While the pandemic might have made life cozier, it certainly has distanced our social circle due to several reasons. Some of us dread getting back to meet and greet friends or colleagues, but social interactions are a key factor to our overall well-being. Contrary to proper belief this form of social awkwardness is not a mental health condition. After enjoying almost two years of solitude feeling anxious to go out in the world and connect is quite normal. Both extrovert and introvert personality types can experience social awkwardness. So, how to improve your social skills and stop feeling awkward in a group?
If your social skills have gone rusty, here are ways to minimize the anxiety and socialize like a pro without feeling awkward about it.
How To Know If You Have Social Awkwardness?
Social awkwardness can often be confused with social anxiety disorders. Being socially awkward is not a mental health condition whereas the latter is.
While the initial symptoms of social anxiety disorders can start appearing at 13 years of age, social awkwardness can be inherited from parents. Studies show that 36% of those who suffer from social anxiety wait up to 10 years to seek help.
Some of the common signs of social awkwardness include:
- Fear to indulge in social situations
- Inability to make meaningful connections
- Lack of interest in meeting new people or small talks
- The need of being socially accepted and fear of judgment
- Constant neglect towards friends or other known contacts
- Inefficiency to continue the flow of conversations
Tips to Effectively Improve Social Skills And Stop Being Awkward
1. Start Small
Stressing yourself about the inevitable social interactions isn’t a good idea. A good idea would be not to focus on what might go wrong, but think of what could go right. Taking one small step at a time and keeping it simple can eventually help improve social skills.
Of course, there’s no need to rush when it comes to meeting friends or going back to work daily. Instead, taking micro-steps towards achieving the desired confidence level can be the best option. While planning to meet friends, connecting with them digitally and setting up online calls, or meeting one-on-one instead of group interaction, can make all the difference.
2. Bring A Shift In Mindset
It’s all about mindset. What we become starts with what we believe. Hence, shifting the negative thoughts into positive ones, and changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is critical to stop feeling socially awkward. People with a fixed mindset are willing to live with their problems, whereas those with a growth mindset learn to address the problem and solve them. Having a growth mindset can allow us to overcome social challenges and help to get outside of our comfort zone.
For example, a shift in mindset can help us focus on the good things that can come out of social connections rather than getting anxious if things can get messy.
3. Know That It Is Okay To Feel This Way
Emma Warnock-Parkes, a Clinical Psychologist and Researcher at the University of Oxford, on her current studies of social anxiety disorder, says it’s normal and understandable to have anxiety after being socially deprived for a whole year, and you can feel strange going back into it.
It is essential to show kindness towards ourselves and remind us that this feeling is normal. A lot of us fear meeting people especially in a large group, and it’s okay to feel those emotions. No one is perfect and not everyone can be a public speaker.
4. Understand Your Anxiety And Work Through It
It’s important to understand the root causes of anxiety and know that it is a normal feeling that most people must be going through as circumstances change. Recognize your anxiety and work through it. Deal with it whichever way you deem best.
5. Learn From Others
Learning from others and mimicking others’ social behaviors can be incredibly useful for those who have no idea where to begin. For example, observe colleagues’ greetings, or body language and try to contribute in a similar manner. Not only does mirroring body language build bonds and show acceptance, but it can also be a smart way to get outside of the feeling of awkwardness.
6. We All Have Social Skills, They Can’t Just Merely Disappear
Humans are social creatures, we all enjoy a bit of human interaction and crave it too. Inclining inwards and being comfortable alone doesn’t necessarily mean one’s social life must entirely vanish. Finding the right balance (between social and personal life) that suits each one of us is crucial to forming healthy relationships even at home, work, or school.
7. Keep Busy With Tai-Chi
Trying to keep busy with hobbies or things of fondness can likely prevent dwelling on the constant thoughts of being socially accepted.
For example, doing something that acts as meditation can lessen socially awkward behaviors. People may try playing music, cooking, writing, or even reading. Some other activities like journaling, meditation, or even tai-chi can also be useful.
8. Face Your Fears
This also goes hand in hand with having a growth mindset. Sometimes we must look into the eyes of our fears, challenge them, and turn them into opportunities.
To experience life fully and with bravery, you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. Hence this is the attitude you should have when trying to improve your social skills and prevent anxiety effectively.
Effects of Social Isolation on Physical and Mental Health
Humans are social animals, and being socially isolated and confined to one place isn’t ideal for them. Zlatin Ivanov, MD, a psychiatrist based in New York, said, “All our systems, including social, psychological and biological, have developed around social groups and interaction with one another.” He continued to say that social isolation would, in most circumstances, bring about the harmful effects of loneliness, anxiety, and at times, depression.
