

Social cues are all those subtle things people do that signal what they are thinking and feeling. For example, if they are pointing their feet toward the door, they may want to get going.

Sometimes, a person will say something that has an underlying meaning. For example, “This was really nice” can mean “I’d like to leave soon.”

If we don’t pick up on these cues, the situation can get awkward. When we get nervous and focus on ourselves rather than on others, it’s even harder to notice what people are saying.

Read up on body language to be better at reading social cues

I recommend the book The Definitive Book on Body Language. (This is not an affiliate link. I recommend the book because I think it’s good.) Read my review of the body language book here. You can also read more about how to improve your body language and appear more confident.

Do some people-watching

For example, watch people in a cafe or pay attention to subtle signals between people in movies.

Look for subtle changes in body language, facial expression, tone of voice, or things they say that have underlying meanings. This will help you be better at reading social cues, which in turn will make you less awkward. You can use online resources such as this one to learn more about facial expressions and how to read them.

3. Be sincerely positive to make it less awkward

In a study, strangers were put in a group and told to socialize. Afterward, they watched a video recording of their interactions. They were asked to indicate at which points in the video they felt most awkward.

It turned out that the entire group felt less awkward when someone behaved positively toward someone else.[1]

However, it’s important to note that if your voice is strained and stressed, making positive remarks won’t work. You have to mean what you say.

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For example, if you say “I think it was clever what you said before about abstract art” in a sincere, relaxed way, you’ll make the group feel less awkward.

Why? Probably because social awkwardness is a type of anxiety. When we show sincere positivity, the situation feels less threatening.

If you like something about someone, let them know about it, but always be genuine. Do not give fake compliments.

Take it easy with looks-based compliments, as they can feel too intimate. It’s safer to compliment someone’s skills, achievements, or personality traits.

Some people don’t know how to accept a compliment, so be prepared to change the topic swiftly if they appear embarrassed or self-conscious when you say something nice about them.

4. Don’t try to make people like you

When we do things in order to be liked (e.g., making jokes, telling stories to make people see us a certain way, or trying to be someone we’re not), we put ourselves under a massive amount of pressure. Ironically, these behaviors often appear needy and can make us less likable.

Instead, make sure others feel comfortable being around you. If you succeed, people will like you.

Here are some examples:

likability chart

Diagram from “Why we become more likable when we stop trying”.

If you feel the need to entertain, know that it’s OK if you aren’t witty and don’t make jokes It will take the pressure off you and, ironically, make you more likable and less socially awkward.

5. Act as usual even if you blush, shake, or sweat

If you act normally and with confidence, people might still notice that you blush, shake, or sweat, but they won’t assume it’s because you are nervous.[8]

For example, I had a classmate who blushed very easily. It wasn’t because he was nervous when he was talking. It was just the way he was. Because he didn’t behave in a nervous way, no one assumed he blushed because of his nervousness.

A few days ago, I met someone whose hands were shaking. Because she didn’t look nervous, I didn’t know why she was shaking. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, she must be nervous.” I simply didn’t think much about it.

The only time I assume that someone is nervous when they shake, blush, or sweat is if their other behaviors suggest they are intimidated. For example, if they become timid, start smiling nervously, or look down at the ground, I assume that they feel awkward.

Remind yourself of this whenever you’re shaking, blushing, or sweating: People won’t assume you’re nervous unless you act nervously.

6. Change the way you talk to yourself

Worrying about your looks can cause you to feel self-conscious and awkward in social situations.[9] Learning how to accept yourself can make you more at ease around others.

Here are a few things to try:

  1. Acknowledge and own your flaws instead of trying to cover them up. When you truly accept yourself, you won’t be so afraid of what everyone else thinks. This can help you feel less awkward. If you can go beyond acceptance and learn to truly love your looks, great! But self-love isn’t always a realistic goal. If body positivity isn’t an option, aim for body neutrality instead.
  2. Focus on what your body does, not what it looks like. This helps shift your attention away from your looks. For example, does your body allow you to dance, hug your family, talk and laugh with your friends, walk your dog, or play games? Take a few moments to feel grateful for everything it can do.
  3. Challenge your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying things like “My skin is awful” or “My mouth is a weird shape” or “I’m too fat,” change your perspective. Imagine that someone you care about started to say those things about themselves. How would you respond? Treat yourself with the same compassion and respect.

