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How to stop being awkward: complete guide

How to stop being awkward

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Complete guide on how to stop being awkward and shy outlines 10 strategies and tips, and how to recognize when the problem is serious.

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How to stop being awkward: overview
How to stop being awkward: case study
How to stop being awkward: Transitions to normality
How to stop being awkward: 10 tips
How to stop being awkward: When awkwardness becomes a self-insecure personality disorder?
How to stop being awkward: Differentiation from social phobia
How to stop being awkward: Treatment of extreme awkwardness in insecure personality disorders

How to stop being awkward: overview

With awkwardness, those affected feel constantly insecure, inferior, tense and worried. At the same time, they constantly yearn for affection and to be accepted by others. They suffer from constant self-doubt and are overly sensitive to criticism and rejection. Therefore, they often avoid certain situations and activities. They only enter into close relationships with other people if they are sure that they will accept them. In contrast to most other personality disorders, those affected suffer from their behavior and often perceive it as a problem themselves, so it alleviates the problem if they know how to stop being awkward.

How to stop being awkward: case study

John is 33 years old and has been an accountant for eight years. He got this job right after graduating from university. He reports that even in his childhood he was a quiet, shy and fearful boy. Little has changed since then. In his job, he mostly works by himself, goes out to eat alone during lunch breaks and does not participate when others are talking during the breaks or making jokes in the office. His supervisor describes that Jochen does his job efficiently, but is a bit strange and a quiet loner.

John has hardly any social contacts in private life either. He hasn’t gone to parties, celebrations, or dates for five years. He only has contact with his parents and two friends he meets occasionally. He spends most of his free time alone – reading, watching TV and daydreaming. Basically, he longs for more contacts and a girlfriend, but is very afraid that new people might reject him.

It always becomes difficult for John when new employees come into the department, which is the case a couple of times every year. For some time now, a clique has formed in the office that Jochen would like to belong to. But he is also afraid of it because he is afraid that they might find him boring and that he “has nothing to offer” them. After a while, he himself becomes the target of ridicule: for several weeks he is constantly being poked by the clique. Eventually he starts absent from work, cannot complete his reports on time, and makes a lot of mistakes at work. He also often suffers from headaches and stomach upsets. Afraid of losing his job, he eventually turns to a therapist.

How to stop being awkward: Transitions to normality

People with an awkward personality style – similar to, but less pronounced than, a self-insecure personality disorder – are self-critical and tend to be cautious and reserved. They are sensitive to criticism and rejection and tend to change their own expectations and ideas when other people have different attitudes. 

How to stop being awkward: 10 tips

1. Start exposing yourself to social situations that make you feel uncomfortable

Sure, by now you have run away from the social situations that made you feel uncomfortable, which made you blush, sweat or stutter. In this way, avoiding awkward social situations, you have learned that you prefer solitude and isolation to the difficult task of relationship with others.

If you continue with this dynamic you will never be able to overcome your shyness and improve other aspects of your life – like work, academics, etc. – so you need to break this vicious circle as soon as possible. What to do is start attending parties, birthdays, and dinners with work colleagues, family, or friends, even though you don’t interact with many people at first.

The most important thing is that you learn to deal with the discomfort of having to face the presence of others and that you gradually take the initiative to deal with them effectively. Once you are used to these types of events, you will feel more confident and confident about taking the steps below.

2 – Observe your non-verbal language

Your nonverbal language can show whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable, whether you are nervous or relaxed. If you don’t want to feel like a shy, nervous, or fearful person, you could start by changing some aspects of your nonverbal language:

Keep your eyes on the other person (s).

Another indication of shyness and insecurity is not looking at another person’s eyes when talking to them. By looking others in the face, you give yourself to feedback about what you think of yourself – as the other person may show confusion, disapproval, etc.

As in the previous case where we recommended you social events, in this case you also need to do progressive direct exposure. If you find it very complicated at first – or you lose the thread of the conversation – you can gradually increase the amount of time you maintain eye contact. The goal is that the conversation is fluid and natural, not that you stay 100% of the time without looking away from the other person’s eyes. In fact, it is recommended that eye contact be maintained 60-70% of the time that is interacted. This should also be taken into account in other situations where showing appropriate non-verbal language – such as in an interview – can be very helpful.

Do not hide your hands in pockets

If you avoid showing your hands for fear of trembling or sweating, others may notice that you are uncomfortable in this situation. This is an aspect that is very much considered by politicians when they have to give a speech, as they can subconsciously convey the feeling of insecurity when they have strange behavior with their hands. It is advisable to use gentle and natural movements while speaking, without excessive gesticulation, without hiding your hands.

Use a normal tone

If you are a shy person, you have probably noticed that the tone of your voice is on the low side, sometimes making it impossible for others to hear what you are saying. While it may be difficult at first, raising your voice will help you show more confidence and confidence in others.

