How Do I Stop Being Socially Awkward?

As lonely as feeing socially awkward might be, there are ways to overcome it.
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If you feel you can be socially awkward at times, you're not alone. Many people struggle with feeling comfortable in a variety of social situations. It can be difficult to know what to say and how to say it. It can also be tough to figure out how close to stand to others, or what to do with your hands when you're talking. Try not to let your social fears and anxieties get you down. There are many strategies you can try out that may help you to feel more at ease when interacting with others.

1 Stepping Out of Character

Stepping out of character exercises can be effective for overcoming awkwardness around others, says Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D. in his article "Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxieties" on Psychology Today. He describes these activities as a "low risk" way for you to move away from focusing so much on what others think of you. For example, Dr. Knaus suggests wearing mismatched socks for a day -- at first, you may feel silly and embarrassed, but likely you'll soon realize no one really notices or cares. Another recommendation is going to the mall at a busy time without a watch, and asking twenty people for the time. This helps to overcome fears of strangers rejecting you; in most cases, people will be pleasant and tell you the time, and only a few will give the rude reaction you may have feared.

2 Role-Playing

Role-playing can also help you to feel more comfortable socially, notes Great Schools. As silly as it may seem, it may help you to practice conversations with a sibling or parent. For example, some people find small-talk a challenge -- but it's a common way people who don't know one another well can connect and build repoire. Role-play conversations about the weather or pop culture events so you can feel more comfortable when faced with small-talk in real life.

3 Honing Non-Verbal Skills

Another way to become less socially awkward is to focus on improving your non-verbal skills, says the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Much of effective social interaction relies on not what you say, but how you say it. For example, try and begin and end interactions with others in a polite way, and don't overtake the conversation by constantly bringing it back to you. Another thing to keep in mind is adapting your behavior to reflect the social situation you're in. If you're with friends, it's okay to act relaxed and playful, but when in class, you'll want to be more attentive and serious.

4 Using Effective Body Language

Be aware that your body can say volumes -- without your saying a word. For example, notes, laying back in your chair shows boredom, while leaning forward indicates you're open and approachable. Be aware that what you're doing with your hands may give a message you're not intending. Clenched fists might make others think you're angry, while fidgety hands may signal nervousness. Try nodding your head while someone else is talking to show interest, and that you're listening. Try to smile, which will make others feel at ease and like you're happy to be there.

Jaime Budzienski has contributed essays and articles to the "Boston Globe Sunday Magazine," "Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine" and the "Boston Parents Paper." She holds a B.F.A. in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and a master's degree in education from UMASS Boston.