A few days ago, I had a very awkward conversation. The person I was speaking to seemed to be in outer space--lights on, nobody home. He was making eye contact, sure, but his gaze went right through me.

We've all been there. Too much eye contact, not enough eye contact, frequent interruptions, laughing too much, inappropriate distance, bad body posture--all awkward signs that violate social norms in a conversation, which could hinder an important business transaction.

Enter Brian Spitzberg, professor of communication at San Diego State University. He developed the Conversational Skills Rating Scale (CSRS)--25 brilliant self-assessment questions that tell you everything that can go right or wrong in social situations. Questions related to:

  • Speaking speed (Talking too fast? Too slow?)
  • Confidence (Sounding too tense on one hand or too aggressively cocky on the other)
  • Leaning toward partner (Some personal space is nice, but too much can seem like disinterest)

This is a handy tool you can use to better understand whether you have what Spitzberg calls "conversational competence." If you do, it means your conversations are usually appropriate and effective. That's very good news.

Spitzberg explains, via Science of Us:

You can be effective but inappropriate--you can have a boss scream at you and get you to do what they want--but that doesn't seem like a very competent approach to communication. You can be appropriate but not effective--you can be at a really nice party and not do anything offensive, but not actually achieve anything. And then, of course, you can be inappropriate and ineffective, which is the worst of all possible worlds.

Want to eliminate those awkward moments? Determine your own conversational competence.

So you know you can be awkward at times. Let me steer you deeper into your self-discovery so you can produce better results in your interactions.

Head over to Science of Us and take Spitzberg's Conversational Skills Rating Scale (all 25 questions) to measure your level of conversation competence and answer the question, "How awkward are you?"