Epoch

Awkwardness

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I often wonder about the awkwardness around me, I see it everywhere even in my friends. One rather philosophically enlightened friend of mine happens to be very awkward. I used to feel awkward at times but as I started to really look at the world, I realized there is no reason to feel awkward. This friend of mine knows much more about philosophy than I do, so that begs the question why is he still so awkward. I have realized, with what little knowledge in philosophy I have, that it's a moot point. Why is anyone awkward, what is the point to it and why can't we get around these little things that are awkward? What holds us to this unpleasant feeling?

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I often wonder about the awkwardness around me, I see it everywhere even in my friends.

It depends on what you mean by "awkwardness."

Do you mean shyness, self-consciousness, lack of social skills, -- or? Also, how old are you and your friends? All of the above are normal in adolescence when all of us have to face momentous personal decisions with very little preparation.

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Not to deter the thresad away from "Awkwardness", but Betsy, you have touched on a topic that I have been curious about for a while.

lack of social skills

What exactly is meant by this concept?

I've always thought of it as a negative term for the most part. I hear mothers talking about it a lot saying how either they wish their child had more "social skills" as opposed to being more independent and reserved, or they love their childs ability to make all sorts of friends due to their "social skills".

I've always viewed this as negative because, it's completely fine if the child doesn't want many friends or wants to play alone.

Thanks, ~Carrie~

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I've always thought of it as a negative term for the most part. I hear mothers talking about it a lot saying how either they wish their child had more "social skills" as opposed to being more independent and reserved, or they love their childs ability to make all sorts of friends due to their "social skills".

I've always viewed this as negative because, it's completely fine if the child doesn't want many friends or wants to play alone.

I'm not trying to answer for Betsy, but do think there is a right way to use the concept "social skills."

Definition:

Social skills are the set of abilities learned for and used in interacting with acquaintances in (usually) public, social situations.

I do think that social skills are vital to a persons long-term happiness, and they are something a parent should concern themselves with about their child.

I do not think that not having many friends and playing alone are necessarily indication of a lack of social skills. If you don't observe someone acting socially, you cannot possibly know if they are skillful at it. There is a difference between not wanting to socialize with ones peers and not being able to. The first might be just fine, depending on the reasons, the second is usually a big problem, especially later in life.

I have also noticed that the socially inept can usually interact very well with family members or other people who they are very familiar and comfortable with, so I think social skills are primarily those skills used in building new relationships.

The one (and probably only) thing that makes me glad I grew up as a military brat is the fact that moving so much put me in the constant position of having to interact with people I barely knew at all. The skills I picked up have been indespensable in interviewing for jobs, meeting girlfriends' families, (recently) making sure my professors look on me favorably, and many other things.

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By "social skills" I mean the knowledge necessary to interact with other people rationally. It includes the rules of etiquette, a how to understand and communicate with body language, how to minimize unnecessary friction or misunderstandings when interacting with others, etc.

Social skills include (in no particular order):

Standing the proper distance from another person when conversing so that you don't seem too distant and disinterested yet not so close that you intrude into their personal space and make them feel uncomfortable.

Knowing how to introduce yourself to an interesting stranger.

Knowing what to say when a friend has suffered a serious loss.

Walking down a narrow hallway, seeing someone coming at you in the opposite direction, and knowing whether to move right or left and how to indicate what you are going to do.

Being a good listener.

Being a good judge of people.

Being aware of the context so that you dress and behave appropriately in different social situations.

Expressing gratitude for values received from others.

====

A lot of people -- including some very nice and good people -- lack social skills and, as a result, have difficulty with things like that. Generally, most of us pick up social skills by osmosis early in life, but some people miss the lessons for various reasons and need to catch up later. Fortunately, with a willingness to learn, it can be done.

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Personally, I think that if one wants to act properly in a social setting or interaction, the easiest way to do this is to just act naturally; be yourself, and if you aren't fitting in, it isn't your fault!

Walking down a narrow hallway, seeing someone coming at you in the opposite direction, and knowing whether to move right or left and how to indicate what you are going to do.

This one gave me a good laugh! Who hasn't been in that situation where you and the oncoming person just can't seem to not side-step the same direction to avoid the other, resulting in a comedic, awkward, side-to-side shuffle dance ;)

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Personally, I think that if one wants to act properly in a social setting or interaction, the easiest way to do this is to just act naturally; be yourself, and if you aren't fitting in, it isn't your fault!

I disagree. Naturalness and authenticity are important, but it is also necessary to be aware of customs and context. Someone might feel more "natural" wearing jeans and a t-shirt to his friend's wedding, but he will annoy people and distract attention from the married couple and the importance of the occasion.

Nowadays, when children are not taught good manners, I have seen well-intentioned people do the grossest and rudest things, completely unaware of the harm they are causing to the people they value. Good manners do not come naturally, they have to be learned.

This one gave me a good laugh!  Who hasn't been in that situation where you and the oncoming person just can't seem to not side-step the same direction to avoid the other, resulting in a comedic, awkward, side-to-side shuffle dance ;)

And it's usually unnecessary. Someone fluent in body language will automatically glance in the direction they intend to move, signaling the oncoming person to move in the opposite direction.

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A lot of people -- including some very nice and good people -- lack social skills and, as a result, have difficulty with things like that.  Generally, most of us pick up social skills by osmosis early in life, but some people miss the lessons for various reasons and need to catch up later.  Fortunately, with a willingness to learn, it can be done.