For most people, a mindset shift makes a big difference to how they feel about their looks. But if your body image is so poor that it gets in the way of your everyday life, see a therapist or doctor. You may have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).[10] Treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help improve your self-esteem and make you feel less awkward around other people.

7. Ask for clarification when you don’t understand

If the conversation becomes confusing and awkward, try listening carefully, then paraphrasing what you heard. Doing this shows you have been listening to the other person. It also lets you double-check that you have understood them.

If someone says something and you aren’t sure what they meant, ask, “Can I check that I’ve grasped what you mean?” You can then summarize what you think they said in a few words of your own. If you didn’t get what they were saying the first time around, they can then correct you. This is a good way to deal with awkwardness when you find someone else difficult to understand.

8. Ask a friend who you trust for feedback

If you have a friend you can trust, ask them whether you make people feel awkward. Tell them you want an honest answer. Give examples of situations you’ve both been in where you feel that you made people awkward. If your friend agrees with your assessment, ask why they think people were uncomfortable.

9. Consult an etiquette guide

Etiquette might sound old-fashioned, but it can be a powerful tool to help you feel less awkward: Etiquette is a set of social rules that help you understand how to behave in various situations, including weddings, formal dinner parties, and funerals. When you know what people expect you to do, you may feel less awkward.

Emily Post’s Etiquette is widely considered to be the best book on the topic.

10. Do background research when you can

If a friend or colleague wants to introduce you to someone they already know, get a bit of background information in advance. Ask what the person does for a living, what their interests are, and whether you should avoid any particular topics.

For example, if your friend wants you to meet someone who has recently lost their job, you’ll go into the conversation knowing that asking them a lot of work-related questions could make the situation awkward.

This kind of research isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can help you feel more confident and better prepared.

11. Take an improv class

If you are willing to really challenge yourself, take an improv class. You’ll have to interact with strangers in a new environment and act out short scenarios. At first, this may be a very scary prospect.

However, if you can tolerate it, improv is a fantastic way to train for social situations. You will get a chance to practice responding to others in the moment instead of getting caught up in your own thoughts and feelings. It’s a valuable opportunity to learn how to respond quickly and naturally to anyone, which may make you less awkward.

12. Practice curiosity in people

Having a “mission” can make things less awkward. I usually make it my mission to get to know a thing or two about a few people, to see if we might have something in common.

When I coach people, I ask them, “What’s your ‘mission’ for this interaction?” Usually, they don’t know. We then come up with a mission together. Here’s an example:

“When I talk to these people tomorrow, I’m going to invite them to an event, get to know what they work with, get to know what their interests are, etc.”

When they know what their mission is, they feel less awkward.

Not being awkward in conversations

In this section, we’ll cover what to do to not feel awkward when talking to someone.

1. Have a few universal questions lined up

I used to feel extra awkward during the first few minutes of a conversation because I didn’t know what to say.

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Memorizing a few universal questions that work in most situations helped me relax.

My 4 universal questions:

“Hi, Nice meeting you! I’m Viktor…”

  1. … How do you know the other people here?
  2. … Where are you from?
  3. … What brings you here?/What made you choose to study this subject?/When did you start working here?/What is your job here?
  4. … What do you like most about (what they do)?

Read more here on how to start a conversation and how to stop being quiet around others.

2. Ask questions that start with W or H

Journalists are trained to remember “5 W’s and an H” when researching and writing stories:[11]

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

These questions can also help keep a conversation going. They are open questions, meaning they invite more than a simple “Yes” or “No” response. For example, asking someone, “How did you spend your weekend?” will probably take the conversation in a more interesting direction than simply asking, “Did you have a nice weekend?”

3. Avoid certain topics around new people

Here are some simple rules for what topics to avoid around new people.

I emphasize new people because once you get to know someone, you can talk about controversial topics without fear that the situation will get awkward.