Social isolation can often lead to many different effects, each one different from the other in one way or another. Social isolation can deeply affect one’s mental health. Studies have shown that the longer a person stays isolated, they are more likely to suffer from depression, loneliness, anxiety, and other mental afflictions.
Social isolation can also have severe effects on physical health. The mental and physical health are in complete alignment, and when one declines, the other is sure to follow. Social isolation can sometimes lead to heart troubles such as poor cardiovascular health, sleeplessness, reduced immune function, poor cognitive function, weakened immune system, and more.
A study has shown that loneliness often leads to a 30% increase in coronary artery disease and stroke risk. The study further says that this is because of poor sleep, higher levels of stress, and unhealthy lifestyle habits, which generally stem from a reduction in social interaction.
How The Human Brain Reacts to Loneliness?
Lack of human contact and interaction leads to a decline in cognitive function. For example, Michel Siffre, a French adventurer, and scientist in 1972 locked himself in a cave in Texas for 205 days which is more than six months. He wrote as he was documenting the effects on his mind that he could barely string thoughts after only a couple of months. By the time five months had reached, he was so desperate for company that he reached a point of trying to befriend a mouse.
Studies Show That Isolation And Loneliness Are Two Things That We Can Link To Cognitive Decline In Different Ways
Hence, studies have shown that lonely people tend to have reduced brain volumes in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region relevant to decision-making and social behavior.
Research has shown that people and animals when isolated tend to have smaller-than-normal hippocampi and thereby reduced concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These are features that are associated with memory and impaired learning.
When it comes to the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotion-processing center, it is suggested that people who are lonely and isolated tend to have a smaller amygdala. There is a correlation between the size of a person’s social network and the overall volume of their amygdala.
Loneliness thereby affects one’s levels of hormones associated with stress and social bonding and depression. This means that people that are lonely or isolated are more likely to be paranoid and negative.
It is believed that longer periods of isolation often affect memory and verbal recall. This means that it may be harder for people to know what to say or have the right words once they meet up with other people.
It is important to note that each circumstance is different for different people. While some may find it harder to adjust, others may be used to its flow.
A biologist at the Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Daniela Rivera, stated that the physical changes in the brain like those connected with memory wouldn’t budge so easily. However, with shrinkage in the brain’s parts, isolation can impair memory function and the overall ability to connect easily with other people for years.
How To Stop Being Socially Awkward And Socialize With People
- It is important to avoid going to highly crowded parties or events. Don’t rush into anything and take it one step at a time.
- Start with small social settings and then gravitate naturally towards a much larger gathering as time progresses and you get the hang of it. This will help you prevent anxiety.
- Make sure you engage in relaxing activities, whether yoga, meditation, or whatever form of relaxation you prefer. This will bring you tranquility and peace going into the chaos that is post-pandemic
- Stay informed as much as you can.
- Although it isn’t good to always listen to the negative news, it is sometimes important to be aware and gather information to prepare yourself when the lockdown ends.
- Try to connect with nature. This will help reduce the levels of anxiety and phobia one may feel about the end of the lockdown.
- Practice self-care and take care of your mental health. You matter, your mental health matters, and you shouldn’t neglect yourself. This will help you prepare for pre-pandemic social life better.
- To adjust to the new social life after lockdown, try some new things out.
- For instance, you can talk to people on social media.
- This could be in the form of sitting silently with someone on call. By doing so, you prepare yourself for what your friends physically may look like. Or you could make a conversation with a stranger.
- You could try making a joke to someone in person to lighten up the mood of the conversation. This helps you feel connected to someone through laughing together.
- You may also reconnect and reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with.
A Word From AlignThoughts
It is essential to realize that fearing the inevitable period will do you more harm than good. All one can do is prepare for it by reading more and doing things that can make a difference. Of course, no one is perfect; deep inside everyone gets scared, but what they do about it makes all the difference.
Do any of the points mentioned above resonate with you? Share your thoughts on how you deal with social awkwardness and stop it from affecting your personal and work life? Subscribe today to stay connected with us and read more interesting articles!
Key Takeaways On How To Stop Being Socially Awkward
Do Not Let Your Fear Hold You Back.
What Are The Symptoms Of Socially Awkward People?
A few symptoms of socially awkward people are:
What Are Some Disadvantages Of Being Socially Awkward?
How To Overcome Social Awkwardness?
How To Socialize With People?
You can use the following points while trying to socialize with people: