Are You Socially Inept? How To Overcome Social Awkwardness

Last updated on November 21st, 2023 at 10:39 am

Discover strategies to overcome social awkwardness and thrive despite feeling socially inept. Embrace your unique social style and build meaningful connections.

With practice and guidance, it is possible to overcome social ineptitude and improve social skills to become more comfortable in social situations.

I remember prior to my teenagerhood, and well into my 20s, my introversion overlapped with social awkwardness and social ineptitude.

I was timid and jittery and avoided social situations like a plague not to mention speaking in public.

However, I overcame this dilemma after my mid-20s with confidence that is running over.

In this unusually long article, I will take you through my journey on how I stopped being socially inept, and how you too can hone your confidence and become socially competent.

Note: Socially inept, social ineptitude, and socially awkward are going to be used connectedly in this article as both of them are related.

Table of Contents

Socially Inept Meaning and Definition

A man who is socially inept

Social ineptitude refers to a lack of social skills or an inability to effectively navigate social situations.

People who have this problem like me, may struggle with basic social interactions, such as starting a conversation, maintaining eye contact, or interpreting nonverbal cues.

They may also have difficulty understanding social norms and expectations, which can lead to awkward or inappropriate behavior.

Social ineptitude can have a significant impact on a person’s life, both personally and professionally.

It can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and low self-esteem, as well as difficulties in socializing, building relationships, and advancing in the workplace.

Related: What Are Social Cues?

Socially Inept and Socially Awkward: What’s the Difference?

Here is the difference between the meanings of these terms:
Socially inept refers to a person who may lack social skills or experience and may not know how to properly interact in certain social situations.
This may not necessarily be due to a lack of desire to socialize, but rather a lack of knowledge or confidence.
On the other hand, socially awkward refers to a person who tends to behave in a way that makes others feel uncomfortable or awkward.
This can be due to their lack of social skills, inappropriate behavior, or difficulty reading social cues.

Related: Social Awareness, Skills, And Ways To Apply Them In Leadership

Importance of Social Skills

Benefits of Social Competence
Social skills are important for several reasons. First, strong social skills allow for positive interactions with others, leading to better relationships and a more fulfilling social life.

Secondly, social skills are essential in the workplace as they help to build and maintain professional relationships, increase teamwork and collaboration, and improve communication with colleagues and clients.

Additionally, good social skills can improve one’s emotional intelligence and empathy, allowing individuals to better understand and connect with others.
Social skills are crucial for personal and professional success and play a significant role in one’s mental health and well-being.

What Causes People to Become Socially Inept?

Social ineptitude and social awkwardness can have various causes, and it is important to note that these factors can differ from person to person.

Social awkwardness can arise from a combination of factors, including shyness and introversion, low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence, lack of social experience and skills, and anxiety and fear of judgment.

Let’s take a closer look:

Shyness and Introversion: Shyness refers to a feeling of unease or discomfort in social situations, whereas introversion is a personality trait characterized by a preference for solitary activities and limited social interactions. Both shyness and introversion can contribute to social awkwardness as individuals may struggle with initiating or sustaining conversations and feel overwhelmed by social interactions.

Low Self-esteem and Lack of Self-confidence: If you have low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence, you often feel insecure in social settings, which can lead to hesitancy in expressing oneself and participating in social interactions.

Lack of Social Experience and Skills: Limited exposure to social situations and insufficient opportunities to develop social skills can contribute to social awkwardness. Without practice and learning, you may struggle with understanding social norms, appropriate behaviours, and effective communication techniques, leading to discomfort in social interactions.

Anxiety and Fear of Judgment: Anxiety in social situations can manifest as a fear of being negatively evaluated or judged by others. This fear can be paralyzing, making you excessively self-conscious, and hindering your ability to engage in social interactions comfortably.

Traumatic Experiences: Past traumatic experiences, such as bullying or emotional abuse, can contribute to social awkwardness. These experiences can lead to a lack of trust in others, fear of being vulnerable, or difficulty forming and maintaining social relationships.

Cultural or Language Barriers: Cultural or language differences can sometimes lead to social awkwardness. Individuals who are unaware of cultural norms, language barriers, or unfamiliarity with social customs may struggle to navigate social interactions.

Developmental Disorders: Some developmental disorders, such as ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) or specific learning disabilities, can affect social skills and lead to social ineptitude.

Genetics: There is evidence that what causes people to be socially inept may have a genetic origin, with certain personality traits and cognitive abilities being inherited.

Also Read: The Journey to Identity Achievement

How Nature vs Nurture Can Cause Social Ineptitude

Nature and nurture both play a significant role in shaping an individual’s personality and behavior.