Avoid R.A.P.E topics:

  • Religion
  • Abortion
  • Politics
  • Economics

Do talk about F.O.R.D topics:

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

4. Be careful when making jokes

Making jokes can make you appear more likable and can relieve tension in a social setting, but an offensive or ill-timed joke can lower your social status and make a situation feel awkward.[12]

As a general rule, avoid making jokes about controversial (R.A.P.E.) topics, especially if you don’t know the other person very well. It’s also best to avoid making jokes at someone else’s expense because it can come off as bullying or harassment.

If you tell a joke that backfires and offends someone, don’t get defensive. This will only make everyone feel awkward. Instead, apologize and change the topic.

For more tips on how to use humor effectively, see this guide on how to be funny.

5. Try to find mutual interests or views

When two people talk about something they like, it’s easier to know what to say. Mutual interests help us connect with people.[13] This is why I’m always on the lookout for mutual interests when I meet new people.

Here’s more about how to find like-minded people with mutual interests.

6. Learn strategies for handling awkward silences

Conversations usually become awkward after a while if we get stuck talking about facts and impersonal subjects.

Instead, we can ask questions that help us get to know what people think and their feelings about things, their future, and their passions. When we do this, the types of conversations we have tend to be more natural and lively.

For example, if you get stuck in a conversation about low interest rates, that can soon get boring.

However, if you say “Speaking of money, what do you think you would do if you had a million dollars?” the other person suddenly has an opportunity to share more personal, interesting information. This can spark a good conversation.

Read more on this in our guide on how to avoid awkward silence.

7. Practice being comfortable with silence

Not all silence is bad. It can be draining to feel like you have to talk all the time. Pauses in a conversation can give us time to reflect and deepen the topic to something more substantial.

Here are some things you can do to be comfortable with silence:

  • During silences, practice relaxation by breathing calmly and letting go of tension in your body, rather than trying to come up with something to say.
  • Allow yourself a few seconds to formulate your thoughts rather than trying to respond immediately.
  • Remember that no one waits for you to come up with things to say. The other person might feel like it’s their responsibility.

Main article: How to be comfortable with silence

8. Remind yourself of the value in small talk

I used to see small talk as an unnecessary activity to be avoided wherever possible.

Later in life, as I studied to become a behavioral scientist, I learned that small talk has a purpose:

Small talk is the only way for two strangers to “warm up” to each other and figure out if they are compatible as allies, friends, or even as romantic partners.(14)

When I learned that small talk has a purpose, I started to like it more.

9. Don’t mention that you’re socially awkward

I often see people give the following advice: “You should disarm awkward moments by commenting on the fact that it’s awkward.”

But this isn’t a good idea. It won’t disarm the situation or help you feel more relaxed. In fact, this strategy will only make everything feel more awkward.

I’m going to share some advice that works much better.

10. Don’t interrupt someone answering your question

When we want to make a connection with someone, it’s tempting to interrupt them when we discover that we have something in common. For example:

You: “So you like science? What kind of science interests you most?”

Someone: “I really like learning about physics. Recently I watched this great documentary about a new theory-”

You: “Me too! I find it so interesting. Ever since I was a teenager, I found it fascinating…”

Let people finish their sentences. Diving in too quickly will make you appear over-eager, which can be awkward. Interrupting others is also an annoying habit that can put people off talking to you altogether.

Sometimes, you can see that someone is formulating a thought in their head. Usually, people look away and change facial expression slightly when they are thinking. Wait for what they are about to say rather than starting to talk.

Let’s use the same conversation as an example:

You: “So you like science? What kind of science interests you most?”

Someone: “I really like learning about physics…. (Thinking for a few seconds) Ever since I was a teenager, I found it fascinating…”

11. Avoid oversharing

Sharing builds rapport, but going into too much detail can make other people feel awkward. For example, telling someone that you went through a divorce last year is fine if it’s relevant to the conversation. But if you don’t know the other person very well, it wouldn’t be appropriate to tell them all about your ex-spouse’s affair, your court case, or other intimate details.

