Thought Catalog

10 Ways To Be Less Awkward

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As a lanky, gangly human being with rather large hands and feet — I’m the physical epitome of awkward. In addition, I’m often tentative, unsure of myself, indecisive and sporadically shy. This results in the occasional awkward moment when I’m in a social environment. Over my years of experience, I’ve developed a few techniques that can reduce the uneasy vibes radiating from an awkward body.

1. Either don’t initiate any hugs or handshakes, or initiate all of them. Part of being awkward is devastatingly bad timing and hesitance when extending a hand or arms to greet someone. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to play off being snubbed, so don’t even put yourself in that position. If you can’t firmly decide to either go in for the fist bumps, high fives, embraces etc. — don’t bother! Extending a hand and having it return to yourself untouched is easily in life’s ten most embarrassing moments.

2. Always keep your phone on you. An awkward person with a cell phone in a social environment is the equivalent of MacGyver having a Swiss Army knife in a bind. You’re instantly resourceful. It allows us the ability to occupy ourselves using various apps and games or pretending to be texting. This serves as a brilliant coping mechanism to deal with being in an uncomfortable setting. 

3. Be early. If you’ve ever shown up to an event late, you’re aware of how difficult it can be to ingratiate yourself into the festivities. Everyone seems to already be acquainted with each other and you struggle to take part in conversations. If you arrive early, there’s nobody there who you haven’t met — thus, you’re in a position to be the most popular person in the joint.

4. Ask questions. Some aren’t great at conversing; others become particularly nervous speaking to certain individuals. A helpful way to avoid babbling, stumbling over your words, and coming off as a tense person is to put the pressure on others. Let them talk. All you do is listen, and generate a response — in the form of a question. They describe their nostalgic stories of fishing with their father as a child for 10 minutes, then you ask “How large was the biggest fish you ever caught?” Boom — another 10 minutes of conversation generated. Eventually you’ll grow more comfortable and feel compelled to discuss yourself as well.

5. If you can’t recognize the temperature, avoid playing the role of weatherman. If you’re uncertain about the type of sense of humor those you’re interacting with have, don’t tell jokes. Oftentimes attempts at wittiness around the wrong people come off as uncalled for or inappropriate. Know or have a good idea of the mood and feel of your surroundings before practicing your standup routine.

6. Don’t think about screw-ups. Emphasize your attention on the positive aspects of your experience. While it can be difficult to make it through a social event when certain things have gone wrong, or you’ve embarrassed yourself — focus on what’s gone right. Be progressive. Encouraging yourself and recognizing that you’ve done well in some areas will go a long way.

7. Worry less about others’ opinions. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but you’ve got to. Even if that means having a drink or two to loosen up, you must force yourself to refrain from caring. If we’re worried in advance about what he or she will think of us, we’ll try to live up to their expectations (which are probably incredibly high, if they were created by our self-conscious minds). It’ll be straining and that rarely ever works out well. Keep it natural and authentic. Although there is one thing you can force…

8. Be extraordinarily friendly. Smile. Smile some more. Then follow that up with a little more smiling. Seriously, people thoroughly enjoy being around a flat out nice, happy person. That’s why Will Smith and Ellen DeGeneres are so appealing. Even if you start out imitating happiness, eventually it can turn into the real thing. Sometimes pretending like you know what you’re doing leads to somehow, actually knowing what you’re doing. It’s the same with emulating joy. Fake it ‘til it’s real.

9. Don’t try to ease the awkward silences. When something uncomfortable or rude is said — whether it’s by yourself or another person — silence may occur. When nobody is laughing at a punch line, or has no response to a slightly offensive comment, don’t even attempt to fill that void. Doing so can, and probably will result in some excruciating discomfort. There truly are some instances where silence is golden — especially if it’s somebody else who’s responsible for the awkward quietness. However, if you initiated the anxiousness, just wait a few seconds and a new topic will arise.

10. Get out of the house! It’s a lot easier to say something bold over Facebook chat than it is in person. As a result, our generation has spawned a massive amount of awkwardness. Many don’t feel comfortable functioning in public, or holding a conversation that’s not behind a keyboard. The only way to get used to social environments is repetition. The more you talk to people face-to-face, the easier it’ll get. As an occasionally anxious person, I assure you that this can be done if you have confidence… or shots of tequila. That always helps. TC Mark

image – Superbad

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    • http://twitter.com/mexifrida FC

      I am using every one of these tips this fall.. Especially the asking questions one and smiling a lot. Should be obvious but it’s easier when you read it from someone else and know if others do it, you can.

    • ditchthemarriage

      I LOVE these! I can be incredibly awkward, especially in the office. In fact when there was a lull in a conversation in a business meeting where I was only there to “meet and greet” I turned for the door just as the client was saying something to me, grr!

    • Asdf

      Smartphones are a blessed gift to awkward situations. Awkward silence? Break out the Angry Birds.

      i do take exception with #3, if you’re an introvert. It’s that awkward part where you have to think of something to say to someone you don’t know and they’ve the expectation of learning something about you. I like to strike it in the middle — just in time. That way I’m not late, nothing’s started and there’s a crowd in which I can disappear into should the need arise.

      • http://twitter.com/iamnzane Marissa Zane (@iamnzane)

        Exactly! That’s just what I was going to say. This article is so great, although I feel the opposite with #3.

