There is no doubt that you’ve acted “socially awkward” at least once in your life. This is by no means an accusation!
Social awkwardness is something almost every person in the world suffers from at one point or the other. It happens more frequently to people than you may imagine.
Trying to get to know a stranger, going on a first date, or just being in a crowded place are all examples of situations that can naturally put you in an awkward position. But if you consistently feel that way in a new environment, that might be a sign of an important issue you’re dealing with and that you need to overcome.
Keep in mind that there is no harm in admitting that you are socially inept. Contrarily, admittance is the first step to improvement.
Also, finding out that you may be socially inept doesn’t have to be scary, as long as you take action. In this article, we’ll cover all the causes, behavior examples, and vital tips to build up your social skills.
Let’s get into it.
What does it mean to be socially inept?
First and foremost, a clarification of the definition is in order.
Too many people tend to confuse social awkwardness with social anxiety, the latter of which is on the more serious side of things. Both these instances, however, involve the fear of judgment at their core.
Being socially inept means that you may lack the skill and ability to act “adequately” in a social setting. It means simply that you are deviating from what is considered socially acceptable.
Why does it happen?
It’s mostly formed of your own overthinking of what others may think about your appearances. As we have already mentioned, the main reason is the fear of being judged on your behavior.
The reasons for this may be:
- lack of experience in social situations (usually a consequence of isolation);
- fear of presenting your true personality (negative past experiences in social situations often lead to people turning away from socializing and avoiding interactions altogether);
- lack of confidence;
- absence of healthy relationships in your life;
- various other reasons.
Being socially inept can pretty much prevent you from interacting with others, mostly because of the thought that others may ridicule you.
Many situations may trigger your inner awkwardness, such as:
- meeting new people,
- suddenly becoming the center of attention in a large group,
- giving a public speech or presentation,
- trying out a new activity, etc.
Some people have learned how to act in these situations while growing up by watching others along the way. Others have not, and they haven’t adapted to the socially acceptable standards of behavior.
Now that we understand the terminology, let’s find out about the seven signs you may be socially inept.
How to know if you’re socially inept?
Being socially inept is certainly not a mental health issue and can’t be treated as one. It’s not even in any diagnostic criteria that you can get diagnosed of.
If we break it down, being socially inept is more like a combination of long-term feelings and patterned experience. We form these by various life events, and they sure do vary from time to time.
Nevertheless, researchers have gathered around the most common reasons for how we can recognize this issue.
Here are the seven signs you should pay attention to:
Sign #1 – People seem to avoid you or end conversations quickly.
At one point or another, we have all experienced this in our lives. The issue arises when we notice a pattern.
Are people running away from conversations with you regularly?
If you plan on overcoming social awkwardness, it is important to decipher why they are trying to avoid you.
The reason may be because your body language is too tense, or you are struggling with making small talk. Because of this, the person may try to look for a more engaging conversation partner.
Sign #2 – There are awkward silences in the conversations you have.
Once again, awkward silence is a common element of most conversations people have. The question is, once again: how often does it happen to you?
It may happen from time to time if you’ve exhausted all the topics for small talk. You may freeze up in most social interactions, and your mind goes blank. In cases like this, you never know what to say.
People may fall silent after you speak, and the conversation may pick up as if you never said anything. People may easily talk over you in group settings.
Sign #3 – You don’t understand the importance of timing.
One of the biggest signs you may be socially inept is that you don’t understand the timing in conversations and disrupt the flow of natural, relaxed talk.
If you are guilty of it, you are actively making it difficult for other people to contribute, and they end up not wanting to talk to you.
Do any of these situations often happen to you:
- You told a joke way too late, and nobody laughed because of it.
- You jumped into a conversation without paying attention to the atmosphere, and everyone gave you a weird look.
- You say inappropriate things that make other people uncomfortable.
- You don’t understand the body language of people around you.
- You don’t know when to stop talking.
- You don’t know how much eye contact is enough – you either stare or look away all the time.
There are many instances that can show you that you don’t understand timing well enough. We are sure even more examples have popped into your head as you were going through the list.
Sign #4 – Common social interactions make you nervous.
Whenever you have to interact with somebody, you may be praying for time to go faster, for the event to end as soon as possible so you can leave.
You may even start to sweat or feel physically uncomfortable in such instances.
If somebody senses how awkward you are, they may not be willing to go too far in their interaction with you – after all, it may drain their energy as well.