If you aren’t sure whether you’re sharing too much, ask yourself this: “If someone else were to share this information with me, would I feel uncomfortable?” If the answer is “Yes” or “Probably,” it’s time to talk about something else.

Overcoming awkwardness if you are shy or have social anxiety

“I’m always feeling awkward, and I also suffer from social anxiety. I feel especially shy and awkward around strangers.”

If you often feel socially awkward, there might be a deeper reason. For example, it could be because you have low self-esteem or social anxiety. In this chapter, we’ll look at how to address these underlying issues.

Social anxiety makes us hypersensitive to our own mistakes, even when other people don’t notice them. As a result, we think we appear more awkward than we do in reality.

Read more about social anxiety on WebMD’s website.

Studies show that we feel awkward when we’re afraid that we might lose the approval of the group or when we don’t know how to react in a social situation.[1]

Here’s how to overcome those feelings and learn how to be less socially awkward.

1. Focus on someone or something

When we worry about being socially awkward, we often turn “accidentally egoistic.” We are so worried about how we come across to others that we forget to pay attention to anyone apart from ourselves

In the past, whenever I walked up to a group of people, I would start worrying about what they would think of me.

I would have thoughts like:

  • “Will people think I’m weird?”
  • “Will they think I’m boring?”
  • “What if they don’t like me?”
  • “Where do I put my hands?”

If you can practice focusing on others, you may feel less self-conscious, and it will be easier to come up with conversation topics. To help their clients overcome this problem, therapists advise them to“shift their attentional focus.”[16]

In essence, the clients are instructed to constantly focus on the conversation at hand (or, when they enter a room, focus on the people in it) rather than on themselves.

You might be thinking, “But if I’m not in my own head, I can’t come up with things to say!”

That’s what I thought, too. But here’s the thing:

When we focus fully on the conversation, questions pop up in our heads, much like when we focus on a good movie. For example, we start asking things like:

  • “Why doesn’t he tell her how he feels?”
  • “Who is the real murderer?”

In the same way, we want to focus on the people in the room or the conversation we’re having.

For instance:

“Oh, she went to Thailand! What was that like? How long was she there?”
“He looks like a university professor. I wonder if he is?”

This was a game-changer for me. Here’s why:

When I focused outward, I became less self-conscious. It was easier for me to come up with things to say. The flow of my conversations improved. I became less socially awkward.

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Whenever you interact with someone, practice focusing on them.

Main article: How to not get nervous talking to people.

2. Don’t try to fight your feelings

At first, I tried to “push away” my nervosity, but that didn’t work. It only made it come back even stronger than before. I later learned that the best way to deal with emotions is to accept them.

For example, when you feel nervous, accept that you feel nervous. After all, it’s human to be anxious, and everyone feels this way sometimes.

This makes nervosity less charged. In fact, feeling nervous isn’t more dangerous than feeling tired or happy. They are all just emotions, and we don’t have to let them affect us.

Accept that you are nervous and just carry on. You’ll worry less and feel less awkward.

3. Ask more questions

When I was nervous, I focused more on myself than other people. I completely forgot to show any interest in others or ask them questions.

Ask more questions and, more importantly, cultivate an interest in people around you.

When someone talks about a topic that is completely unfamiliar to you, don’t pretend you understand everything they are saying. Instead, ask them questions. Let them explain and show that you are genuinely interested.

4. Practice sharing about yourself

Questions are key to good conversation. However, if all we do is ask questions, other people will think we are interrogating them. Therefore, we also need to occasionally share information about ourselves.

Personally, I had no problem listening to others, but if someone asked me about my opinion or what I’d been up to, I didn’t know what to say. I was afraid I’d bore people and generally didn’t like being in the spotlight.

But to connect with someone, we can’t ONLY ask about them. We also have to share information about ourselves.

It took me some time to realize that if we don’t share things about ourselves, we will always remain strangers, not friends. It also tends to make people uncomfortable if they have to share more than you. Good conversations tend to be balanced, with both people listening and sharing.

Share something small about yourself every once in a while (even if people don’t ask). It can be brief comments about small things. For example:

Someone: “Last year I went to Paris and it was really nice.”

Me: “Nice, I was there a few years ago and I liked it a lot. What did you do there?”

