Growing up as the only child without many friends, I didn’t get much social training. I often asked myself “Why am I so weird?”.
In this article, I’m going to talk about different ways of being weird, the difference between good and bad weird, and what people might mean when they say “you’re weird”.
I’ll cover what to do to connect better with people and get more out of life if you are a weird person.
1. “Why am I so weird?” – The difference between “funny, quirky weird” and “creepy/strange weird”
It can be hard to know if you’re actually weird. Sometimes, people mean it in a good way when they say it (fun, quirky weird). When we’re ACTUALLY weird people usually don’t feel comfortable telling us.
This article will NOT be another “It’s okay to be weird because everyone is”-article. You’ve come here because you are bothered by being weird and you want to solve it.
Funny, quirky weird:
- Having absurd humor that is still funny
- Being different but people like you and respect you for it
- Dressing differently or acting differently, but people know that you’re self-aware of it and they feel comfortable around you
- People seem to take your jokes wrong
- People seem to misinterpret you
- People get annoyed with you
- You know for sure that people avoid you
- Your conversations don’t flow and end before you get to know someone
Bad weird is when people get uncomfortable or lose their respect for you.
2. “There’s so much stuff wrong with me that I don’t even know where to start”
There can be several reasons for being weird:
- Some have less social training and simply need to spend more time socializing.
- Some have social anxiety that makes them believe that small social mistakes are bigger than they really are.
- Some have autism/Aspergers, ADHD, etc, making it harder for them to socialize.
- Some have depression, which can distort their view on themselves and the world.
Often, the feeling that we’re weird can put us in a negative cycle.
I’m weird -> Feeling depressed about it -> “Something is inherently wrong with me” -> Socializes less -> Getting less social training -> Feeling weirder and more awkward.
Here’s what I wish someone would have told me earlier:
Just because life feels bad or that it feels like you suck, doesn’t mean that you’ll ALWAYS feel that way.
Imagine a scenario where you would read this guide, apply some of the advice, and experience in just a few weeks from now that you don’t feel as weird and awkward as before.
How would that make you feel? Capable and happy, I’d guess.
Here’s my advice to you: If you feel overwhelmed, work on one single thing at the time.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. – Lao Tzu
If you’ve tried improving before but failed, know that practicing your social skills is like taking two steps forward and one step back. That’s how it’s been for me, and still, here I am living a social life I couldn’t have dreamt of a few years ago.
3. Being a weird person can be a failed way to express our personality
I’ve never wanted to be an average Joe. Sometimes, my ideal to be unique instead made me come off as weird.
- I didn’t want to make “stupid” small talk, so I talked about other topics that made me come off as a weird person.
- I wanted to stand out with my unique humor that people who didn’t know me didn’t get.
- I had my own style, but people didn’t understand why.
And so on…
If I stopped doing socially awkward stuff and became “normal”, I was afraid that I would lose my identity (and become like everyone else).
Here’s what I’ve realized over the years:
It’s not your manners that define you as a person, but your thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams, and passions. I didn’t have to be different all the time. Sometimes, it can be good to make totally normal, bland small talk and just skip the weird jokes. All that is only surface, anyway.
What’s truly you is something people come to discover as they get to know you. For them to get to know you, they need to feel comfortable around you. And as I said before, bad weird is when we make people feel uncomfortable.
“But David, are you telling me that I should be like everyone else?”
No. Here’s something I’ve learned after meeting thousands of people: Your unique personality will ALWAYS shine through. In fact, it’ll shine through MORE without weird manners. (Because the “weirdness” stops taking focus from who you truly are.)
If you FIRST show that you’re normal, people will be comfortable around you and then, when you’ve made some “comforting small talk” and bonded a little, you can express your uniqueness by sharing your thoughts, ideas, passions, etc.
That’s the irony of it all: To be able to express our personality to people, we often need to be “normal” at first to form a connection.
4. Put on a mental “normal suit” that you can wear when you know that being weird works against you
So in the previous step, I talked about how we need to be normal first for people to be comfortable around us. (And how that allows us to show MORE of our personality.) But how do you do this in practice?
I like to see it as putting on a “normal suit”. We all know how a normal, likable person acts. They are relaxed, friendly, smiling, and make small talk.
You can see these manners as a suit that you can put on at times when you need it. When you fall out of the suit out of habit, it’s OK to just put it on again.
This is especially important around people you don’t know yet. With friends who already know you, you can take off the suit because they already feel comfortable around you.
5. Make a reality check with a friend you trust
It can be hard to know how much of your weirdness is just in your head – OR – what if others think you are weird in totally different ways than you thought?
