You can feel the dread settling in right as you make plans to go out. Anxiety hums in the back of your brain leading up to the outing. On the way home, you beat yourself up for acting “weird” and saying all the wrong things. Sounds familiar?
Not to be confused with social anxiety, a distressing medical condition, social awkwardness is something everyone experiences every now and then. If you’re not a social butterfly, there’s a good chance you’ve felt uncomfortable when out and about before. That said, our brains have a fun tendency to zoom in on the negative – so I’m sure you’re better at being in the world than you give yourself credit for.
Don’t believe me? Here are 12 signs you’re not as socially awkward as you think.
1) You’re aware of your shortcomings
They say that awareness is the first step toward change. While I’m not saying that a change is actually necessary, knowing that you don’t excel at social interactions means that you’re doing much better than the people who don’t.
You’ve seen them: they bring up delicate topics, they don’t know when to shut up, and they have no idea that others find them peculiar. Not you!
You’re acutely aware of the fact that talking to strangers or being a part of a big group aren’t your strongest qualities. As a result, you compensate by making an extra effort to put your best foot forward when meeting someone new.
This brings me to my next point on the list.
2) You prepare for social situations
The more homework you do before engaging in a social situation, the less likely it is to experience awkwardness. You know this well, and you always make it a point to prepare before heading out to socialize.
Depending on the event, your pre-going out ritual probably looks something like this:
- You research the venue beforehand: getting there, the parking situation, the menu
- You ask about other guests
- You come up with a list of fun conversation topics, just in case
- You carefully pick an outfit that helps you fit in and feel good
- You meditate beforehand to calm your nerves
All this preparation pays off.
3) People keep inviting you to places
If you’re really as socially awkward as you think, would you keep getting invited to stuff? Weddings. Parties. After-work drinks. I’m guessing not so much.
Quite the contrary: people would stop seeking out your company unless they have no other choice. The fact that your friends, co-workers, relatives, or casual acquaintances keep trying to make plans with you is a clear sign that you’re doing something right.
4) You can make small talk
I loathe small talk. I’m more likely to ask a stranger if they believe in parallel universes than politely inquire about their job. Nothing bores me more than talking about the weather, comparing hometowns, or commenting on whatever sporting event is in the news that week.
And yet, I can successfully engage in small talk if the situation calls for it. In fact, I’ve developed a foolproof strategy that gets people talking:
Ask about their kids and/or pets
Ask about the TV show they’re currently binge-watching
Ask about the best meal they ever had
If you have a similar strategy, as well as the ability to chat about nothing for at least 5 minutes, you’re not as socially awkward as you think.
5) You have strong opinions…
Having strong opinions about a topic makes you appear self-assured, a quality people are generally drawn to. Whatever it is, you’re not afraid to speak up when you’re among people and one of your interests comes up. As long as you don’t go overboard, your passion wins you charisma points and dilutes awkwardness.
6) … but know when to dial it down
Speaking of going overboard, you know when to tone those strong opinions down. You even know when to walk away from a social situation that has the potential to explode.
Let’s face it: some people are too mean-spirited, stubborn, or conceited to welcome a different belief with an open mind. If you find yourself socializing with someone who fits that description, you don’t insist on getting your point across. Instead, you change the subject or extricate yourself from the situation. That’s a strong sign that you can handle social interactions with grace.
7) You can read nonverbal cues
A lot of socially awkward people have difficulty understanding body language. They can’t tell if a person is defensive, annoyed, or anxious. They don’t notice crossed arms and fidgeting or have difficulty translating microexpressions.
If you can read body language, at least most of the time, you’re doing much better than you think. And if you employ nonverbal cues to make yourself appear more relaxed? You maintain eye contact, keep an open posture, and smile often? Then your social game is on a whole other level.
8) You’re an active listener
People like to feel heard, so active listeners automatically have the upper hand when engaging in social interactions. Therefore, if you:
- Don’t interrupt someone in the middle of a story
- Occasionally nod your head to encourage them to say more
- Ask questions to further the conversation
- Summarize the speaker’s comments regularly
- And don’t rudely stare at your phone while they talk
Well done! You might not be a social butterfly, but your awkwardness isn’t as obvious as you think.
9) You can make fun of yourself
Self-deprecating humour makes you more approachable and fun to be around. I’m not suggesting that someone should constantly put themselves down for the pleasure of others. However, making a joke at your own expense from time to time shows that you don’t take everything too seriously.
In response, people become excited to spend time in your company. If you’ve already figured this out and know how to use self-deprecating humour in your favour, you’re already more socially savvy than most.
10) You have a filter
There’s a good chance you know someone who says every little thought out loud, usually with no regard for how it can be interpreted. They forget that there’s a thin line between speaking your mind and oversharing.
Thankfully, you prevent yourself from crossing it, which makes you much more adept at interacting with others than you assume. You think twice whenever you’re about to contribute something in a conversation, especially when you hang out with strangers. That filter you have? It’s a godsend.
11) You made a new friend in the last 5 years
Making new friends get increasingly trickier with age. People become busier, more stressed, and less tolerant of others. Once you’re out of school, striking up a new friendship that stands the test of time should be celebrated. Not only that, but it shows that you have the required social skills to expand your friendship group, even if you don’t give yourself enough credit for it.
So, if you made a new friend in the last few years, and you still hang out regularly? Your social skills aren’t too shabby.
12) You’re comfortable in your skin
Being authentic is a surefire way to attract others. Do you know why? Because many people care more about being liked than being real. Consequently, they put up a front that prevents others from seeing their true self – and they often come across as fake and disingenuous. If you strive to be a genuine person, you’re already less socially awkward than you think. This can mean:
- Sharing those strong opinions we already talked about
- Not worrying about pleasing everyone you talk to
- Being honest when you disagree with someone
- Admitting when you had a rough day or are in a bad mood
As an added bonus, the connections you make are that much stronger.