Sign #5 – Sometimes, you say things you end up regretting later.
If you are socially inept, you likely spend way too much time overthinking every little comment you made.
You are afraid to show your true personality, and you often try hard to be someone you are not. This behavior only leads you to overthink, destroy any trace of natural charisma you have, and appear very awkward.
While it is important to reflect on what you said to make sure you didn’t miss any negative social cues, it can be unhealthy after a certain point. With that thought constantly weighing at the back of your mind, you may not be able to converse and interact naturally.
Sign #6 – You don’t understand group dynamics.
Whenever you find yourself in a group of people, you feel as if you can never say the right thing. Even if you add a comment related to the main point of the conversation, it somehow still only gets you weird looks from other people in the group.
The most common reason for this is that you don’t understand the flow of group conversations well enough.
Let’s say people are talking about their favorite movies about dogs. Everybody’s laughing, remembering old, nostalgic movies. Maybe someone mentions a few sad scenes they cried to when they were little.
Then you bluntly jump in with your story about how your dog once bit your neighbor, and she had to go to the hospital.
There come those few seconds of silence and uncomfortable stairs. Someone may say something like ‘Wow, that’s cool’ as they awkwardly try to get back to the movie talk they were enjoying.
See how that was awkward?
You need to understand more than just the main topic of the conversation. There are certain levels to it and different emotional values.
In this specific case, everyone was trying to share their memories of watching dog movies and emotionally connect over the nostalgia. Personal stories about your dog biting another human being feel off in this context.
All it does is show that you are more interested in being involved in the conversation than adding value to the group dynamics.
Sign #7 – You have the same circle of friends you have had for a long time.
We are not saying that you should abandon your friends after a specific number of years. However, if you haven’t met or connected with anyone new in the last five or ten years, something may be off.
Social interactions can truly be daunting for many people, and the thought of getting to know someone from scratch may not be the most positive. However, that is exactly what might be holding you back from being a social butterfly. Hanging out with new people now and then is crucial to your emotional intelligence and general social skills.
Your old friends may work around your awkwardness, but that does not mean that it does not make them uncomfortable at times.
Socially inept behavior examples
It certainly can be hard to notice your condition of being socially inept in yourself.
That’s because most of the time, you’re not even aware that you need to notice some social cues and act towards them. Instead of figuring out what’s wrong, you just feel like not fitting with people.
Even though being socially inept isn’t a bad thing by itself, it can become a problematic issue and lead to unwanted consequences in your interactions. They might include:
- Upsetting, insulting, or making people feel awkward
- Overthinking way too much and figuring out what you did wrong after most social situations
- Being in awkward situations way too frequently
- Feeling lonely because you are unable to start conversations with people and keep them going
- Having a feeling of rejection from others
- Being stressed about every interaction with new people
These are some of the problems faced by socially inept people.
But to overcome them, you don’t have to change who you are. All you have to do is build new habits that reduce the stress around social activities, which is how you can beat social awkwardness once and for all.
How to overcome social ineptness?
Tip #1 – Face your issues.
There is a reason we have put this on the top of our list.
There are two different behaviors when you face something awkward:
- avoiding your mistake
- addressing it properly
And research has shown that ignoring your problems never helps. It only postpones your problem that keeps coming back.
It brings back your feeling of social ineptness and makes your future interaction full of difficulties.
So, the best advice would be to face your awkward situations head-on and accept them from the inside. The acknowledgment doesn’t have to be a serious matter, you can also take it as a joke, but you do have to acknowledge it.
Tip #2 – Practice.
Contrary to popular belief, social skills don’t always come naturally to everybody.
This is evident in the name itself. Social skills, just like any skills, require practice. You may have grown up in an environment that did not call for much interaction. Now, however, is the time to change that.
Although the task seems challenging – if not straight-up terrifying – it is crucial that you force yourself to get out of your house and converse with people. The only way you can get the hang of holding a conversation is through trial and error.
If you feel like struggling with social interactions, there are helpful ways to make them easier. You’ll have to practice conversations with someone close and whom you trust. It can certainly help you with your communication skills and ease up your doubt about yourself. The practices can include:
- practice recognizing cues on when to start a conversation
- practicing joining a conversation
- practice noticing when a conversation is over
- practice changing the subject of the discussion easily and smoothly
- practice on when to avoid interrupting someone
- practice reading basic body language
These can certainly help you recognize when people are interested, bored, or uncomfortable while having a conversation. And it can certainly help you avoid awkwardness in front of people.