This kind of detail is so tiny that you might think it doesn’t matter, but it helps others paint a mental picture of who they are talking to. It also helps you figure out what you might have in common.

5. Take all opportunities to practice socializing

When I felt bad about my social skills, I tried to avoid socializing. In reality, we want to do the opposite: Spend MORE time in training. We need to practice things we aren’t good at.

If you play a video game or play a team sport and there’s a particular move you fail at again and again, you know what to do:

Practice more.

After a while, you’ll become better at it.[17]

Look at socializing in the same way. Instead of avoiding it, spend more time doing it. Over time, you will learn how to deal with awkwardness.

6. Ask yourself what a confident person would do

People with social anxiety often think they are more awkward than they really are.[18] When you next do something awkward, carry out a reality check by asking yourself this question: If a confident person were to make the same mistake, how would they react?

Often, this exercise will help you realize that a confident person probably wouldn’t care much. And if a confident person wouldn’t care, why should you?

This is called “turning the tables.” Whenever you do something that makes you feel embarrassed or awkward, remind yourself to do a reality check. How would a confident person have reacted?[19]

If you have a confident, socially successful friend, use them as a role model. Imagine what they would do or say. You can also learn a lot from people who are not socially successful. The next time someone makes you feel awkward, ask yourself why. What did they do or say that didn’t quite work?

7. Know that people don’t know how you feel

We tend to think that others can somehow “see” our feelings. This is called the illusion of transparency.[20]

For example, we often believe that people can tell when we feel nervous. In reality, others usually assume we’re less nervous than we really are.[21] Simply knowing that people often don’t know how you feel can be comforting. Even if you feel super awkward, that doesn’t necessarily mean that others will see that.

Remind yourself that feeling nervous or awkward doesn’t mean that others will pick up on it.

8. See social interaction as practice rounds

I used to think that to be successful at a social event, I had to make a new friend. That put a lot of pressure on me, and every time I didn’t make a friend (almost every time), I felt like I had failed.

I tried a new approach: I started seeing social events as practice rounds. If people didn’t like me or if they didn’t respond positively to a joke I made, it was fine. After all, it was only a practice round.

Socially anxious people are overly concerned with making sure that everyone likes them.[25] For those of us who have social anxiety, it’s extra important to realize that it’s OK if not everyone does.

Taking this pressure off myself made me more relaxed, less needy, and, ironically, more likable.

See every social interaction as a chance to practice. It makes you realize that the outcome isn’t that important.

9. Remind yourself that most people feel awkward at times

All humans want to be liked and accepted.[26] We can remind ourselves of this fact whenever we’re about to enter a social setting. It takes people off the imaginary pedestal we put them on. As a result, we can more readily identify with others, and this helps us to loosen up.[27]

10. Try posture exercises to feel more confident

“I’m OK at making conversation, but I don’t know how to not look awkward. I never seem to know what to do with my hands!”

If you have good posture, you’ll automatically feel more confident. This helps you feel less socially awkward.[5][6]

In my experience, your arms will also hang more naturally along your sides when you move your chest outwards, so you don’t have that awkward feeling of not knowing what to do with your arms.

My problem was remembering to keep a permanently good posture. After a few hours, I would forget that I was trying to make changes and would revert to my usual stance. This can be a problem because if you have to think about your posture in social settings, that can make you more self-conscious.[7]

You want to have permanently good posture so that you don’t need to think about it all the time. I can recommend the method explained in this video.

Underlying reasons for being awkward

It’s common for people who haven’t had enough social training to be awkward. I was an only child and didn’t get much social training early on, which made me awkward. Through reading about social skills and lots of practice, I became more socially skilled and more at ease around other people.

“I try my best, but whatever I say comes out wrong. I feel like I weird people out. Why am I awkward?”

Here are some of the most common underlying reasons for being awkard:

  • Lack of practice.
  • Social anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Asperger’s Syndrome/autism spectrum disorder.
  • Self-consciousness about your physical appearance.
  • A tendency to compare yourself to others.
  • Parents who did not model social skills or encourage you to make friends.
  • Little or no understanding of social etiquette. This may mean you aren’t sure what to do in specific situations such as a formal party, which can make you feel awkward.