        I’ve become notorious for being late to everything, which is partly accidental and partly purposeful. I don’t like feeling forced to talk to people when I don’t want to, so coming late to things puts a lot less pressure on me to be talkative, and I can kind of just slip right into the midst of things.

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    • Marissa

      this may well be the most useful article on TC

    • LexiB

      Something to keep in mind and I don’t know if this is common or not but I am an extreme extrovert and nothing can shut me up and make me feel more self-conscious than an introvert. It’s that “We’re more afraid of you than you are of us” It’s a lot of pressure sensing that you are going to have to keep things going.

      • emily8305

        As another extrovert, I have extreme anxiety when having to converse with an introvert. I don’t shut up, and in turn make an awkward situation a thousand times more awkward. We are more afraid of you than you are of us!!

        • Holly

          We’re not afraid of you, we just dont want to hear you ramble for hours. You don’t have to keep anything going, I promise, just let the conversation happen. Like it said in the article you don’t have to fill akward silences.

    • http://eugeneelder.blogspot.com donelder

      #3 is a bold choice. Sure, it gives you more opportunity to bond with people before everyone else shows up, but it puts a lot more pressure on you to be interesting.

      #4 is the only one I really take issue with, though. Most of the “research” will tell you that most of us actually prefer being told things by people we don’t know than asked questions. Questions can be a burden to answer and it can feel uncomfortable to start telling your life to a stranger. It’s better to give before you take.

      • Ve

        #4. Depends. Some people like being asked questions, depending on what the question is, although I agree that I hate it when someone who doesn’t know me and honestly doesn’t care all that much about me asks me what I’m doing with my life. This advice is good if you’re awkward around friends, or if your friends aren’t very good conversationalists. ideally you ask questions until a conversation develops and the questions aren’t as needed except to expand/elaborate.

    • Guesty Guest

      I like everything about this, except the statements about how some alcohol will loosen you up. It’s true… but we awkward introverts have to be careful not to start to use alcohol as a crutch. It’s easy to take some shots and be the life of the party, but that can definitely also backfire and make you look like an asshat… AND potentially become an addiction. I get that you were kind of joking, but a lot of budding alcoholics rely on a few drinks to become sociable.

    • http://gladelf.wordpress.com GladElf

      Don’t forget: Embrace your awkwardness. My brother and I both experience social awkwardness due to the fact that we were homeschooled and our social circle, while not tiny, was a bit smaller than most. Our friends love our awkwardness. Especially my giant of a brother’s. Somehow it combines with his slight helping of natural charm and becomes endearing to those who know him.

    • Casye

      Re: 3. Show up early. What if my awkwardness extends to include a crippling anxiety about showing up to anything early?

    • CC

      11. Record yourself. Watch/listen. Improve. Repeat.
      12. Sell things face to face in your free time. Study selling.

    • Guest

      I was expecting this to be silly, but it was actually incredibly helpful. Interaction with strangers is always a struggle for me. Thanks.

    • http://justdancebitch.wordpress.com Patsy Ketsy

      I’d disagree with number 2. Whipping your cellphone out in public, or in other situations makes you unapproachable. It makes the person using it feel less awkward, but in retrospect, from other people’s eyes, it’s pretty awkward “pretending.”

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    • Peaceandlove

      I feel like 5 and 7 somewhat contradict each other. I suppose erring on the side of caution could be handy in some situations. But the more you be yourself, the more you will find yourself in company that you truly enjoy. Who really cares if someone doesn’t get your witty jokes. Just accept the fact you weren’t supposed to be best friends and move on.

    • Colin

      Being a guy who was afraid of leaving the house, having nervous ticks, and used to do all of these; to someone who’s performed in every night club downtown, runs his own business, and about to be on TV in a few months. I would say find what you like and do it, not the other way around. Don’t do what others like or want, do what you like or want. You want to hug someone, hug them. You want to tell a joke, tell it. Either you’ll find others who click with you or you’ll learn how to naturally do those things if you keep at it. I made it a point to shake everyone’s hand i met, later I made it a point to hug people till I felt comfortable doing it. Take every failure as a lesson, take every awkward moment as a chance to get it out of your system. Be ‘awkward’ if you are. Don’t be afraid to say the wrong thing, just remember to learn from it afterwards. And CC is right, record your voice, record yourself, write your thoughts and then go back over them. They will help you see yourself, and you’ll learn that when you thought you were making a relaxed face, you look mad/sad/angry/happy/etc. And also do read sales books, they are all about being less awkward.

    • brijesht

      Reblogged this on Brijesht’s Weblog.

    • brijesht

      Reblogged this on A blog by Brijesh.

    • anonyspirt

      I am a 61 year old psych nurse. In my early 20’s I was painfully shy after a bad relationship. I found that listening and becoming comfortable with silence were two of the best lessons I ever learned. Also, learning to laugh at oneself, and challinging oneself to overcome fears by just getting out and doing what you fear the most go a long way having a long and happy life. I also agree with the Colon, the comedian. Go with what you like, find people who enjoy the same things or have a similiar sense of humor, and akwardness vanishes.

    • http://www.halfbakedpotatoes.com Half Baked Potatoes

      Thanks for the tips. The problem is I always forget stuff like this when I get into one of these situations. Like a stupid deer in the headlights.

      Half Baked Potatoes

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