Social ineptitude can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

In this article, we will explore how nature and nurture can contribute to social ineptitude.


Inheritance: Neurological disorders, speech impairments, or certain conditions like autism can affect socialization, and these may be inherited. Thus, there might be a genetic component to social ineptitude.

Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances such as those caused by thyroid issues, hormone disorders, or neurotransmitter disruptions, like those caused by anxiety or depression, can significantly impact socialization ability.


Parenting Style: Ineffective parenting, like overprotective or permissive parenting styles, may contribute to an individual’s difficulty in developing social skills. A negative or abusive upbringing also affects social development.

Social Exertion: Limited exposure to social situations or isolation may hinder social development. A lack of supportive and nurturing social relationships can contribute to a decreased perception of social skills and self-confidence.

Cultural Influences: Cultural upbringing can impact how an individual perceives and responds to social interactions. Different cultures have different standards for appropriate behavior, expressing emotions, or social etiquette which can lead to miscommunications or misunderstandings that can lead to difficulties with social situations.

Signs of the Socially Inept and Social Awkwardness

Socially awkward man showing signs of social ineptitude

As we have seen above, socially inept and socially awkwardness are often used interchangeably to describe individuals who struggle in social situations and have difficulty navigating social interactions.

Being socially inept can be tricky sometimes. You might be comfortable in a small group or with your circle of friends but become awkward in one-on-one interactions.

I had a footballer friend who could do all sorts of skills on the field with thousands of spectators watching but was extremely socially awkward in one-on-one interaction.

If you find yourself exhibiting the above signs, understand you can improve with practice. Read on to find out how.

However, there are some subtle differences between the two, especially in the signs:

Socially Inept Signs

Difficulty Initiating or Sustaining Conversations: Socially individuals may struggle to start conversations or keep them going. They may encounter difficulties in finding appropriate topics to discuss, maintaining fluidity in conversations, or responding to others effectively.

Being Overly Self-conscious and Self-critical: If you are socially inept, you are often excessively self-conscious and self-critical, constantly worrying about how you are perceived by others. This self-focused mindset can impede your ability to relax and engage authentically in social situations.

Having Trouble Reading Social Cues and Nonverbal Communication: They may find it challenging to understand and interpret social cues, such as body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice. This difficulty can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings in social interactions.

Insensitivity: They might unknowingly make insensitive or offensive comments, as they struggle to gauge the appropriateness of their words.

Difficulty Forming and Maintaining Relationships: They often have trouble connecting with others on a deeper level, leading to limited or superficial relationships.

Lack of Self-awareness: They may have difficulty recognizing how their behaviors or actions impact others, leading to unintentional social blunders.

Social Awkwardness Signs

Anxiety in Social Settings: Socially awkward individuals often experience anxiety, discomfort, or nervousness when interacting with others or being in social situations.

Awkward Gestures and Movements: They may display unusual body postures, fidget, or exhibit nervous tics during social interactions.

Difficulty Making Eye Contact: Socially awkward people tend to avoid making direct eye contact, as it can increase their discomfort or anxiety.

Overthinking or Over-analyzing: They tend to overthink their interactions and worry excessively about how they come across to others.

Preference for Solitude: They may prefer to spend time alone or engage in activities that do not require much social interaction.

Also Read: The Proactive Way To Regulate Your Emotions

Consequences of Being Socially Inept

Impact and Consequences of Social Ineptitude

Social ineptitude can have significant personal and professional consequences, affecting your social life, mental well-being, and career prospects.

Here’s an explanation of the various consequences of social ineptitude:

Personal Consequences

Difficulty Making and Maintaining Friendships: People with social ineptitude may struggle to initiate and sustain meaningful relationships. They might have difficulty understanding social cues, making small talk, or building rapport with others.

Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation: Due to difficulties in socializing, they often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. They may have limited social interactions and find it challenging to engage in social activities or events, leading to a sense of being left out or detached.

Reduced Self-esteem and Self-worth: Constant struggles in social situations can negatively impact the socially inept’s self-esteem and self-worth. They may internalize their inability to socialize effectively and develop a negative perception of themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness.

Mental Health Issues: Some mental health problems that may arise as a result of social ineptitude include, anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, and more.

Professional Consequences

Hindered Networking and Career Advancement Opportunities: In many professional settings, networking plays a crucial role in career advancement. People with social ineptitude may find it challenging to connect and build professional relationships with colleagues, supervisors, or clients. This can limit their access to opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Difficulty Working Effectively in Teams: Effective teamwork often requires strong communication, cooperation, and collaboration. If you are socially inept, you may struggle to contribute effectively to team projects, understand team dynamics, or demonstrate appropriate social skills.

