Overcoming Social Awkwardness with John Sonmez

Typically social awkwardness is defined as feeling nervous or uncomfortable in social settings. For most socially awkwardness people situations where they have to be social provoke anxiety and nervousness. Many are introverts and so even being around people they know can be draining.

“Almost all relationships end up in conflict resolutions”

It can also include difficulty understanding or comprehending social norms. Many people with social awkwardness struggle with knowing what is and is not appropriate in social situations. They struggle with how to start a conversation and with what topics are OK to talk about.

Episode Breakdown

08:00 Introversion and Extroversion

“It’s context based…people are introverted or extroverted based on the context.”

Personalities are dynamic and people can choose who they want to be. Saying that you are introverted or extroverted all the time is placing yourself into a box.

09:34 Unintended Consequences.

Awkward silences and conversations that don’t have a good flow are the most obvious consequences. It can also lead to avoidance of groups or social situations. People in general avoid those that are socially awkward. Socially awkward people can come across as creepy because they have trouble with understanding the social norms. The worst consequence is a lack of meaningful connections with others.

12:15 Strategies for Overcoming Social Awkwardness

Social awkwardness is an internal process. It’s a form of extreme self-awareness. The worst case scenario mentality can lead to lack of action. If all you are thinking about is what not to say then you are not thinking about what to say. On the same note avoid excessive worry after a situation or replaying it in your mind.

“It comes down to you are going to be socially awkward until you have confidence.”

Overcoming social awkwardness takes confidence and that requires courage. Courage is working through fear of social interactions or of making social mistakes. There is no life hack to get around this.

“Confidence is all about knowing the outcome.”

Break the confirmation bias cycle. It’s easy to believe the worst about yourself, you can become your own worst critic. Understand that you are worth knowing and socializing with. You have value to add to a conversation or a friendship.

19:45 The Selfish “Nice Guy”

If you are focussed on what other people perceive of you then you are being selfish. You are trying to get something from the other person. When the focus shifts onto how to make the other person comfortable or not socially awkward you become an interesting person to be around.

“How can I give as opposed to how can I manipulate the situation”

The implicit or covert contract is the thought process that says in exchange for being nice or polite the other person is obligated to like me. This tends to have the opposite effect as obligation does not equal attraction.

26:22 Unconditional Love

“We start in this world wanting unconditional love”

If you do not want to be a burden on others you have to accept that you will be alone. Doing this you will stop obligating others. You no longer care what others think and stop being needy and become more confident.

“You are a person people want to be around rather than a person that drags other people down.”

Stoic philosophy states that you should stop seeking the external validation but instead build up a fortress inside yourself. Let your motivation be to become a better person. You have control over your mindset.

34:43 Interviews and Presentations

Learn algorithms and become a master of word problems. Practice answering interview questions. Get a white board and practice writing on it and explaining what you are doing. Ask friends and acquaintances to give you practice interviews.

“Give it five times before you decide if you like it or not.”

Commit and force yourself to do a presentation. Have friends or family members in the audience especially in the front. They will be cheering for you. During the talk make eye contact with them if you get nervous.

IoTease: Product


This is a Kickstarter project that is now on Amazon. It is a muscle sensor that is arduino compatible. It can be used to control robots, prosthetics, video games, etc. There’s even an LED Shield that will show the strength of your flex. No need for an Arduino or external power to test your strength.

Tricks of the Trade

Appropriate social interactions can effect your code. It’s easy to build systems for different departments that don’t want to interact. We can use technology to exacerbate the lack of communication between different groups. When you see this dynamic developing try to shift the conversation to how the different departments communicate in real life. Then automate that interaction. Don’t always solve problems with code, think about how you can solve it socially.

Editor’s Notes:

We experienced some technical difficulties with our audio during the recording of this episode.

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