Social Awkwardness

Penulis: Iqbal Maesa.

Actually, I have written another article, as requested by the owner of this blog – to make the blog goes global he said, to be submitted to this blog but eventually, I would like this article to show up first. I want to disclose my self a bit. I have a ‘disorder’ that does not  (and I hope will not) come up in DSM, which stands for Diagnostic & Statistical Manual and becomes the guidebook for psychologists and psychiatrists to judge whether someone has mental disorder or not. I have a social awkwardness. I define social awkwardness as lack of ability to build or maintain social interaction and read social convention (such as small talk, politeness, etc.).

In my opinion, social awkwardness is different from social anxiety or stage fright. Stage fright can only happen in certain situation, such as art performance presentation in front of board of directors) and social anxiety comes up with physiological symptoms when engaging social interaction. Social awkwardness can happen in most (if not all) social interactions but does not come up with physiological reactions related to anxiety.

Even though I tend to be an extrovert, which should be lively, outspoken, and engage social interaction more than introvert, eventually I am not that of kind of person.  Don’t even think about maintaining personal relationship (I had a romantic relationship once), even having a small talk is kind of hard. I would rather to say hi then leave the scene than to have a long conversation. I also less likely to greet my old friend when we collide at public places. By that, I am used to be judged arrogant at first sight but behind the scene, I was thinking hard of how to talk to person I met or basically just forgot who the person is. I am also a kind of ‘responder’ person (compared to this blog owner, who is extremely conversationalist).

In most of conversation I join into, I predict that about 80-90% of my role in the conversation is responding to other people’s topic. I rarely open conversation to old friends, even to a new person I just met. I can guarantee if you meet me as a new person, I will less likely to start the conversation between us. Related to social convention, it seems that I have a little idea (if no idea is considered as harsh) about politeness standard in society. In my opinion, as long as someone does not harm other people, know your roles, and act according to the role, you are good enough for the society. Pardon my ‘dichotomous-thinking’ bias.

Tonight, as I was reflecting what I have done through entire day, I realized that I find it hard to interact with people especially in dealing with personal issue. I tend to be reluctant to tell others about myself. Compared when I was engaging in discussion outside personal issue, such as about knowledge or courses, I find that kind of talk is more engaging and lively than when I had small talks or discussion about myself. If you notice, I even begin this article with definition, although not scientific. Moreover, I had been a ‘permanent resident’ for almost two years in clinic when I was studying at Psychology Department. I joined counseling session to find out more about my social awkwardness. It turned out that my counselor was not able to dig up more valuable data about me since in counseling session, I talked about impersonal issue or told fragment story of myself.

My closest friend, once told me that I might have some something fragile (ego? pride?) that I want to protect inside so that I built huge and thick wall to prevent that fragile thing from outside intervention.  I think this issue has impact on my social awkwardness. Most of social interaction shall interchange small talk and share common grounds about personal issue. I mean, who is keen on conversation starts with ‘Hey, do you know recent research findings about altruism and mortality salience? Let us about that topic’. Since I find it hard, I will less likely to contribute in the conversation then I end up just listening to conversation and commenting if I have the knowledge about the topic.

So, yeah I am open that I am extrovert with social awkwardness. I even disclose some of my self to public by publishing this article. One of my lecturers once told me that you have to realize that you have weaknesses and live with it. Don’t deny your weaknesses. I hope that reader(s) would acknowledge more about social awkwardness issue (and me) after reading this article.

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