"I peed on the campfire last night, and it steamed my lady parts," I told my backpacking companions last night, in what I thought would be a helpful contribution to a conversation about relieving oneself in nature.
The response was one I'd already heard several times that weekend: "Eva! You're... something else."
I suppose it could be argued that I'm socially awkward -- though I definitely don't feel that way. And I'm pretty sure most people don't see me that way. Why? Just because you say and do awkward things... doesn't mean you have to be awkward or unpleasant to be around.
I got to thinking about this this morning, when someone asked me if social awkwardness can ever be cute or funny. And I think the answer is definitely yes.
I mean, one of the joys of humanity is each individual's quirky weirdness -- from the people I love to the ones I randomly encounter at the park, on the trails, or balling out at the gym. I love flaws and imperfections -- they're beautiful.
And what is social awkwardness, if not that?
That said, not everyone loves being socially awkward. Many people would be better off if they spent time developing their social skills. And the good news is that social skills -- like playfulness! -- are just that: skills.
Some people learn them automatically over time. Others need to actively teach themselves certain skills. But we're all capable of improvement.
But the thing is... we're all socially awkward at some time or another. And there's nothing wrong with that. Especially if you keep these five lessons in mind:
1. Be yourself -- it's awesome to just OWN your weirdness/dorkiness/awkwardness.
The joy of humanity is not that we're all exactly the same or that we're perfect all the time. The joy is those little differences between people. Instead of worrying about it or trying to hide it -- own it!
Here's a story I shared in You'd Get Invited to More Parties and Events if You Would Mingle, Instead of Cling
We are all silly in our own way. But sometimes, in the course of being "normal" or "fitting in," we repress our silliness and uniqueness.
I legit thought people would judge me for the GoPro thing. Me! The author of 3 Proven Ways to STOP Caring What Others Think About You. And, honestly, the only reason I ended up doing it was because my boyfriend wanted to, so I set aside my self-consciousness to make him happy.
Guess no one's perfect, right?
But thinking back... I'm amazed I could have ever felt that way. The Stanford Marching Band is known for the strange jokes and behaviors of its members -- who, in any other circle, might be considered “socially awkward.”
But the thing that almost every band alum I’ve ever spoken to seems to agree on is that band is the place where we felt the most accepted, exactly the way we were.
I guess that's why, no matter what happens on the field, the band always wins.
2. Social awkwardness is probably “funnier” when you’re self-aware.
"Is it cute to sometimes be socially awkward and laugh about it?" I was asked this morning.
The answer... is maybe. Sometimes.
See, owning your silliness and being who you are is great. But making other people uncomfortable… not so much.
So be self-aware about the behaviors you have that are “socially awkward.” And, just as important, be aware of how people respond to it. If talking about your lady parts getting steamed because you peed on a fire makes people laugh -- great! If it makes them shift from side to side, not sure what to say... maybe back off.
Every group of people is different, and you need to pay attention to make sure your brand of silliness/quirkiness/social awkwardness is okay in this context.
Because in most cases, self-awareness and self-depreciation are funny. Go to any comedy show ever. You'll see.
But if you aren't mindful of how you make people feel, they might end up hating you.
3. Authenticity matters.
I love uniqueness and human flaws. But I hate “weird for the sake of being weird.” Don’t be “socially awkward” as a performance. If it’s who you are, yay! Do it! Be you!
But if you’re trying to be socially awkward… that’s just awkward. Because authenticity matters! As I wrote in You May be Asking All the Right Questions, But Here’s What You’re Forgetting:
No matter how great your questions are – no matter how much interest you think you’re showing – it’s really hard to fake authenticity.
In this case, we're talking about any social situation, not specifically a date. But the same logic still applies. If you've got a "script" of how you're going to be quirky and awkward, it might rub people wrong.
I want to feel like you're being real with me -- not like you're playing games.
4. Address the elephant in the room.
I’m all about addressing the elephant.
Addressing the elephant is something that is inherently awkward. It is an intentional decision to be awkward, which kind of contradicts what I just said about not being awkward on purpose.
The way I see it, if something’s awkward, it’s awkward. Saying so… makes it way less awkward. Or, at the very least, it helps avoid social confusion and misinterpretation. As I wrote in These Specific Behaviors Will Make You More Charismatic - Starting Right Now:
When you're with someone, but you're distracted by other thoughts or emotions, people notice. Maybe your eyes glaze over, or your reactions are a little off or delayed. (It only takes 17 milliseconds to register someone's emotions.) Or maybe you're being super obvious about it and using a mobile device while "listening" to them.
