How to Hold Conversations With Awkward People

A person who is awkward may have social anxiety.
... Getty Images/Photodisc/Getty Images

Conversations with awkward people can be draining. You've been in the situation -- a guy in class only gives you one-word answers, won't look you in the eye and nervously fidgets while talking. Although being around a person who is awkward can be difficult, it doesn't mean that he doesn't have anything to offer as a friend. If you can be patient and understanding, you may find that a kind and gentle soul is hiding just beneath the surface.

1 Don't Rush

People who are socially awkward during conversations may suffer with shyness. Those who are shy take longer to warm up to new situations and people, writes Indiana University Southeast professor Bernardo Carducci on "Psychology Today" online. The awkward guy in your class might just feel nervous because he doesn't know you very well -- so give him time to adjust. If you try talking a little bit more each day, you should eventually find that the conversations get easier.

2 Show an Interest

When a conversation is awkward, you can make the other person feel more comfortable by conveying a friendly attitude, asserts Show a genuine interest in the other person by listening carefully to what she has to say, asking questions and picking up on mutual interests. If you find a topic about which she has a passion, you might find that the awkwardness slips away. Talking about a favorite subject helps most people to relax, so be prepared to chat away about her mountain bike hobby or coin collection -- whatever puts her most at ease.

3 Use Humor

Humor can be helpful to break the ice when talking to someone who is awkward. Use humor by starting with a funny opening line, such as "How much does a polar bear weigh? Just enough to break the ice." Self-deprecating humor can also be helpful for making other people feel comfortable. For example, if you are a little overweight say, "The only exercise I get these days is opening the refrigerator." Or, try to find the humor in the situation; for example, at the gym say, "I worked out so much even my sweat is sweating." Show the other person that you don't take yourself too seriously, and he will relax more easily in your company.

4 Be Compassionate

Some people who are awkward are more than just shy -- they may suffer with a more severe form of this trait known as social anxiety disorder. Those with the disorder have an irrational fear of being embarrassed in front of other people, to the point that it disrupts how they go about their day and talk to people, according to the Social Anxiety Institute. Be compassionate when in a situation with someone who is struggling, suggests psychologist Bruce Derman on YourTango. Don't judge another person for being awkward, because you don't know the internal battle that she faces.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.