Some people have conditions that can make it harder to navigate social situations, such as Asperger’s or ADHD. If this applies to you, practice your social skills while you address your condition with the help of a doctor or therapist. The more you practice, the more you’ll improve.

1. Lack of practice

If you have too little social training or a condition that affects your social skills, you might do awkward things like:

  • Make jokes that people don’t understand or are inappropriate.
  • Not understand how others think and feel (empathy).
  • Talk about things that most people aren’t interested in.

See our main article “Why am I so awkward?

Keep in mind that we tend to overestimate how much attention other people pay to us.[3][4] The odds are that even if you feel socially awkward, no one cares about it as much as you.

2. Social anxiety

Social anxiety often causes awkwardness. It can make you overly worried about making social mistakes. As a result, you may hold back in social situations.

Typical signs of social anxiety include:

  • Not daring to speak up and staying quiet or mumbling as a result.
  • Not making eye contact because it makes you anxious.
  • Speaking too fast because you feel nervous.

This guide will help you address these types of awkward behaviors.

3. Asperger’s syndrome

“Why am I so painfully awkward? I’ve had this problem since I was a child. I feel as though I’ll never understand how to act in social situations.”

Someone once said, “Socializing with Asperger’s is like being on a phone call with a group of people who are in a room together but you’re at home.”

Here are some common traits of people with Asperger’s syndrome[28]:

  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Avoiding eye contact, especially during childhood
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Avoiding or resisting physical contact
  • Communication difficulties
  • Being upset by minor changes
  • Intense sensitivity to stimuli

Asperger’s syndrome is a spectrum, with some people much more severely affected than others. Today, the medical term for Aspergers is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).[29] If you have Asperger’s syndrome, it can help to deliberately practice your social skills. If you are patient, you’ll learn how to make things less awkward.

It can also be easier to make friends in certain venues. For example, many people with Asperger’s feel more at home in an analytical environment such as a chess club or a philosophy class than in a bar or a club.

Read more about Asperger’s here. Take this test if the signs listed above are familiar to you; it will help you decide whether to seek a formal evaluation by a mental health professional.

Overcoming feelings of awkwardness

I used to feel judged as soon as I walked into a room. I assumed that people would judge me for literally everything: my looks, the way I walked, or anything else that meant they just wouldn’t like me.

It turned out that I was the one who was judging myself. Because I looked down on myself, I assumed that everyone else would, too. As I improved my self-esteem, I stopped worrying about what others thought of me

If you feel that people will judge you as soon as they see you, that’s a sign that you might be the one who’s judging yourself. You can overcome that by changing the way you talk to yourself.

Let’s talk about how to challenge your own negative voice.

1. Avoid unrealistic affirmations

In the previous step, I said that if you feel judged by others, it can be a sign of low self-esteem.

So how do you improve your self-esteem? Research shows that affirmations (e.g., sticking positive notes on the bathroom mirror) don’t work and can even backfire and make us feel worse about ourselves.[22]

What DOES work is to change the way we think about ourselves.[23]

Article continues below.

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2. Speak to yourself as you would speak to a true friend

You probably wouldn’t call your friend “worthless,” “stupid,” etc., and you wouldn’t let a friend call you those things either. So why speak to yourself like that?

When you talk to yourself in a disrespectful way, challenge your inner voice. Say something more balanced and helpful. For example, instead of saying, “I’m so stupid,” tell yourself, “I made a mistake. But it’s OK. I might be able to do better next time around.”

3. Challenge your inner critical voice

Sometimes our critical inner voice makes claims like “I always suck at socializing,” “I always mess up,” and “People think I’m weird.”

Do not assume that these statements are correct. Double-check them. Are they really accurate? For example, perhaps you can remember some social situations you handled well, which disproves the statement, “I always mess up.” Or if you can think of a time where you met new people, and they seemed to like you, then it can’t be true that you always “suck at socializing.”

