This was first published on ksl.com
For years I have said that I am socially awkward, as I can struggle in groups to feel comfortable. Is that something others experience, and how is it different from anxiety or just being an introvert? Do you have any tips for becoming more confident and less awkward with people?
Answer:You might be socially awkward, introverted or just shy. You could also have social anxiety. Do you know the difference? If you sometimes struggle in social situations it might help to understand these different experiences and see which sounds more like you.
Social anxiety is actually a mental health condition that means you struggle with significant and sometimes debilitating nervousness and fear in social situations. You may get anxious just thinking about being social, and you could get fixated on the possibility of embarrassment or rejection. People with social anxiety may avoid interacting with others at all and shut themselves off from relationships.
If you have an intense fear of being judged, embarrassing yourself, talking with strangers, or speaking to people, it might be worth talking to a mental health professional about it. Fifteen million adults in the U.S. have social anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You are not alone in this and it is treatable.
Social awkwardness is about fear of discomfort and not knowing how to interact the right way in social situations. Socially awkward people are afraid of judgment or being disliked and often find their conversations don't flow well. They aren't sure the right things to say and do. For example, they might tell jokes that others don't find funny or tell them at the wrong time.
These people might also be too loud, too quiet, or ramble without realizing it. They sometimes sit back and listen more than they join in the conversation, or they jump in at an awkward time or place. People who are socially awkward can have so much self-monitoring and over-thinking going on during social interactions that they miss things. These people just don't come by social skills naturally; they have to work at it.
Introverted people aren't necessarily nervous or anxious; they just get their energy from being alone. They can handle social situations without anxiety, but being around other people too much is exhausting and can leave them feeling depleted. Introverts are quieter than extroverts, but they aren't necessarily shy, anxious or awkward. They tend to be good listeners, are thoughtful and dislike confrontation. Approximately half of us fall into this category.
Shy people feel uncomfortable and hesitant around new people or in new social situations. They may also hold back in conversations and listen for quite a while before saying anything. Most shy people are introverts, but they don't necessarily have social anxiety or awkwardness. These people just like familiar people and places, and they don't like speaking in public or being in the spotlight.
How to be less socially awkward
Most of us can find some characteristics in each of these five examples that they can relate to. People skills are something many of us have to work at and practice. Here are some tips for lessening social awkwardness:
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.