'd argue that everyone has a hidden penchant for charisma. However, that well may be hard to access–more so for some than others. Awkwardness, while not a negative trait in and of itself, can make you feel like you’re holding back around other people, or like you cannot be your full self. Some neurodivergent people find it hard to relate to others, making them feel awkward in social settings. Other people might simply be feeling lonely or uncomfortable.
No matter why you’re here, here are a few tips and tricks to be less awkward, while still being your full self around others. Enjoy!
Don’t be Afraid of Comfortable Silences
Conversations have natural lulls, where both parties have more-or-less exhausted their points and are now searching for a new, more interesting topic. While your awkwardness might compel you to say something–just for a bit of noise in the room–that can, unfortunately, lead to saying something embarrassing that you will regret later.
To remedy this, if there is a natural lull in conversation, let it comfortably exist. Most of our worst, most awkward moments come out when we’re trying (and failing) to relate positively to someone who we perceive as being not interested. But that’s desperate. Talking all of the time, and trying too hard in a conversation can be off putting to others..So, just don’t do it. Instead, follow your conversational partners’ lead, and if they drop out of the convo, let them. It’s their loss.
Don’t Prepare Talking Points Beforehand
Genuinely awkward people might have trouble with public speaking and giving presentations (note, “might,” as this is not always the case). I’ve noticed many people, nervous to present their project to the world, fumbling with their flashcards before going up to speak in front of everyone.
Don’t do this!
While this take may be slightly controversial, hear me out.Preparing for a single conversation will most likely mean that your talking points and the conversation or presentation itself will be too rigid, aka “awkward.” It may also lead to you beating yourself up for diverging from those points, even if that’s where the conversation or presentation is naturally going.
To remedy this, go with the flow, trust yourself, and be spontaneous–that is the making of good conversation, otherwise, it will come off as interview-like.
Take a Class!
Acting classes, theater courses, or other courses that require a lot of verbal interaction can help you desensitize yourself to the challenges of speaking, all while in a safe, learning environment of (ideally) zero judgment.
It’s just logic that the more you expose yourself to other people, and the more freedom you have to explore your own emotions, the more adept and prepared you will feel for just basic daily interactions (without having to prepare at all beforehand).
NOTE: If you loathe anything requiring presenting in front of a group, then maybe consider a D&D group or other video/board game group, where you can interact with others, but without the feeling of constant scrutiny, or “eyes on you.”
Overall, when utilized correctly, classes can be a great key to becoming a less awkward person.
Understand Who You’re Talking To
The more you know about a person, the more comfortable you feel around them, and the less awkward you’ll be. That’s why you feel so comfortable around old friends, but freeze up around relatively new acquaintances. To overcome your struggles with awkwardness, get to know people, and if you can’t do that (for example, if you are just thrown into a conversation with someone) then surmise what you can about them based on 1) their clothes 2) their demeanor or 3) their interactions with others.
Some helpful rules to follow (If at a party or social gathering)
- If someone looks busy- don’t approach them
- Approach only people who look outgoing and receptive to friendly conversation
- Start with small talk, but once they mention something relatable to you, be sure to escalate the conversation to a deeper level (in order to forge a real friendship and a better convo)
- Again, let silences be awkward or comfortable–saying something in the moment just to say something will often leave you feeling regretful
- Avoid being a third wheel in a friend group by quickly establishing rapport with one of the people in the group, or by having a backup-friend in place, just in case you start to feel left out
Make Good First Impressions
Bring donuts, celebratory xmas crackers, or surprise people with something else–something that makes them feel valued, and makes you look super spontaneous and fun. By doing something for the group as a whole, without being asked, you show everyone that you are a more open person, and friendly. Setting a good standard for yourself (and a good impression) is key when it comes to avoiding awkwardness.
Remember: Awkwardness is often a two-way street. Do you remember that one super outgoing girl from summer camp? Even if you said nothing, your conversations felt perfectly complete, because she was the perfect Peppermint Patty to your Marcy. If someone likes you, naturally conversation will be good. However, if you’ve already made an awkward impression on someone, they may hesitate to talk to you (which, admittedly, is a bit catty. But that’s the way the world is!)
If you Make a Mistake, Laugh!
Nothing makes an awkward moment more awkward than just standing there, steeping in embarrassment. Taking ownership of your awkwardness can, in a roundabout way, help to alleviate said awkwardness.
Everyone has likely been in your situation at one point in time, you’re not alone, and by laughing at yourself, you show everyone present that you 1) are a good sport 2) have a great sense of humor and 3) have confidence in yourself. Perfect friend material, eh?
Making a joke, laughing, or otherwise making light of a small mistake essentially erases the mistake (however, this doesn’t excuse you from, say, apologizing for breaking someone’s expensive vase–or paying for it, for that matter)
Find Your Group
This is a smaller possibility, but maybe you’re awkward because you have yet to find a group of people that you mesh with. Relatability often comes up as a big part of conversations, and can make or break your bond with a person. It’s just a fact that people with whom you share a lot in common are easier to converse with, because it’s as if they already know you. You may have dissenting opinions, but your similar life experiences and hobbies can sometimes bridge that gap, and, hey, even if you disagree–at least that’s a whole other conversation in and of itself.
It can be difficult to find a friend that you perfectly mesh with, nevermind an entire friend group. So, start small. Join clubs that interest you, and do the “friend of a friend thing,” where you get all of your current friends to introduce you to their friends that you don’t yet know. A shared friend is an easy way to get a conversation started.
Here are a few tips on how to find a friend group that you vibe with:
- Be picky. Don’t settle for someone who is only a friend when it’s convenient. These people can make great acquaintances, but aren’t what you’re looking for in a friend.
- Look for people who congratulate you on your accomplishments. This is the ultimate green flag when it comes to friends, as it demonstrates camaraderie as well as a simultaneous lack of jealousy.
- Discover the joys of small-talk. Make a goal to talk to at least one person you’re not familiar with per day. Find a natural time to converse–ideally not when you are rushing off to a class or doing a chore.
- Be honest. No one has ever made a friend through dishonest means (or, a genuine friend, at least).
- Make note of a person’s personality
- Know how to recognize different social cues
- Allow yourself comfortable lulls in conversation
- Don’t get overwhelmed
In Conclusion…Awkwardness can be overcome (with time and practice)!
Just because you are an awkward person now, doesn’t mean that you will be one forever. Sometimes, awkwardness arises from social anxiety, disability, or low self esteem, making it hard to overcome. However, if you are willing to put the work in, there are steps that you can take to ensure that you don’t feel and act awkward.