By stepping back and reviewing past events instead of getting caught up in your emotions, you’ll get a more realistic view of yourself. This makes your critical voice less powerful, and you’ll judge yourself less harshly.[24]

Changing the way you talk to yourself is also important if you tend to compare yourself to people who seem more outgoing or socially skilled. When you fall into the comparison trap, practice reminding yourself about your positive traits. For example, you could say to yourself, “It’s true I’m not very socially skilled yet. But I know that I’m a smart person, and I am persistent. In time, I will get better at dealing with social events.”

Overcoming awkwardness in specific situations

How to not be awkward on the phone

You can’t see someone’s body language when you’re talking on the phone, so it’s harder to pick up any hidden meanings behind their words. This can make the conversation awkward because you may miss some social cues. Another reason why phone calls can be difficult is that the other person is focusing all their attention on you, which can make you feel self-conscious.

Here’s how to feel less awkward on the phone:

1. Decide on your objective before picking up the phone

For example, “I want to ask John to see a film with me on Saturday evening,” or “I want to ask Sara how her job interview went.” Prepare a couple of opening questions that will help you achieve your goal.

2. Respect the other person’s time

If the other person isn’t expecting you to phone them, they won’t have set aside time to talk to you. They might not be able to talk for long. At the start of the call, ask them if they can talk for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or however long you think the conversation will take.

If they only have 5 minutes to spare and you need longer, either be prepared to make the call quick or ask them whether you can call back later. Make it easy for them to be honest about their availability. Clear communication makes situations less awkward.

3. Remember that the other person can’t see your body language

Use your words to compensate. For example, if they give you a piece of news that makes you very happy, you might say something like, “That’s really made me smile! Awesome!” Or if they say something that confuses you, say, “Hm. I’ve got to say, I’m feeling puzzled right now. Can I ask a couple of questions?” instead of relying on a frown or head tilt to get your message across. Making your feelings clear improves your rapport.

4. Do not attempt to multitask

There’s a risk that you’ll zone out. You may suddenly realize that they are waiting for you to answer a question, but you’ve become preoccupied and don’t know what they’re talking about.

5. Be prepared to interrupt

Some people make it obvious when it’s your turn to speak, but others tend to ramble for a long time. It may feel awkward, but sometimes you may have to interrupt. Say, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but can we go back a few steps for a moment?” or “So sorry to interrupt you, but could I ask a question?”

6. Don’t take their discomfort personally

Many people dislike talking on the phone. A recent survey of millennials shows that 75% of those in this age group avoid calls because they are time-consuming and that most (88%) feel anxious before making a call. So if it feels like the other person is trying to wrap up the conversation quickly, don’t assume you have offended them or that they dislike you.[15]

Most of the advice about how to avoid being awkward during conversations applies to phone calls. For example, whether you are talking face-to-face or on the phone, asking questions that let you get to know someone, sharing information about yourself, and avoiding controversial topics are good general guidelines.

How to not be awkward around someone you like

When you have a crush on someone, you might feel more self-conscious and awkward than usual when you’re around them.

Do not put the guy or girl you like on a pedestal

Treat them like you would anyone else. Even if they appear calm and confident on the surface, they might secretly feel just as awkward as you. Reminding yourself that they are a normal human being can make you feel less self-conscious.

When we have a crush on someone, we can fall into the trap of thinking they are perfect. Our imaginations start working overtime. We start thinking about what it would be like to date them. It’s easy to get carried out and tell ourselves that we’re in love before we even know what kind of person they really are.

It’s difficult to get to know someone if you idealize them. It also makes it harder to be around them because you start worrying that this “perfect” person will judge you for every little mistake you make.

Get to know them as an individual

Enjoy the excitement of a crush, but try to stay grounded in reality. Try to learn more about them and become their friend instead of impressing them or getting lost in your daydreams. Use the conversation tips we covered earlier in this guide. Find mutual interests, ask questions, and make them feel comfortable around you.

Never try to impress someone by pretending to be a different person

Do not put on an act. You want your crush to like you for who you really are. Otherwise, there is no point in dating them or even being their friend. A successful relationship is based on an authentic connection. Faking interests or personality traits to get them interested in you will backfire. Things can get awkward quickly if you tell lies or misrepresent yourself.