Ask a friend you trust in a moment where you’re not joking around (and even better, if you already talk about someone else who might be weird/awkward/annoying).
“If you HAD to list a few weird manners I have that could make people uncomfortable, what would that be?”
I love asking questions this way, (rather than just asking “Am I weird?”, to which it’s easiest to just reply “No, not at all”.) Here you’re more likely to get an honest reply. And the reply might surprise you. Others often see us very differently from how we see ourselves.
If your friend doesn’t bring up the things you’ve been thinking about, ask explicitly about it:
“I worry that my laugh (or whatever) is weird, is that just me or is that something you’ve been thinking about?”
PRO TIP: If it feels weird to ask a friend this in real life, ask them over chat:
“Hey sorry if this is a strange question but I have a feeling that I’m acting weird sometimes to people. It would be interesting to get an outside opinion on it. If you HAD to list a few weird manners I have that could make people uncomfortable, what would that be?”
6. “My inner life is weird”
“David, my thoughts are the weirdest part!”
It’s hard to know if someone’s thoughts are weirder than the inner life of just about anyone (because we’re all rather weird on the inside).
We usually tend to think that our thoughts are weirder than everyone else, for the simple reason that our own thoughts are the only ones that we can see. Everyone else’s weirdness is hidden beneath a polished surface.
As long as your thoughts aren’t about acting on hurting people or yourself, they’re probably within the realm of “normally weird”.
In essence: As long as your thoughts aren’t dangerous to you or someone else, they’re within the realm of “normal weirdness”
If you DO have thoughts that you feel can be dangerous to you or someone else, there are many free numbers you can call to talk to a professional. Or, call the US national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
7. It’s intuitive to socialize less if you feel awkward, but the key is to socialize MORE
Back in the day, I used to avoid social settings because I didn’t feel good socially. But social skills is a… skill. And the only way to get better socially is to practice.
The next time you’re in a conversation and you just want it to be over with, remind yourself of this:
To be really good at something, you need to do it for at least a few hundred hours. Imagine how every time you’re in one of those awkward conversations, you’re getting a few more minutes of practice. If you’re bad at something, the only way to be better is to DO MORE OF IT.
In your next conversation, try to keep it just a few minutes longer than you usually do.
To get a good start, I recommend you to see which one of these social skills guides are relevant to you.
8. Radiate warmth to “get away” with being weird or awkward
As I’ve said before: Bad weirdness is when we make people feel uncomfortable. I often made people uncomfortable because I joked in a way that they didn’t know was joking or not.
One way to make people feel comfortable is to radiate warmth. In other words, be relaxed and friendly: Give warm, natural smiles, ask sincere small talk questions, show appreciation, use your natural, friendly voice.
Here’s the power of radiating warmth: We can still be weird, but since we’re making people comfortable around us, we’re suddenly “good weird” – the kind of weird where people feel comfortable around us and respect us. This enables us to connect with people even if we have a bunch of quirks and oddities.
If you’re being calm, warm and friendly, people feel comfortable around you and like and respect you more.
9. If you feel like people won’t like you, do this
Whenever I was about to approach a group of people, I got a gut feeling that they probably wouldn’t like me. It made me reserved, and naturally, people were reserved back. In my world, that confirmed my hypothesis that they didn’t like me.
When I made friends with socially savvy people, they taught me something that I remember to this day:
Whenever you’re about to approach a group of people, dare to assume that they’ll like you.
In practice, this means things like…
- Daring to smile first
- Presenting yourself and being genuinely curious about them
- Being warm and friendly
When you do this, people will treat you with more warmth and respect back. This positive response makes it easier to not feel awkward or weird.
10. Own your weirdness while you work on yourself
So up to this point, I’ve talked about the importance of studying and practicing social skills. But you obviously still have a lot of weird and awkward situations ahead of you.
Truth is, most of that awkwardness isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is. Why? Because we usually feel like everyone sees us, but everyone else actually feel the same way. So most people don’t pay as much attention to you as it may feel like. This is called the spotlight effect.
As a reality check, how often do you actually care about someone else being weird?
In therapy, there’s the powerful concept of accepting who you are while striving toward who you want to be.
Be proud of who you are at this very moment, and also take action to make tomorrow’s version of you better. (This is also a good way for overall happiness in life: Accept your current life situations fully, and also take action to make your life better tomorrow.)
In practice, this means not avoiding people or being quiet, but to still go out there and be OK with coming off as awkward some times. This is called OWNING your weirdness.
If you are also warm, friendly, and assume that people will like you, you’ll be able to get away with a lot of weirdness and still be respected and liked.