Shyness or awkwardness is one of the most common psychological conditions affecting people.
In fact, it affects up to 20% of adults in the United States. But despite how widespread it is, there are still many things we don’t know about shyness.
What causes it? How does it affect different groups of people differently?
And why do some people seem to struggle with it while others seem to thrive in spite of it?
The good news is that research into shyness is growing every day.
Scientists are learning more and more about what causes shyness, how it manifests itself across cultures and populations, and what treatments work best for whom.
Let’s consider some factors in a bit more detail.
Show Interest In Others
If you want to build rapport with someone, start talking about something they are interested in or ask them questions.
Showing interest in other people is one of the most effective ways to improve your social skills.
Researchers found that people with poor social skills tend to focus too much on how they look and sound.
So, rather than focusing on yourself, why not show interest in other people?
Don’t worry about sounding boring or stupid. People love to tell stories, especially when they’re asked to do so.
When you express interest in other people, you’ll find that they feel appreciated and valued and you will be building your own confidence.
How can I use questioning to break awkward silences?
1. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions don’t require a specific response. They allow people to talk freely without worrying about giving the wrong answer.
An open-ended question might sound something like, “Tell me about your job,” rather than “What do you do?” This allows people to express themselves without being concerned about making a mistake.
2. Avoid Yes/No Questions
Yes/no questions often end a conversation because the listener knows the answer already.
Instead, try using story-generating questions, which encourage people to tell stories rather than give answers.
A story-generating question might sound something like: “If I asked you what your favorite food is, what would you say?”
3. Be Patient
Sometimes it takes a while for people to realize they want to participate in a conversation. Don’t force someone into answering your question if he or she seems disinterested.
Give the person some space to decide if he or she wants to continue talking.
Social awkwardness happens, probably even more than you realize.
And while there aren’t any statistics backing this up, it’s fairly safe to say that most of the people you encounter in your everyday life have experienced some form of social awkwardness of their own.
Communication includes many different aspects, such as listening, speaking, writing, reading, and being able to recognize when people are talking about something else.
This skill set requires practice, especially if you struggle socially.
There are ways to improve your ability to communicate effectively. For example, practicing with someone you know and respect is one way to build confidence.
Another strategy is to practice conversations with yourself. You can record yourself having a conversation and listen to it later.
Or you could try role playing with a friend or family member.
Mindful living isn’t just for monks. In fact, many people are starting to use mindfulness techniques to improve their lives.
Mindfulness helps us stay present and can help us navigate our way through social awkwardness.
Here are some tips for how to practice mindfulness every day:
1. Start Small
You don’t have to do anything radical to start practicing mindfulness. You could simply take five minutes each morning and focus on your breathing.
2. Focus On The Physical Sensations
Focus on your body without trying to think about anything else.
Notice the air moving in and out of your lungs, the way your stomach feels full or empty, and the feeling of your feet touching the ground.
3. Don’t Judge Yourself
Don’t compare your current state of mind to someone else’s. Just notice how you feel right now.
4. Be Gentle With Yourself
If you find yourself getting frustrated or angry during meditation, stop and breathe deeply. Take a break from the exercise and come back to it later.
5. Keep Going
It may be hard at first, but once you get into the habit of meditating regularly, you’ll see benefits everywhere.
6. Find A Community
There are lots of communities online that offer support and advice for those who want to learn more about mindful living.
7. Make It Fun!
There are plenty of apps available that will track your progress and reward you for sticking with the program.
Everyone has days when they don’t feel like socializing. That doesn’t mean you should give up.
If you’re struggling with a particular issue, talk to someone about it. It might not solve everything, but it could make things easier.
Social awkwardness isn’t always something that needs fixing, especially if you don’t experience distress over it.
However, if you do feel depressed, anxious, or lonely in your everyday life, you could benefit from therapy.
This type of treatment is designed to help you understand why you feel the way you do, learn new coping strategies, and improve your relationships with others.
A therapist can also help you explore the reasons behind your awkward behavior.
For example, if you find yourself constantly getting tongue-tied around strangers, a therapist might ask questions like “Why are you afraid of speaking?” or “What does being shy mean to you?”
Many people confuse social awkwardness with social anxiety.
While both conditions affect your ability to interact socially, social anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, and rapid heartbeat.
Social anxiety can make you feel uncomfortable even around friends and family members.
If you think you might have social anxiety, talk to a professional about what you’re experiencing.
You’ll likely receive a referral from your primary care doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor.
It’s perfectly normal to feel awkward sometimes. But if you struggle with social awkwardness on a regular basis there are ways to overcome it.
Start small and work your way up. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you’ll become at noticing your feelings and responding appropriately.