For example, if they are a big sports fan and you aren’t, do not pretend that you like their favorite team or understand all the rules of their preferred sport. They will eventually realize that you don’t really share their interest. It will be obvious that you only wanted to impress them, and both of you will feel awkward.

Use compliments sparingly

When we admire someone, it’s tempting to compliment them frequently, but be careful. Excessive compliments come off as insincere or even creepy, especially if you are commenting on someone’s looks.

If they compliment you, don’t brush it off with a comment like, “Oh no, it was nothing!” or, “No, I don’t look that good today, my hair is a mess!” You might think it’s good to be modest, but your crush might assume you don’t want to hear their opinions.

Hang out with them like a friend

If you are spending time together one-on-one, do an activity that encourages conversation and lets you share an experience. For example, you could go to an arcade or hike a scenic route. This helps avoid awkward silences and gives you a memory to bond over. When you invite them to hang out or join you at a social event, treat them as you would treat any other potential friend. There’s no need to call it a date.

Aim to build a friendship first. Then, if the two of you like spending time together, you can think about telling them how you feel. Not sure how they feel? These articles explain how to tell whether a girl or a guy likes you.

How to not be awkward at a party

Think about when you want to arrive

Decide whether you want to arrive at the very start of the party, or a little later. At the beginning of an event, it can be easier to meet people and start conversations because everyone is settling into the party. Within the first ten or twenty minutes, the other guests will start to form groups. It may be harder (but certainly not impossible) to break into conversations if you arrive later. On the other hand, if you turn up later, there will be more people to meet, and it will be easier to excuse yourself from a conversation if it isn’t going well.

Check the dress code

Being overdressed or underdressed will make you feel awkward and self-conscious, so ask the organizer in advance what the dress code is if you’re unsure.

Do your homework

If you don’t know much about the other guests, ask the person who invited you for some background information. This can help you feel less awkward because you’ll know what kind of person you can expect to meet and what they might like to talk about. If you know someone else who will be at the party, suggest that you go together so you won’t have to arrive alone.

Don’t put yourself under pressure to make friends

In general, most people go to parties to have fun, not to make lasting friendships or have deep conversations. Aim to introduce yourself to a few people and have some enjoyable social interactions instead of making new friends. It’s usually best to avoid heavy or controversial subjects.

Try joining other peoples’ discussions

At a party, it’s socially acceptable to join group discussions, even if you don’t know anyone. Start by standing or sitting close to the group so you can hear what they are saying. Give yourself a chance to understand what they are talking about by listening carefully for a couple of minutes.

Next, make eye contact with whoever is speaking. When there’s a natural break in the conversation, you can take the opportunity to ask a question.

For example:

Someone in the group: “I went to Italy last year and explored some really beautiful beaches. I’d love to go back.”

You: “Italy’s a wonderful country. Which region did you visit?”

If an opportunity to break into the conversation doesn’t present itself, try inhaling and using a nonverbal gesture just before you are about to speak. This attracts everyone’s attention, making you the focus of the group. This article explains how to do it.

Depending on the atmosphere and group dynamics, some group members might be a bit surprised when you join in, but this isn’t a bad thing. As long as you are friendly and ask sensible questions, most people will quickly get over their surprise and welcome you into their conversation. When the moment feels right, introduce yourself by saying, “I’m [name] by the way. It’s great to meet you.”

Find opportunities to share activities with other guests

Be on the lookout for activities at the party, such as board games. They are a good opportunity to make conversation because everyone is focusing on the same thing. The buffet table, drinks table, or kitchen are also good places to meet and talk to people because they offer opportunities to talk about safe topics, namely food and drink preferences.

Go outside

If you feel overwhelmed at a party, step outside for some fresh air. Not only will it calm you down, but you might meet some other guests who want to take a breather. People tend to be more relaxed when they are away from larger crowds. Start a conversation with a simple, positive opening remark like, “There are so many interesting people here this evening, aren’t there?” or “What a beautiful night. It’s warm for the time of year, isn’t it?”

If you get stuck for things to say at parties, check out this list of 105 questions.

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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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