Addressing the elephant helps people correctly attribute discomfort, shyness, or whatever other negative emotion you may be experiencing.
By addressing the elephant, you take something that might make the interaction unpleasant... and instead humanize yourself in their eyes. Which could help you make more friends! As I wrote in Kids Make Friends More Easily Than You. Here's Why:
They divided students into two groups. The first did typical icebreakers – e.g., “What’s your name, where are you from, what’s the last movie you saw?” The second did slightly stranger ones. Like, “Stare into your partner’s eyes without talking for one whole minute.” Or, “When was the last time you cried?”
It's like this:
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — it’s not awkward, and it doesn’t make you look dumb.
Some people are afraid to ask questions when they got lost in a conversation -- either because they think they'll look dumb, or because they think it's awkward to admit they don't know something.
For example, I was playing basketball the other night, and I met a super cool dude. Between games, I was telling him about how cool it is to work remotely a few months per year, taking all my meetings on Skype while I travel in Southeast Asia.
“But I still charge California rates! So it kind of feels like I’m making $1,000 an hour!”
“It’s like arbitrage!” he suggested.
I paused for a second. I’d heard the word before... but I didn’t remember what it meant. So instead of mumbling something meaningless and dumb, I said:
“I don’t know what that is.”
So he explained what it — basically, taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets. He gave a few examples, then I hopped in with one of my own:
“Like filling up your gas tank in Malaysia, then driving back to Singapore!”
Instead of feeling dumb I got smarter!
And! A conversation that had been very focused on me shifted, and he got to talk about something he cares about (finance and investing).
But sometimes, I’ll ask questions that are even more basic than that.
I'm a deep listener, and I interact with a lot of people. It feels like at least once a week, I find myself saying, “Hold on. I don’t even know what you’re saying right now. Fais-dodo? F-A-I….S? Spell it.”
It’s not dumb or awkward to admit you don’t know something. If anything, it shows the person you’re really listening and really want to understand what they’re saying.
Plus, it's going to be way more awkward when the conversation goes on as though you understood what the person said... and then they eventually discover you've been faking it all along.
Sure, there's a small chance the person is an insecure little dick and they'll be snarky about it. But do you really want to be friends with someone like that?
And, like, okay. Even if they are snarky about it...
There's a chance they actually aren't being snarky about it.
As Byron Katie asks in her world-famous book, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life,
1. Is it true?
2. Are you sure?
So for example, I was talking about cars with two dudes the other night. We'd been talking for hours, and we probably looked like ridiculous (not re-diculous) college students, lying on the sidewalk, looking at the stars and eating protein bars.
It was kind of epic.
So there we were, talking about cars, when I mentioned Tesla's lack of front engines and how that affects the crumple zone.
"What's a crumple zone?" Joe asked.
I glanced at Sam -- he seemed confused, too.
"Are you serious?" I asked -- not out of scorn, but because I was surprised neither of them knew about crumple zones. To be honest, I was having a brief moment of self-doubt -- perhaps it's pronounced crumble zone? Or something?
But after a quick beat, I realized the question was sincere, and I answered it.
I can easily see why my initial response could have been perceived as rude or scornful (which, of course, is why I addressed the elephant in the room and said, "Whoa -- I didn't mean for it to sound that way. I actually though maybe I had misspoken for a second.").
So the point here is... say you ask a question and you think the person was a condescending dick about it.
Is it true?
Are you sure?
There's a decent chance it is not true. They might just be confused about what you're asking; surprised that something that's common knowledge in their field isn't widely known; or experiencing their own moment of stereotype threat or self-doubt.
But! Imagine the self-doubt I would have felt if I'd made my comment about crumple zones, and both Sam and Joe said nothing, because they didn't know what I was talking about and were afraid to ask.
And, also, check out Loving What Is. Byron Katie is seriously great.
You know who is a living, breathing example of everything I just said?
She's basically a comedy genius, and it's because she:
1. Owns who she is and what's quirky, weird, and even pathetic (in relative terms) about herself.
2. Is so self-aware and self-depreciating, you can't help but love and laugh along with her.
3. Is so authentic!
4. Does not shy away from the elephant (or, in her case, alligator) in the room.
5. Asks questions -- even really awkward ones, like, "Jada, I'm driving a $20 a day rental car -- why did you think I had my own boat?!"
Everyone -- whether "socially awkward" or not -- could stand to be a bit more like Tiffany. The world would be a better place.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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