Whether it’s meeting new people, starting conversations with old friends and acquaintances, or saying something embarrassing, at some point in our lives we’ve all run into an awkward situation that made us feel like we were sinking to the bottom.
Feeling embarrassed or ashamed in certain situations is a typical reaction to certain events. It’s safe to say that experiencing these complex, uncomfortable, self-conscious feelings is perfectly normal as long as it doesn’t occur on a regular basis. However, if you are constantly putting yourself or others in unavoidable, socially awkward situations, that’s a problem. In this case, you may be what some of us like to call a socially inept person.
Whether you are exhibiting and experiencing these types of behaviors and emotions yourself or it is someone else, it is important to be informed about them. In this article, we have listed all the essential information you should know about social ineptitude.
What is social ineptitude?
Although most people have heard of the word social ineptitude, not everyone knows what it means. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the word or its meaning, this article provides a short, concise, and to the point explanation.
According to Urban Dictionary, a socially inept individual is someone who is unable to judge or improvise interactions with other people in an acceptable or ”normal” manner. Through a mixture of excessive perceptiveness or plain ignorance, the socially inept seem to live in their own world that is different from that of the interlocutor.
In other words, inept is a word used to describe someone who is bad at doing a particular task.
When we say that a person is socially inept, we mean that he or she lacks social skills. The person is usually described by others as awkward, weird, clumsy, introverted, or even stupid. But don’t worry, there are many highly intelligent people who are considered socially awkward.
Although most people are usually self-aware and know that there is something about them that “turns other people off “, there are also those who are completely clueless and unaware of the impact their actions and words have on others because they live in their own world.
In both cases, it is important to talk to the person about their socially awkward tendencies and how that makes you feel.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve social skills. But first, let’s talk about the characteristics that help us identify the socially awkward.
How to know if you’re socially inept
Social Ineptitude is often mistakenly associated with shyness or introversion. After all, there are some common social behavioral tendencies that they share. For example, both introverts and socially awkward people
- prefer to spend their time alone rather than with other people
- are uncomfortable in new and unfamiliar social settings
- tend to look at their phone when someone is looking at them
- tend to plan conversations in advance
- overanalyze and overthink social interactions they’ve had
But despite the similarities, there are a few distinguishing characteristics. Behaviours typical for a socially inept person are:
- laughing at inappropriate moments
Everyone likes to laugh, but there are times and places when laughter is considered inappropriate, such as: at someone’s funeral or when someone is involved in an accident.
- making inappropriate jokes
Sometimes we say something we think is funny, but others don’t react to it the way we thought they would. Even though we may not have bad intentions, someone can easily misunderstand us and take our joke as a direct insult.
- not listening to others and interrupting them while they are speaking.
This is a very bad habit that many people share. If you want to build a relationship with someone, then you should stop interrupting them while they are trying to tell you something and start listening instead.
- abruptly leaving conversations
This may seem strange to some of you, but it’s not that uncommon. We’ve all had those boring conversations and situations we’ve been dying to get out of, but have you ever just stopped in the middle without saying goodbye? Whether you’re participating in the conversation or just listening, it’s very rude to leave dramatically.
You might want to think about the impression it leaves on others before you do it again.
If you’re still unsure whether or not you’re socially awkward, ask yourself a few questions:
- Are your comments and questions being ignored?
If your questions are followed by awkward silences and your comments are followed by rude retorts, it most likely means that people around you are uncomfortable and don’t want to engage with you further.
- Do others avoid eye contact with you?
There are a number of ways to avoid conversations with others, and one of them is to avoid eye contact. This is a sign that your social behavior is making others uncomfortable and they want you to know that they don’t want to talk to you.
- Do you often get comments about your awkward behavior?
If you are often criticized for your behavior and are constantly told that you are indifferent and disrespectful to other people’s feelings, the chances that you are socially awkward are very high.
Luckily for you, we’ve outlined below a few of the best ways to overcome a lack of social skills.
It just takes some time, practice, and a strong will.
Why are social skills important?
Social skills are an important and integral part of functioning in society. Since humans are social beings, in order to function effectively in a social society, they must develop positive social skills such as being considerate of others’ feelings, expressing personal needs, respecting others’ personal space, using good manners, etc.
Social skills are extremely useful and most importantly essential as they influence our daily actions and help us become part of social groups and make friends. Learning social skills begins in the early stages of child development.
