Ty Tashiro, a psychologist and the author of Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome, says socially awkward people feel out of sync with those around them. Tashiro, who acknowledges he's awkward, says his interactions are anything but smooth.
And while he admits it can make for some sticky personal and uncomfortable professional interactions, he also says being awkward isn't all bad. In fact, he's uncovered some pretty distinct advantages that awkward people may enjoy.
According to Tashiro, here are three reasons why being awkward is actually awesome:
1. Awkward people see things a little different.
To explain how awkward people see things a little different, Tashiro says most people see their social world in the center part of the stage. But awkward people see their social interactions a little left of center.
So while that does mean awkward people will miss some things, they also see other things with more clarity. And seeing things differently can provide an advantage in today's competitive world.
Many people appreciate spending time with someone who is a little different. Awkward people can offer a slightly different perspective on life, which many people find refreshing.
2. Awkward people are passionate about specific subjects.
Tashiro says awkward people like to "nerd out" about the things they love. And quite often, the nerd stereotypes fit. Research shows awkward people tend to excel in math, science, and tech.
They love the scientific method and the rules associated with math. They thrive on being able to solve complex problems (as long as those problems don't involve relationship issues or communication breakdowns).
Tashiro says awkward people prefer to skip the first five minutes of small talk in a conversation. They want to get right down to business and focus on the subjects they find exciting.
3. Awkward people are geared for striking talent.
Awkward may be almost obsessed with understanding how things work. Or they may be intent on studying chemical compounds. Whatever it is they're interested in, they're persistent in their efforts to learn more.
Tashiro says an awkward person's intense focus can lead to hours of deliberate practice, which is the key to mastering almost any skill. He says that's often what is behind many ground-breaking innovations.
Embrace Awkwardness or Sharpen Your Social Skills?
Tashiro says most people feel awkward at one time or another. In fact, the average person exhibits 32 percent of the characteristics associated with being socially awkward.
Tashiro explains that being awkward may be in your genes. It's estimated that it's 50 percent inheritable in boys and 38 percent inheritable in girls. So it isn't something you're likely to outgrow or change overnight.
But, he says you can simultaneously work on sharpening your social skills. "Many awkward people use the same tools to decode social situations as they do to solve scientific problems," says Tashiro.
He recommends breaking down the parts of social interactions into smaller segments, like manners, greetings, expectations, and saying good-bye. Then, observe others and practice new social strategies. Over time, you may grow more comfortable in social situations.
But Tashiro is quick to add that awkward people shouldn't feel compelled to change. "Kind people don't look down on awkward people," he says. "And awkward people can be interesting, bright, and motivated, and they can be loyal friends."
So there's nothing wrong with just embracing the fact that you're a little awkward sometimes. After all, it can be awesome.