3. Speak for more than a minute, to start with

In the beginning, when you start having your first social contacts more often, it will be difficult for you to speak long and harshly – for fear of boring others, not knowing how to connect one topic to another, etc. .-. In this way, with these fears, you are sure to give monosyllabic answers – of the kind “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know”, among others-.

In order for your conversations to run satisfactorily and fluently, try to provide comprehensive answers that relate to the topic you are talking about. For example, if they ask you where you live instead of saying “in Madrid” you can say, “I live in Madrid, but I’m from Soria. I came here because I found work last year.” As you can see, you can give broader answers and reveal more dates of your personal life. If you find it easy to speak for more than a minute, try increasing the time or frequency with which you interact with others – talk more often and longer.

4- Make sincere compliments

Try to lose the embarrassment of complimenting other people – if they are being honest – about their skills, clothes, etc. For example, if you go to a party where the host has prepared a delicious dish, compliment them on their cooking skills, show an interest in knowing the recipe, etc. One way to continue the conversation would be to talk about other recipes that you want to know or learn. Certainly, if you start a conversation this way, you won’t have much difficulty speaking naturally and spontaneously, even on other topics of conversation.

5- Learn to receive compliments

Just as it is important that you learn to pay compliments to others, it is necessary that you learn to receive them. Therefore, instead of showing excessive humility, be grateful and flattered.

Continuing with the previous example, if someone tells you you have a good hand in the kitchen, they could explain who gave you the recipe, when you learned it, or how much time you spent on it. Accepting other people’s compliments will show you to be a less shy person, more confident, and with confidence in yourself.

6 – Use positive self-direction

It is very important that you begin to change the internal language that you maintain with yourself. Sure, until now you’ve always said phrases like, “Everyone will realize how embarrassed I am” or “I’m going to make a fool of myself by speaking publicly”. As you can imagine, this type of thinking goes far from preventing you from helping you achieve your goal and from developing appropriate social behavior.

To avoid these catastrophic thoughts, you can begin to modify them through self-directions of courage and effectiveness, which consists of:

  • Before you start interacting, think about what you can do and that if you blush, nothing will happen.
  • During social interaction, you need to tell yourself how well you are doing so that you gain greater confidence.
  • Finally, at the end of the interaction, stick to the most positive aspects so that you are aware that you can speak effectively to others. As for the negatives, you need to take them into account to improve them in back-to-back interactions.

7-Sign up for a sport or group activity

Having good experiences with others, interacting in a perceptual environment, will help you change the way you view social relationships. Try to find an activity that suits your interests and skills instead of choosing a competitive sport that doesn’t appeal to you.

Sure, knowing people who share your hobbies and interests will be a lot easier to relate to. This is also a great opportunity to connect with other people in your spare time, with the added benefit of not knowing them before and allowing you to “start over” in your relationship – without being considered shy or withdrawn.

8-Do not think that your life is not interesting

Many people who display shy or withdrawn attitudes pretend that it is more interesting to listen to other people’s lives than to talk about their own. If so, try to appreciate how interesting your life and personal experience can be.

Avoid sentences like “my work is very monotonous” or “my life is very boring” and think about everything that can arouse interest in others, about the anecdotes of your last trip, the book you read, a movie that you are hilarious were etc. If you stop thinking about it, you will have plenty of topics to talk about that might interest others.

9-Focus on the outside, not the inside

For the conversation to be fluid, you need to focus on the topic of conversation, what the other is saying and what you want to convey. When you focus your attention on yourself, what others think of you, whether your hands are trembling or sweating, the conversation becomes an awkward moment for you and those who are listening to you.

Another thing to keep in mind is to focus on the here and now. Don’t allow your mind to be elsewhere, but rather in front of the person who is speaking to you and focusing on the conversation you are having. Therefore, try to be as natural and spontaneous as possible so that you can enjoy while interacting.

10 – Learn to appreciate your achievements

Awkwardness is a personality trait, a way of being and relating to the world that you have learned from your first social interactions. It’s quite a fluid dimension so it won’t be easy for you to stop being awakward immediately, but it will come with practice.

When awkwardness becomes a self-insecure personality disorder?

According to the DSM, those affected have a profound pattern of social inhibition and a constant feeling of inadequacy and are overly sensitive to negative assessments. At least four of the following criteria must be met:

  1. Fear of criticism, disapproval or rejection, those affected avoid professional activities that involve closer interpersonal contacts.
  2. They are reluctant to get involved with people if they are not sure that they will be liked.
  3. They behave cautiously, even in intimate relationships, for fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed.
  4. You are deeply afraid of being criticized or rejected in social situations.
  5. They are inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of their feelings of inadequacy.
  6. They consider themselves to be socially awkward, personally unattractive and inferior to other people.
  7. You avoid personal risks and new ventures because they could prove shameful.

In the ICD-10, the disorder is described in a very similar way to the DSM.

Differentiation from social phobia

An insecure personality disorder is similar in many ways to a social phobia . The main difference, however, is that the symptoms here are more profound, persist longer and are more likely to be experienced by those affected as part of their personality. The fears relate to a wide variety of social situations, and self-esteem is very low.

In the case of a social phobia, on the other hand, there are fears in certain concrete situations (for example fear of public speaking, insecurity towards strangers). In addition, a social phobia can only arise later in life, is less experienced as part of one’s own personality and is often completely regressed through therapy.

How common is awkwardness as an insecurity personality disorder?

The frequency of self-insecure personality disorder is around one to two percent of the population. Men and women are probably equally affected. Depression or anxiety disorders often occur at the same time as the disorder . It is also often associated with an addict or borderline personality disorder.

What are possible causes of being awkward

As with the other personality disorders, an interplay of biological, psychological and environmental factors is assumed. Studies suggest that genetically, those affected tend to feel restless, tense, nervous, and easily vulnerable internally. If there are also negative psychological or social influences, this can favor the development of the disorder.

Psychoanalysis and behavior therapy see causes in childhood

From the point of view of psychoanalysis, a pejorative and unemotional behavior on the part of the parents or a tendency to ridicule their children contribute to the development of the disorder. This behavior means that those affected devalue themselves, develop no self-esteem and tend to have negative and self-critical thoughts.

Cognitive behavioral therapy also sees a cause of the problem in the fact that those affected repeatedly experienced rejection and criticism in their childhood. As a result, they have developed a negative self-image and negative thought patterns about themselves. For fear of devaluation, from now on they avoid friendships and all kinds of social contacts. This leads to them developing poor social skills, feeling inadequate in many situations, and becoming more and more withdrawn over time.

Treatment of insecure personality disorders

Psychotherapeutic approaches

Insecure personality disorder is primarily treated with psychotherapy, and it can often be of great help to those affected. Because many suffer from their behavior, they are often willing to start therapy on their own and work particularly well with it. Methods similar to those used in treating social phobia and other anxiety disorders are used in therapy.

With a self-insecure personality disorder, however, long-term psychotherapy is often necessary in order to achieve sufficient changes.

Possible problems in psychotherapy and possible solutions

A problem in therapy can be that patients fear that they are not really liked and accepted or that the therapist will reject them. As a result, they often begin to avoid therapy sessions or stop therapy altogether. It is therefore important to establish a good therapeutic relationship in which the therapist is appreciative, empathetic, and supportive.

It is often more difficult for those affected than for those with a social phobia to get involved in therapy measures or to initiate changes. They often have pronounced fears and self-doubts and do not dare to engage in certain therapy methods. Therapy should therefore be proceeded in small steps and patients should be given enough time to decide on a therapeutic measure for themselves.

Psychoanalytic and deep psychological therapy

In the case of a self-insecure personality disorder, both long-term psychoanalytic therapy and short-term depth psychological therapy can be used. It is seen as helpful if the “transference” between therapist and patient is made an issue in therapy – that is, the relationship between therapist and patient is used to uncover and change typical problems and insecurities in relationships. In addition, the biographical developmental conditions of the disorder can also be processed during the course of therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered to be the most effective therapeutic approach in treating the disorder. At the beginning of the therapy, the patients are first informed about the causes, typical symptoms and consequences of social fears and self-insecurity, which is also known as psychoeducation.

An important part of the therapy is the training of social skills. It can boost patients’ self-esteem and teach them skills that will help them cope better with various social situations. For this purpose, specific instructions, behavioral exercises and role plays with video feedback are often used.

Working on unfavorable thought patterns can help to change negative perceptions of those affected about themselves and their environment. In doing so, they learn to question general negative views (for example, “I am incapable” or “I am unattractive”) and to replace them with more positive and differentiated views. Furthermore, the therapy works on changing typical everyday problems of the patient.

People can also learn to change physical symptoms of their anxiety and insecurity, such as sweating or flushing. In the paradoxical intervention, they are supposed to observe these symptoms closely and intentionally cause or increase them. In most cases, this leads to habituation and a decrease in anxiety. Confronting different fearful situations can also help to reduce fear.

If those affected already feel significantly more self-confident and have acquired new social skills, later in therapy they can be encouraged to think about longer-term goals in their life and ways to achieve them.

Group therapy

In group therapy, patients can practice dealing with social situations together with like-minded people. So social skills training can be carried out well in a group. The behavior of the other group participants can serve as a model on which the patients can learn new behaviors (e.g. more self-confident appearance). In the group they can exchange their experiences, give each other support and learn to deal with feedback from other people and to give feedback themselves (e.g. praise or constructive criticism).

Therapy with psychotropic drugs

In some cases, antidepressants are used to accompany psychotherapy . They can help reduce patient anxiety and discomfort. In most cases, however, no long-term improvements can be achieved with drugs alone.