Impaired Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills: Poor social skills can lead to difficulties in effective communication and conflict resolution. Socially inept individuals may struggle to express their thoughts and ideas clearly, listen attentively, or navigate conflicts diplomatically. This can lead to misunderstandings, strained relationships, and a negative impact on work dynamics.

Difficulty dating: They may have difficulty finding romantic partners or maintaining relationships, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Related: Fake It Till You Make It: The Pros and Cons

How to not Be Socially Awkward: Overcoming Social Ineptitude

Boy being socially inept in the presence of a girl

How the Socially Inept Can Overcome Social Awkwardness and Social Ineptitude

Overcoming social awkwardness and social ineptitude means improving your ability to navigate social interactions and feel more comfortable and confident in social settings.

It involves recognizing the need for change, developing social skills, building self-confidence, and exposing yourself to social situations.

Let’s take a closer look:

1. Recognizing the need for change:

Self-Reflection and Understanding the Negative Impact Of Social Ineptitude: This step involves looking inward and examining how social awkwardness may be hindering personal and professional relationships. It requires acknowledging the social challenges faced and the negative consequences that come with it, such as missed opportunities or difficulty forming connections.

Embracing the Desire for Personal Growth and Improvement: This involves acknowledging the desire to change and actively seeking personal growth in social skills. You must accept that remaining socially inept is not a fixed trait and that improvement is possible with effort and determination.

2. Developing Social Skills

Active Listening and Empathetic Communication: This involves actively paying attention to others, understanding their perspectives, and responding appropriately. It includes showing genuine interest, asking follow-up questions, and providing supportive feedback.

Practicing Assertiveness and Expressing Opinions Confidently: This step focuses on expressing yourself authentically while respecting the opinions of others. It involves developing the ability to assert your needs, express opinions confidently, and engage in productive conversations.

Learning to Read Nonverbal Cues and Improve Body Language: This includes understanding and interpreting nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. It involves improving your own body language to appear more open, approachable, and engaged.

Small Talk and Conversation Starters: This step involves learning and practicing the art of small talk to initiate conversations and keep them flowing. It includes using open-ended questions, finding common interests, and maintaining a friendly and relaxed demeanor.

Also Read: The Importance Of Self-Awareness And Its Improvement

3. Building Self-confidence

Challenging Negative Self-talk and Limiting Beliefs: This step involves identifying and challenging negative self-talk and beliefs about yourself in social situations. It includes replacing self-critical thoughts with positive and affirming ones.

Setting Achievable Goals and Celebrating Successes: This includes setting small and achievable goals related to social interactions. It involves recognizing and celebrating successes along the way to boost self-confidence and motivation.

Seeking Support from Friends, Family, or Professional Help: Building self-confidence may require external support. This can involve seeking guidance from supportive friends and family or seeking professional help, such as therapy or coaching.

Also Read: Social Intelligence Test: What is social intelligence

4. Exposing Oneself to Social Situations

Gradual Exposure and Desensitization to Anxiety-inducing Situations: This step involves gradually exposing yourself to social situations that induce anxiety, starting with less challenging situations and gradually progressing to more difficult ones. It aims to desensitize anxiety responses and build confidence over time.

Joining Social Clubs, Groups, or Classes to Practice Social Skills: This involves actively seeking out opportunities to engage in social interactions, such as joining clubs or groups with similar interests. It provides a safe and supportive environment to practice social skills and build confidence.

Actively Seeking Opportunities for Social Interaction: This step includes actively seeking opportunities to engage in social interactions, such as attending parties, networking events, or social gatherings. This proactive approach helps in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and increasing exposure to various social situations.

Also Read: Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Success in Today’s World

Tools and Resources for Socially Inept Individuals

Social awkwardness in full display as shyness

Of course, the socially inept can get help and become socially intelligent with little effort or practice.

Here are some resources:

Books and Self-help Resources

Recommendations for Books on Social Skills and Self-improvement: There are various books available that can help socially inept individuals improve their social skills. Some popular recommendations include “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, “The Charisma Myth” by Olivia Fox Cabane, and “Social Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman.

Online Courses and Tutorials for Developing Social Skills: Several online platforms offer courses and tutorials specifically designed to help individuals develop social skills. Websites like Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare provide a wide range of options to choose from, such as “Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety” or “Effective Communication Skills.”

Therapy and Coaching Options

Benefits of Seeking Professional Guidance: Seeking professional therapy or coaching can provide personalized support and guidance to socially inept individuals. Professionals can help identify underlying issues, provide techniques for social interaction, and offer emotional support.

Different Therapy Approaches to Address Social Ineptitude: There are several therapy approaches that can be effective in addressing social ineptitude. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors, while social skills training teaches individuals specific techniques for socializing. Other approaches like psychodynamic therapy or group therapy can also be helpful, depending on the individual’s needs.

