The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's AwesomeBook - 2017
In the vein of Quiet and The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth comes this illuminating look at what it means to be awkward--and how the same traits that make us socially anxious and cause embarrassing faux pas also provide the seeds for extraordinary success.
As humans, we all need to belong. While modern social life can make even the best of us feel gawky, for roughly one in five of us, navigating its challenges is consistently overwhelming--an ongoing maze without an exit. Often unable to grasp social cues or master the skills and grace necessary for smooth interaction, we feel out of sync with those around us. Though individuals may recognize their awkward disposition, they rarely understand why they are like this--which makes it hard for them to know how to adjust their behavior.
Psychologist and interpersonal relationship expert Ty Tashiro knows what it's like to be awkward. Growing up, he could do math in his head and memorize the earned run averages of every National League starting pitcher. But he couldn't pour liquids without spilling and habitually forgot to bring his glove to Little League games. In Awkward, he unpacks decades of research into human intelligence, neuroscience, personality, and sociology to help us better understand this widely shared trait. He explores its nature vs. nurture origins, considers how the awkward view the world, and delivers a welcome counterintuitive message: the same characteristics that make people socially clumsy can be harnessed to produce remarkable achievements.
Interweaving the latest research with personal tales and real world examples, Awkward offers reassurance and provides valuable insights into how we can embrace our personal quirks and unique talents to harness our awesome potential--and more comfortably navigate our complex world.
From the critics
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Chronically awkward people can feel like everyone else received a secret instruction manual at birth titled _How to Be Socially Competent_.
So what do you call someone who is not autistic, but has considerable difficulty with social skills, communication, and an unusually obsessive focus? I would call that awkward.
The relationship between autism and awkwardness illustrates a broader concept in clinical psychology and psychiatry, which is that people who are considered in psychological terms to be “normal” can have milder forms of characteristics that are associated with serious conditions. Just as people with melancholy characteristics are not necessarily diagnosable with major depressive disorder and people who are unusually orderly are not necessarily diagnosable with obsessive-compulsive disorder, people who are socially awkward are not necessarily autistic.
I have repeatedly found that a little patience with awkward individuals’ clumsy handling of minor social expectations is well worth the wait. Someone’s social grace has little to do with their sense of fairness, kindness, or loyalty. In fact, awkward people sometimes have a heightened sense of fairness or compassion because they know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of unfair or unkind acts.
It took me a long time, well into adulthood, to learn that moving toward a deeper level of emotional connection with someone can be like a game of chicken. When two people first begin to gather emotional momentum, it’s an intense feeling that is so good, they fear the feeling could burst. They feel the rush of speeding toward something unknown and as they near the point of contact, their feelings can grow so intense that a protective mechanism switches on at the last second. A mechanism that leads one or both of them to turn away.
Here’s what loyal friends believe about you. Loyal friends believe that you contribute something unique to their lives. They value you not for extrinsic things like wealth, social status, or power. They believe that you will rise from your toughest times. They trust that you will emerge through adversity as a better person. They have faith in not only who you are, but who you will become. There are few things better in life than having loyal friends, people who have stubbornly committed to making a long-term investment in you for who you are.
Mentally preparing kids for social interactions is no different from the parents next door having to give extra help to a child who is slow to read or who struggles with math. When parents try to gloss over their awkward children’s rough social edges, they lose an opportunity to make meaningful change by coaching them in concrete skills that actually make a difference in their ability to smoothly navigate social situations and form meaningful ties.
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