Children learn from and are influenced by their most important role models – their parents. They look up to them, observe them, and imitate them. If a child does not grow up in a socially friendly environment where they are not taught the values of expressing themselves emotionally, communicating, playing, and connecting with others, they will have trouble developing as they grow up. This usually leads to depression, self-harm, aggression, breaking the law and so on.
Although it can be challenging for teens and adults to develop and learn social skills as they get older, it is a skill that everyone has. We can easily compare it to learning a new sport or instrument. It can be as easy and as difficult as learning any activity can be. While some take less time to learn, others take more.
How to stop being socially inept
As we’ve mentioned before in this blog, unfortunately, stopping being socially awkward is not something you can do overnight. It takes time, dedication, and practice.
There are many ways to improve your social skills, and these are just a few of them:
1. Small talk followed by open-ended questions
Since everyone seems to hate small talk, it must be pointless, right? Well, quite the opposite.
Although it seems trivial and a complete waste of time when you think about it, all of our friendships and relationships started with Small Talks. Think of it as a first step towards having a more meaningful conversation. To have a successful small talk and move on to deeper conversations, don’t forget about open-ended questions.
According to Wikipedia, an open-ended question is one that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no” or a static response. An open-ended question requires an answer with more depth and longer response.
2. Pay attention to your own body language and that of others
Whether you realize it or not, communicating with your body can say more about how you think and feel than words. That’s why it’s important to pay attention and take control of it, because we could be sending the wrong message that we didn’t intend.
As important as it is to pay attention to your own body language, you should also be attentive and observant of other people. Their facial expressions or gestures may indicate that they are happy, sad, confused, bored, angry, etc.
3. Learn conversational tactics
Learning conversational tactics can help you feel more comfortable in different social settings, especially around people you’ve just met. There are many ways to learn how to adapt them, and with all the resources available on the internet, you can choose between different articles, youtube videos, or many books you can find on amazon.
Social ineptitude in correlation with mental disorders
There is a strong correlation between various mental disorders and social awkwardness.The social behavior and lack of certain social skills in a socially awkward person can be observed in many personality as well as mental disorders and hence can also be considered as a symptom of these disorders.
Below we have listed and briefly explained some of the mental disorders that exhibit the same social behavioral tendencies as a socially awkward person.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Avoidant personality disorder, also known as an anxious personality disorder, is characterized by feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection.
People with this disorder often think of themselves as socially awkward because they share great similarities in their social skills and behavior. The great similarity is seen in
- Social skills in dealing with oneself (insecurity, constant worry, low self-confidence, feelings of inferiority, exaggerated fear of possible danger, striving for acceptance, affection, and security)
- Social skills in dealing with others (e.g., strong sensitivity to criticism and rejection) with the risk of social isolation through avoidance behavior.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized primarily by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, a lack of empathy for others, excessive pride in accomplishments, and a snobbish, contemptuous, or condescending attitude.
Although it may seem unusual, there are some common personality traits between this personality disorder and social awkwardness, such as:
- negative view and criticism of others
- sensitive reaction to criticism
Borderline Personality Disorder
A borderline personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by severe mood swings, impulsive behavior, and extreme reactions.
Symptoms typical of both BPD and social awkwardness are:
- fluctuations in self-image
- unfounded fear of being alone
- negative thoughts and actions about oneself
- tendency to have uncontrolled outbursts of anger
Paranoid personality disorder PPD is a mental illness characterized by the patient’s paranoia – distrust and suspicion of others. This is also a typical behavior for the socially inept. Other common tendencies in social behavior include:
- sensitivity to criticism and rejection
- a tendency toward introversion
- low openness to new experiences
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder Characterized by an excessive need for order, neatness, and perfectionism, OCPD is very different from social ineptitude.
Despite the numerious differences, there are two commonalities between OCPD and social awkwardness:
- fear of making mistakes and strong doubts accompanied by low social skills in dealing with oneself (e.g., low self-confidence)
- a weakness in expressing one’s feelings
Don´t give up!
It is important to realise that there is nothing wrong with being socially inept.
Accepting yourself for who you are and admitting that you need help and support, is the first step to effective integration into society.
As difficult and time-consuming as learning social skills can be, it is essential if you want to change the behaviours and habits that are keeping you from being truly happy and living the fulfilling life you want.
Believing in yourself and your ability to make positive changes is key to every success!
And remember what we discussed, any road can be rough and full of obstacles, but with time, courage, practise and a strong will you will achieve anything you want.
So never give up!