An academic and psychologist examines the “quirks and unique talents of awkward individuals” and why it’s not so bad to be awkward.
Combining research and anecdote, Tashiro (The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love, 2014) suggests that a certain amount of awkwardness is perfectly normal, that a little more can provide a series of learning experiences, and that any diagnosis short of autism might be handled in-house or with the help of a good therapist. As he writes, the author was socially awkward and is still recognized as such by some of his friends, though he proceeds to show how he met what in his case were mild challenges: “I am awkward by nature but socially proficient by nurture.” Such nurture comes in the form of training and advice, learning the consequences of some behavior, and becoming more adept at navigating social interaction. “Three important cues,” he writes, “tend to give awkward individuals trouble: nonverbal behaviors, facial expressions, and decoding language used during social conversations.” Awkward people tend to have a tighter focus and more obsessive routines; they are better at following rules than deciphering clues. They may not look others in the eye, and they tend to lecture rather than converse (when they are not alone, where they feel more comfortable). Sometimes awkwardness correlates with giftedness and thus standing apart. The awkward must learn what seems to come more naturally to others, to recognize the importance of social belonging, and to extend their comfort zones to include others. The cultural shift to the internet, in areas ranging from business communication to dating, can complicate the challenge, making cues more difficult to decipher without facial expression and tone of voice. Yet the author assures that awkwardness can be a gift and that one can be grateful for it—because he is.
Tashiro offers little revelatory information, but it helps to know that you are not alone.