Support Groups and Communities

Connecting with Others Facing Similar Challenges: Joining support groups or communities can provide socially inept individuals with a safe space to connect with others who face similar challenges. These groups foster understanding, empathy, and a sense of belonging.

Engaging in Online Forums or Attending Local Meetups: Many online forums or platforms, such as Reddit or Facebook groups, allow individuals to interact with others who share their social challenges. Additionally, attending local meetups or social events focused on specific interests can facilitate meeting and connecting with like-minded individuals in person. These platforms and events provide opportunities to practice social skills in a supportive environment.

Social Awkwardness Test

A shy, young lady displaying signs of social ineptitude

A social awkwardness test is typically a questionnaire or assessment that aims to measure your level of social awkwardness in various social situations.

It may consist of multiple-choice questions or rating scales that ask individuals to reflect on their own behaviors and feelings in different social scenarios.

The purpose of the test is to provide insights into your social skills, communication abilities, and comfort level in various social contexts.

It can help identify areas where you may struggle or feel uncomfortable, providing them with an opportunity to work on your social skills and improve your interactions with others.

The test may cover a wide range of scenarios, such as initiating a conversation, making eye contact, maintaining appropriate personal space, responding to social cues, handling small talk, dealing with unfamiliar or uncomfortable social situations, and expressing yourself confidently.

The results of the test can provide you with a better understanding of your social strengths and weaknesses, which can serve as a starting point for personal growth and development.

It may also help professionals, such as therapists or counselors, to assess social difficulties and provide appropriate interventions or guidance.


Socially inept people are normal people who are awkward with social skills. They find it difficult to interact and comport themselves around people.

Social ineptitude is a multifactorial issue with different causation factors. Both nature and nurture interact to create a person’s social skills and abilities.

They can be very much active with their families but assume an inept posture in social settings.

Exposing yourself and being competent in social skills would go a long way in solving social awkwardness.

Intense therapy or counseling might need to be administered to ensure individuals have the required skills to establish adequate social relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to be socially inept?

It means having difficulty with social interactions and relationships, including understanding social cues, maintaining appropriate behavior and communication, and feeling comfortable in social situations.

Is being socially inept a disorder?

Social ineptitude itself is not considered a disorder, but it can be a symptom of certain conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Can social ineptitude be improved or cured?

Social ineptitude can be improved with practice and by learning social skills through therapy or social training programs. However, it is unlikely to be cured completely as it can be a part of a person’s personality.

How can I improve my social skills if I am socially inept?

You can improve your social skills by practicing different social situations, seeking feedback from others, attending social skills training programs, and working with a therapist.

What are some common problems that socially inept people face?

They may experience difficulty making friends, feeling isolated, being misunderstood, and struggling to form meaningful relationships.

Can socially inept people have successful careers?

Yes, they can have successful careers by focusing on their strengths and taking advantage of opportunities that play to their abilities. They can also learn and practice social skills that are necessary for their profession.

Is it possible to have a romantic relationship if I am socially inept?

Yes, it is possible to have a romantic relationship even if you are socially awkward. However, it may require more effort and understanding from yourself and your partner. Working with a therapist can also help improve communication and relationship skills.

What do you call someone who is socially inept?

One can call someone who is socially inept a “socially awkward person” or a “social misfit.”

What causes social ineptness?

Social ineptitude can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, upbringing, environment, and personal experiences. Some research suggests that social skills may be partly influenced by genetics, but environment and upbringing are also major contributing factors.

What is inept behaviour?

It refers to actions or behaviour that are ineffective, clumsy, or lacking in skill or competence. It is behavior that is poorly executed or ill-suited to the situation or task at hand, often resulting in negative outcomes or consequences.

How do I know if I am socially inept?

If you are unsure whether or not you are socially awkward, there are a few signs to look for. These may include – difficulty starting or maintaining conversations, feeling anxious or uncomfortable in social situations, not picking up on social cues, struggling to make and keep friends, and not knowing how to act in certain social situations.

Are introverts socially inept?

No, introverts are not necessarily inept. Being introverted means that a person tends to feel more energized and recharged in solitary or low-stimulation environments.


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The Conducts Of Life | | Website | + posts

Pious Clements is the insightful voice behind "The Conducts of Life" blog, where he writes about life ethics, self-development, life mastery, and the dynamics of people and society.

With a profound understanding of human behaviuor and societal dynamics, Pious offers thought-provoking perspectives on ethical living and personal growth.
Through engaging narratives and astute observations, he inspires readers to navigate life's complexities with wisdom and integrity, encouraging a deeper understanding of the human experience and our place within society.