How does one go about learning "social skills"? As a child I did not get to interact very much with people and later, didn't want to. I strongly agree with Dave that

social skills are vital to a persons long-term happiness
because now, in a job and looking for long-term relationships, I'm facing the repurcussions of not having learnt them early in life. This is something that's been bothering me for a very long time and I just can't seem to understand how to deal with people in a variety of contexts (with bosses, colleagues, with peers when I was in college, etc.). I'm comfortable with some of the situations Betsy describes (eg.
Standing the proper distance from another person when conversing so that you don't seem too distant and disinterested yet not so close that you intrude into their personal space and make them feel uncomfortable.

Being a good listener.

Being aware of the context so that you dress and behave appropriately in different social situations.

Expressing gratitude for values received from others.

- and uncomfortable in many others but it's usually making conversation that kills me. What to do and what to say in a large number of contexts (involving people) is what social skills essentially are - something at which I perform dismally ;)

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I disagree.  Naturalness and authenticity are important, but it is also necessary to be aware of customs and context.  Someone might feel more "natural" wearing jeans and a t-shirt to his friend's wedding, but he will annoy people and distract attention from the married couple and the importance of the occasion.

Nowadays, when children are not taught good manners, I have seen well-intentioned people do the grossest and rudest things, completely unaware of the harm they are causing to the people they value.  Good manners do not come naturally, they have to be learned.

And it's usually unnecessary.  Someone fluent in body language will automatically glance in the direction they intend to move, signaling the oncoming person to move in the opposite direction.

Ok, I guess what I was referring to would only apply to light casual occurences, like trying to make conversation or meet new people at a party.

Can some of those things though not just be common sense? As in, isn't it often just as simple as being mindful of your surroundings and acting couteously based on them? (don't wear jeans and t-shirt to a wedding, don't talk with a mouth full of food, etc.)

And MRZ, for your question about how one goes about learning social-skills, I think Betsy obviously will have a good answer, but I would also like to share what I think helped me a lot in social situations ;)

I think finding a sport, activity or hobby that you are passionate about, and that you would do with other people, can be a huge boost in one's social skills. For example, for the past two and a half years I have done Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which involves a lot of close physical contact with other people. Because of this, I've noticed that I've "opened-up" a lot more in social situations: whereas in the past when I greeted someone I would just give them a quick boring peck of a handshake, now I give them a hearty warm handshake and an affectionate slap on the shoulder or something like that. It may sound like a small insignificant change, but it's a huge difference when it comes to meaningfully interacting with people :D

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And MRZ, for your question about how one goes about learning social-skills, I think Betsy obviously will have a good answer, but I would also like to share what I think helped me a lot in social situations ;)

I think finding a sport, activity or hobby that you are passionate about, and that you would do with other people, can be a huge boost in one's social skills.  For example, for the past two and a half years I have done Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which involves a lot of close physical contact with other people.  Because of this, I've noticed that I've "opened-up" a lot more in social situations: whereas in the past when I greeted someone I would just give them a quick boring peck of a handshake, now I give them a hearty warm handshake and an affectionate slap on the shoulder or something like that.  It may sound like a small insignificant change, but it's a huge difference when it comes to meaningfully interacting with people  :D

Hmm... That's a good idea :D . Activities of this sort have greatly helped me a few times in the past.

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I think finding a sport, activity or hobby that you are passionate about, and that you would do with other people, can be a huge boost in one's social skills.

yes! Ballroom dancing too!

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How does one go about learning "social skills"? 

Several former social klutzes I know have become self-confident men of the world thanks to the books of "Miss Manners" -- Judith Martin. (click here). She has books for all occasions including some wonderful "Basic Training" manuals.

Once you're armed with the knowledge of what to do and how to do it, get out there and do it. Take the risk. If you mess up, that's OK. "Oops!," "I'm sorry," honesty, and good will will cover a lot of social mistakes.

Eventually your new social skills will become automatized as you gain competence and confidence with practice.

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As a bit of a delayed reply, does anyone on here think that the overall prudeness of men in America (I at least think men here in America are too prude) could naturally lend to awkwardness in social interactions, or make it more difficult for them to express how they are doing or their emotions?

I remember watching a DVD of a fighter from the Brazilian Top-Team competing in Japan, and after a smashing victory, he ran to his corner and his trainer leapt into the ring, grabbed the fighter's face with both hands, and planted the biggest juiciest kiss I've ever seen straight onto his cheek ;)! It really struck how much less effective the congratulatory expressions of the average American male would have been there, how they might have expressed not near as much as what the given intense context required, and might have opted for the understatement of a slap on the back or something similar.

This is part of why I say that doing jiu-jitsu made me more at ease in social interaction, it made me a little more warm and physically affectionate and less prudish.

Has anyone noticed similar occurences like these before?

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after a smashing victory, [a boxer’s?]  ... trainer leapt into the ring, grabbed the fighter's face with both hands, and planted the biggest juiciest kiss I've ever seen straight onto his cheek  ;)!  It really struck how much less effective the congratulatory expressions of the average American male would have been there, how they might have expressed not near as much as what the given intense context required,

hi Carlos!

I had a European dance partner who was the –greatest- in this regard. When we won a first prize, he rushed to his girlfriend, gave her a fast, hard kiss, then rushed back to me and ran me to the podium! Now that was a celebration of victory that I’ll treasure and tell!

I’m not sure it’s prudishness that inhibits this so much as conscious misgivings [see my posts on reverence] and lack of practice/awareness/etiquette as discussed here.

Btw, how come we haven’t heard from the author of this thread? Are we addressing the right concerns?

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