You can also help yourself by:
- learning from social communication done by others;
- teaming up with someone skilled in social situations and learn from them;
- joining a social skills class;
- getting help from people you trust;
- getting involved in more social situations to learn;
- running mind simulations on different social situations and practice with friends and family.
Tip #3 – Don’t exhaust yourself.
Although you need to push your limits, it is equally important to make sure you don’t exhaust yourself with social interactions.
It should be fun, not physically and mentally taxing.
You don’t need to talk to every single person you see. Try to talk to people who seem interested in you and who you find interesting.
The key is to accept that not everyone will be interested in talking to you, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Tip #4 – Ask your friends to help you.
You likely know somebody who is more social than yourself.
In that case, don’t hesitate to accompany your closest friends to social events. They will take the lead, and you will learn a lot about how to hold a conversation and keep people interested in the topic.
Try practicing with friends as well. Ask them how they handle certain situations and add those skills to your repertoire. As important as it is to have your close friends by your side, you need to step out of your comfort zone – who knows what amazing friendships may blossom!
Tip #5 – Dig deeper.
Finding out more and learning about social ineptness can always help you sort out your communication issues.
It can also help you accept this unique part of yourself to be prepared for similar future issues.
There are a lot of things you can do to dig deeper about being socially inept:
- You can go to your nearby library or a local bookstore to find more about it.
- You can find a mentor if you have someone in your family or close circle of friends.
- You can read useful online resources (such as our blog!).
- You can watch videos on Youtube – there are a lot of great channels about social skills.
- You can watch movies with incredibly charismatic characters and observe how they behave.
The list goes on and on. The main idea is that you need to put in the effort and time.
Tip #6 – Remind yourself that you are not alone.
Social ineptness happens to everyone, whether you believe it or not. And it might happen to people you would never have guessed.
There aren’t exactly accurate statistics to show you how many people have this issue, but it’s certainly safe to assume that the fact is true.
Imagine dropping your groceries at your grocery store in front of everyone. There is broken stuff everywhere, and it’s just a mess already. You may be embarrassed, and your every instinct will tell you to run away, leaving your grocery there, but here’s the thing. Even though we’ve made the whole story up, it already happened to a lot of people.
You’re not the first person to be socially inept, and countless people also have this issue. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to give up and run away.
The difference between most people and you is that you’re certainly reading this article because you became aware of being socially inept and others didn’t yet.
That means you’re already a lot of steps ahead of them, and that’s the most important part. And you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that you’re not alone and this isn’t something that will never go away. It’ll certainly go away once you start working on it.
Tip #7 – Stay in the moment.
A lot of socially inept people tend to lose their thoughts and spiral away into their overthinking habits.
The best advice here is to learn to stay and pay attention to the present.
Smile more and keep having eye contact with the people you’re communicating with. It can boost your confidence and work wonders.
You can also consider mindfulness techniques that will certainly enhance your focus in a lot of ways. Mindfulness can help you concentrate on your surroundings and make sure that you don’t lose anything important.
Listening to people and enhancing your non-verbal skills will certainly help you stay in the present so that you can recognize different social cues as well.
Now you are fully equipped to battle your social awkwardness. But have you ever wondered if it is indeed all bad?
Does social ineptness have any benefits?
You may not believe it, but there are some positive sides to being socially inept.
Basic instinct can help you improve.
If you get into unexpected situations that make you feel uncomfortable and awkward, it can make you want to leave the place ASAP.
Research has shown that this kind of feeling acts as a basic instinct, a mechanism of warning you that something might not be right. It can also tell you that you might be about to cross or approach a certain social boundary.
It can even cause physical symptoms, including panic, anxiety, a fast heartbeat, nausea, and muscle tension.
But you may object that we were talking about the positive sides of being socially inept, while these don’t sound so beneficial. And you’re not fully wrong, but these feelings can certainly motivate you to take immediate action at the moment.
It can also help you prevent similar mistakes in the future and raise your communication skills by learning from your mistakes.
It is important to remember not to beat yourself up about social awkwardness. Sometimes, you may not even be the cause of the awkwardness that settles over a group.
Accepting your social ineptness is likely to make others relax a bit, too. If you are comfortable being yourself, then so will everybody else.
Which of the tips we mentioned did you find the most useful?
Let us know by leaving a comment below right away!