How do you Know if You’re Socially Awkward?

It’s 3AM and I just did some laundry. I didn’t intend to do laundry this late. I just had a busy few weeks and kept putting off the necessary task until I realized I was wearing my last pair of socks. But I kind of enjoyed it. I am exhausted and would rather be asleep, but there is a serenity to being awake at this hour knowing most of the people in my time zone are likely asleep. Why?

I’m not sure, but I have some ideas as to the reason. First of all, I think I’m mildly autistic. It’s entirely possible that I’m not using that term right, but as I understand it autism is used to describe people who cannot pick up on social cues from others. I know it can get severe and have rather intense consequences, but I do think that I suffer from a mild version of that problem. Sometimes (often times) when I’m in conversation with someone particularly someone I don’t know very well, I can’t seem to feel confident that they want to be around me. I have a paranoia that I’m saying something uninteresting or overbearing. It’s a silly fear in some respects. Most of my friends whose opinions I trust would tell me that I’m adequate if not sometimes charming in social situations.

My problem is that I know some people who are not great in social situations who are somewhat if not wholly unaware of it. And I can see no specific difference between myself and them that leads me to definitively believe that I am any better than them in those situations. Most people in my experience are polite. Rarely will someone in a social setting say something like, “You’re talking too much,” or “You’re boring everyone with that story,” or “You make me feel uncomfortable.” Most people I know when faced with such a situation would do their best to remain polite and find an inconspicuous way out of the unpleasant interaction whenever an exit presented itself.

While I definitely appreciate politeness, this tends to lead to a viscous cycle. Maybe ‘viscous’ is the wrong term, but ‘cycle’ is accurate. Person A (let’s call him Roman) is bad at conversing. Most times that Roman is at a party or other social setting he makes people uncomfortable in some way. Maybe he’s rude, but it also might be relatively harmless in that he could simply be boring or obnoxious. Roman has no idea that people don’t like talking to him. The people he talks to are too polite to allow him to pick up on the fact that they don’t enjoy his company. So, he continues to interact with people who for the most part don’t love it. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now, I hope I’m not like Roman. I doubt I am. People seem to like me, but what if I’m not as bad as Roman? What if I’m not unpleasant all the time, but only some of the times? What if I’m only making people feel uncomfortable 20% of the time? I’m not saying I do, but what if I did? If so, I would obviously want to correct this behavior to bring the number to 0%. But if I’m unaware that I’m doing it, how can I fix it? Most people aren’t going to tell me if I am. And asking someone a question like, “Am I cool to talk to?” comes off as needy and uncomfortable. Ironically, if it’s true that I’m great at socializing then my first ever weird moment could come from trying to find out if I ever force people into weird moments.

This post isn’t a veiled attempt at asking for validation for my social skills. However, it’s a genuine intellectual pursuit. Have you ever felt this way? What if anything did you do about it? If you did nothing, did you convince yourself that you’re great? Did you suppress the questioning of yourself? Did you simply decide that you are who you are and if that makes people uncomfortable than so be it? And if someone did break the social norm and told you that you’re unpleasant to converse with, what would you do about it? Would you change? Would you ask others for their opinions?

Human interaction is fascinating to me. We all have these powerful, but still very limited brains. We can’t know what each other is thinking with 100% certainty. We can’t know if we’re really liked or just tolerated. Or can we? Or do most people not even question their own social aptitude? Does my mere curiosity about this subject mean I’m different from most or is this one of those common things that we all share, but rarely talk about?

Or, is the mere portrayal of confidence around others the very thing that manifests pleasant social interactions?

Regardless of the answers to these questions (if there even are definitive answers) I still enjoy occasionally doing tasks at 3AM when I know that the only person I need to be comfortable around is myself. And I mostly enjoy my company…most of the time.

Thanks y’all!
Rich

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