I know what you’re thinking. “I have friends! I do stuff, I have people who like me, and I’m good at my job. I’m not socially awkward!”
Here’s the thing. Socially awkward people are often oblivious to the fact that they’re socially awkward because it’s too uncomfortable for their friends to tell them. This is understandable – no one wants to risk hurting someone’s feelings.
But the reality is that the social cues you’re missing are alienating you from the people around you. No matter how much someone likes you, social awkwardness can be difficult to ignore.
But if your friends and colleagues won’t tell you, who will? How will you ever know?
Fear not, I’ve got your back. Here are 9 tell-tale signs of social awkwardness and the effect they have on those around you. I’m going to be honest and straight to the point, but remember, knowledge is power. If you know what to change, you can actually change it.
Ready? Let’s go.
9 Signs Of Social Awkwardness
#1: Your conversations with new people are frequently cut short, ending with them moving on after a minute or two, while others around you are talking for a lot longer.
This is a sign that you’re making people uncomfortable with your words and/or body language. It also indicates you struggle with understanding/participating in small talk. Those who struggle in these areas often find that people move on to a new conversation partner quickly.
What they’re thinking: If she makes me uncomfortable in the initial stages of getting to know her, the chances that things will get better are pretty slim. Better move on.
#2: At work events, others easily pair themselves up for activities or projects, but you frequently have to be assigned a partner to work with.
People are avoiding having to work with you closely. This can be for a variety of reasons, from your conversation skills and body language to your attitude. Even if you have good intentions, a lack of social awareness or social skills can turn things sour fast. No one wants to be distracted by someone who just doesn’t seem to get it, especially when they need to get stuff done.
What they’re thinking: Working with her makes me annoyed and stressed. If I immediately turn away and find myself a partner, I can avoid working with her.
#3: People physically keep their distance from you, or lean away from you when you get too close.
This could be for a couple of reasons. If you have awkward social behaviors, such as not respecting personal space or being abrasive, people will assume the responsibility of creating space themselves.
People will also avoid close proximity if you lack good physical hygiene practices. If your appearance or smell reflects that you don’t properly groom or regularly wash your clothes, those around you will compensate by physically removing themselves.
What they’re thinking: Her behavior makes me feel uncomfortable and her smell/appearance is highly distracting. If I can distance myself, I’ll be able to focus.
#4: There are often moments of silence after you speak, and then the conversation continues as if you hadn’t spoken. In groups, people often talk over you or ignore what you say.
When you don’t understand conversational timing (what’s appropriate to share and when), you disrupt the flow of communication and make it difficult for others to participate. Awkward pauses are an indirect way others show that your behavior/comment wasn’t well received. If you repeatedly miss that social cue, people will start to assume you won’t change and the conversation will move on without you.
What they’re thinking: She just doesn’t seem to get it. Her behavior is annoying, but it’s easier to just ignore her and move on.
#5: People avoid eye contact with you and frequently look away when you speak to them.
Yikes. If you make people around you uncomfortable, they will try to avoid you. You may dominate conversations, say odd things at inappropriate times, or physically make others feel uneasy. No matter the reason, this is a visual cue that your behavior is socially alienating you.
Avoiding eye contact is a simple and subtle way to avoid interaction. If they “don’t see you” they don’t have politely suffer through a conversation with you. While this social indicator is harder to notice, it’s incredibly telling as to the way you make others feel.
What they’re thinking: This conversation is painfully awkward. She’s in my space and won’t stop talking. If I look away, maybe she’ll take the hint and I can leave.
#6: You consistently have to drive conversations and the other person doesn’t contribute much or seems disinterested.
This is a sign that someone is desperately trying to find a way out of the conversation so they can leave. If they don’t talk, they can wait for a pause and then make a hasty exit. Often their body language indicates this desire as well. Shifting, facing slightly or completely away from you, or looking off at others are all signs that you’re making them uncomfortable and they want to leave.
What they’re thinking: I really wish she’s stop talking, but she doesn’t seem to take the hint. If I can just find a tiny pause, I can quickly excuse myself.
#7: In your group of friends, everyone seems to have a “buddy” but you’re the odd one out.
Even when you are among friends, there is still evidence of your social faux pas. You may be included in the larger group, but within friend groups there are always smaller subgroups. These are made up of people who gravitate to one another and tend to pair off naturally. You will often be the “odd one out” and end up being added to a pair already formed. “You can join our group” is a phrase often heard.
What they’re thinking: No one wants to be with her, but we feel bad. It’s easier to hang out with her when it isn’t one-on-one, so adding her to a pair is less awkward for everyone.
#8: You’re often physically on the outskirts of gatherings.
Be it a work event, party, or family gathering, you tend to float on the peripheries of groups. Because you don’t participate well within social structures, groups tend to form all around you but not include you.
While you may meander up to groups and try to join, after a few awkward attempts you usually give up, either staying to listen or moving on. Lack of conversation skills coupled with an inability to read social cues leaves you on the edges and without connection.
What they’re thinking: Whenever we include her, she derails the conversation, making it really hard for others to participate. If we just keep on chatting, hopefully she’ll get the hint and either change her behavior or move on.
#9: You’ve had the same circle of friends for years but never seem to add new ones.
Old friends can inadvertently isolate you from the consequences of your awkward behavior. New people react to your awkwardness, but old friends tend to ignore it and suffer in silence because it’s too uncomfortable to say anything to you. Because inertia keeps you in the group, you assume nothing’s wrong with your behavior.
The group around you might not even realize this is happening. This phenomenon creates the perfect place for the socially awkward to exist for years without ever realizing they struggle with social skills.
What they’re thinking: She just doesn’t seem to get social cues or understand what’s appropriate behavior, but we love her and we don’t want to hurt her feelings. We’ll just include her, not say anything, and hope that she just figures it out on her own.
So… That’s Me. Now What?
If a good number of these ring true for you, you probably have awkward social habits that are causing you to be alienated from your friends and colleagues. You may have had a sneaking suspicion of this for a while, or it may be a complete shock. Either way, don’t let this revelation knock you down! Knowledge is power, remember?
Once you’re aware that you struggle with social skills and cues, you can do something about it! There is hope, so keep your chin up. Not everyone is born with natural social skills, but everyone can learn them! Just because you struggle now doesn’t mean you always will. Your story isn’t over.
If you’re ready to start moving from socially awkward to socially embraced, check out “18 Tips for Breaking Your Socially Awkward Habits” (2 specific action steps for each point we’ve covered here), which you can download absolutely free. By breaking these habits and removing your roadblocks, you create a clear path for others to discover your massive potential.