Have you ever thought, “I feel like I make everyone feel awkward?” Here are five reasons behind social awkwardness (there are many more!) Don’t worry, you’ll get some tips on how to make people feel more comfortable. If you feel awkward in social situations and this makes others respond similarly, you are not alone.
Learn the top behavior that can put others on edge and make the situation awkward, signs that you are making someone uncomfortable and ways to overcome these habits.
Why Do I Feel Like I Make Things Awkward?
There are many conditions that contribute to awkward conversations. Shyness, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and even personality traits make it difficult for some people to socialize. However, you can find ways to manage your shyness or social anxiety. Here are a few statistics to help you understand that you aren’t the only one that feels this way.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects nearly 7 million adults in the United States alone. That’s more than 3% of the population. If you suspect you may have an anxiety disorder, consider seeking help, starting with a diagnosis from a mental health professional. In general, women are twice as likely to have a generalized anxiety disorder as men.
Your social awkwardness may stem from other anxiety or panic disorders. Panic Disorder impacts approximately 6 million US adults. women are much more likely to develop PD. Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million US adults.
So, as you can see, the underline causes affect millions of people. Also, you can have more than one of these disorders. Chances are there are many others out there saying to themselves, “I feel like I make everyone feel awkward, and I want to know why.”
I Feel Like I Make Everyone Feel Awkward and Don’t Know Why…(Here’s Why)
Here are five ways you could make others uncomfortable without realizing it.
1. Invading Other Peoples’ Personal Spaces
Your personal space is like a bubble around you. People have different tolerances for how much space they like to keep between themselves and others. If you like to stand close and lean in when you speak to someone, this can make them feel uncomfortable, especially if they don’t know you very well.
So, how can you tell if you’re doing this? Well, if someone starts moving away from you, that’s a clear cue to back off a bit. As you become better friends with someone, you may notice that they stand closer to you and lean in when you have a conversation. If possible, take your cue from others to avoid awkwardness.
2. Coldness or Aloofness
Do you hold back in social situations? If you feel awkward, anxious, or uncomfortable, you may wait for others to make the move. After doing this a few times with the same people, you can get a reputation for aloofness.
Why not assume that people have no reason not to like you? Smile and greet them warmly and see what happens from there. In order to create a comfortable work environment, it’s important to get along with your coworkers. By cultivating a reputation as a friendly person, you can dispel much of the awkwardness surrounding first and subsequent meetings.
3. Touching People
This gets tricky fast. Generally, people do touch one another frequently, even in the post pandemic world. However, if you are a naturally touchy person, you may want to become more aware of the habit. Touching someone’s arm, shoulder or elbow is more socially acceptable than touching other body parts, such as the back or face.
Before giving someone a hug, ask first.
On the other hand, if you don’t like personal contact and those around you do, it can create awkward situations. Try to make your feelings known without causing hurt feelings.
4. Talking Too Loudly or Softly
This may seem like a can’t-win situation. However, if you avoid both mumbling and shouting, it’s easier for others to have comfortable conversations with you. Those who speak loudly may intimidate others, while those who mumble or speak too softly make it difficult to have a conversation.
You can work on hitting a happy medium by asking someone you trust to help. It may feel unnatural speaking at normal tones if you have a naturally booming voice. However, it is well worth the effort to help others feel comfortable.
This is a big one. When you share too many details about your life with someone who doesn’t know you well, it creates awkwardness. They may feel pressure to share personal information before they’re ready, which can lead to resentment down the road.
So, avoid getting into conversations about private relationships, health, politics, religion and other sensitive subject matters, particularly if you disagree with another person.
Signs to Watch For
It’s critical that you learn to read body language so that you can adjust your behavior accordingly. The following signs may indicate someone feels awkward:
- Giving minimal responses
- Changes in facial expression (frowning, pursed lips, furrowed brows)
- Folding their arms (closed body language)
- Turning or looking away
- Speaking in high-pitched tones
- Holding a purse or bag in front of them (physical barrier)
- Foot tapping
- Nervous laughter
When you notice this behavior in others, take a moment to pause. You may need to reset the conversation or save it for another time.
I Make People Uncomfortable…How Do I Stop?
There are several tips that can help you put others at ease and avoid social awkwardness. As you learn to communicate with others, you may feel some of your social anxiety easing. Actively practice the following skills, even if it feels strange at first.
Don’t ask too many questions
Questions can serve as ice breakers or help you catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. However, your questions should not come off as interrogations. Seek a balance in the conversation by giving others time to respond and ask you questions in return.
And most importantly, don’t ask too many personal questions at work.
Use appropriate language
Many people are sensitive to certain language. Most commonly, some people do not enjoy listening to profanity or vulgar language. In fact, you can create a hostile work environment or cross the line into sexual harassment for telling crude jokes or using profanity as part of your regular vocabulary.
Use appropriate humor
Sarcasm and cruel humor may have their place in the movies. However, not everyone enjoys controversial jokes.
Humor, in particular, may be difficult for you to grasp if you have social anxiety and awkwardness. You may want to practice jokes on friends first before sharing them at the water cooler, particularly if your jokes tend to take a dark turn.
Watch body language
Learning to read body language can help you avoid many awkward or tense social interactions. There are hundreds if not thousands of books written on how to interpret body language. Choose a few books with good reviews and learn to interpret signs that someone feels awkward around you.
Equally important, change the subject or check your behavior If you notice signs of awkwardness.
Make appropriate eye contact
This one will take some practice. If you avoid eye contact, it gives the impression that you aren’t interested in the conversation. At the same time, staring also makes people nervous.
You can practice by making contact with others when they look you directly into the eyes. Then, look away for awhile to avoid any weirdness.
Don’t be clingy
If you have just met a new friend, give them some space in the beginning. You don’t have to shower them with compliments or make plans with them every day.
You can practice by mirroring their behavior. If your friend sends short text messages, sending long rambling ones may make them feel uncomfortable.
Respect other people’s opinions
This one covers a lot of important territory. Don’t dismiss the opinions of others. This makes you come off as a judgmental know-it-all.
If someone wants your advice, they will ask for it. So, instead of telling your friend what you would do, try listening with empathy and kindness.
After implementing the tips above and conducting your own research, you may feel more comfortable talking to others. Additionally, they may feel more comfortable talking to you. You may even stop asking yourself, “Why do I feel like I make everyone feel awkward?”
Instead, you can cultivate close friendships and become a more valued member of your work and life communities.