Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome by Ty Tashiro

Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome

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 fi...

Title:Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0062429175
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:288 pages

Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome Reviews

  • Rachel León

    (3.5 stars, rounded up because it was such a comforting read)

    I am very socially awkward. When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Indeed reading it was like holding up a mirror. I laughed at some of the descriptions of what awkward people do because it was SO me. In that way, it was a comforting read. It made me feel less strange and helped me embrace and own the fact that yes, I am terribly, delightfully awkward. At times the book skims over topics and goes more into giftedness t

    (3.5 stars, rounded up because it was such a comforting read)

    I am very socially awkward. When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Indeed reading it was like holding up a mirror. I laughed at some of the descriptions of what awkward people do because it was SO me. In that way, it was a comforting read. It made me feel less strange and helped me embrace and own the fact that yes, I am terribly, delightfully awkward. At times the book skims over topics and goes more into giftedness than seemed necessary, but it's a great comforting read for awkward people like myself.

  • Taryn Pierson

    I consider myself an awkward person. However, I am that rare awkward person who was blessed with a group of highly extroverted, gregarious friends growing up, whose constant slumber parties and note-passing created a beautiful social bubble that kept me in regular contact with humans and also disguised the fact that without them, I was shy and didn’t know how to talk to people. Perhaps it occurred to me to wonder why I was always in trouble for talking too much in classes I shared with my friend

    I consider myself an awkward person. However, I am that rare awkward person who was blessed with a group of highly extroverted, gregarious friends growing up, whose constant slumber parties and note-passing created a beautiful social bubble that kept me in regular contact with humans and also disguised the fact that without them, I was shy and didn’t know how to talk to people. Perhaps it occurred to me to wonder why I was always in trouble for talking too much in classes I shared with my friends, yet turned into a silent mouse in classes with kids I didn’t know well, but at the time it didn’t seem that weird to have two personalities depending on who was around. Now I recognize that there exists a Taryn For Public Consumption, who you’ll find sitting shifty-eyed in the corner and fidgeting with a napkin, and then, like a Russian nesting doll, a bunch of other progressively bigger, louder, (I would argue) funnier, (and if I’m being honest) more emotional Taryns that you might encounter if you get to know me better.

    Thanks to the friend bubble, I didn’t fully realize how awkward I was until college, when that friend group dispersed and I was on my own to build a new one. Let me tell you, it was a rude awakening. And nowadays when my awkwardness rears its head, it continues to surprise me, because most of my life I’ve perceived myself as a socially normal, if not terribly popular or trendy, person. Then I walk into a crowded wedding reception full of tables for eight with my (one) husband and panic about which six strangers we’re going to have to make small talk with, and I remember. Oh yeah. This is who I am. I was just blissfully unaware of it for 18 years.

    So reading Ty Tashiro’s book was extremely helpful to me, because it validated a lot of things I’d wondered about myself but didn’t know how to put into words. I’ve known I am an introvert for a while now, but Tashiro points out that that label alone doesn’t fully explain everything about him, and it doesn’t explain everything about my experience, either. It’s not just that I crave time alone, it’s that when I am in a social situation, I don’t know how to comport myself. It’s possible to be introverted and still feel comfortable in social situations, but it’s also possible to be introverted and feel paralyzed by them. One doesn’t necessarily predict the other. That was a big revelation for me, and a comforting one, since I’ve read so many introvert thinkpieces claiming that “being introverted doesn’t mean I’m socially inept!” that left me wondering, “But what if I am?” If introversion didn’t explain my social hiccups, did that mean I was defective? According to Tashiro, nope, I’m just awkward. Somehow, that’s a lot easier to live with.

    Tashiro also discusses the link between giftedness and awkwardness, and while he’s careful to acknowledge that not all gifted kids are awkward and not all awkward kids are gifted, there’s a higher prevalence of awkwardness among gifted kids than non-gifted kids. Which is a real duh moment if you’ve ever spent any time in a self-contained gifted program. I remember being totally flummoxed one time on a church trip after an interaction with one of the popular girls in my youth group. (Yes, there were popular kids in youth group, welcome to the Bible Belt!) She had loudly criticized the way I was applying sunscreen, which drew the attention of the other kids and of course embarrassed me. I remember thinking, I know I am smarter than this girl. I know the kind of grades she gets in school. So why is it she knows how to get all these other kids on her side? How does she know how to manipulate every situation so she ends up with power and I end up looking dumb? I know I’m smart, so why can’t I figure out how to be more popular? Now I know that while I may have been book smart, that girl far outpaced me in social IQ, and they’re two completely different kinds of intelligence.

    Not everything in the book resonated with me, but that’s to be expected, because there are a lot of ways to be awkward, and thankfully there are some awkward traits I don’t struggle with. For example, Tashiro tells a cute story on himself about a time in grade school when he made edits to his store-bought Valentines because he was uncomfortable with the strong emotions they expressed. Some awkward people are uncomfortable expressing or discussing strong emotions, but as someone who feels compelled to externally process every emotion she experiences (just ask my husband), I don’t have that problem. So I guess I’ve got that going for me.

    Reflecting on my life this way has made me really thankful for that friend group I had growing up. It makes me want to give each of those girls a hug, and I’m not a hugger. Without them, I strongly suspect I would have spent most of my school years chewing on my hair and staring at the wall. It also fills me with a kind of awe that my husband and I, two incredibly awkward people, managed to meet and date and fall in love with each other. I remember our first date with eternal fondness, but I’m sure to an outside observer it was more like a slow-moving train wreck than violins and birdsong. Fortunately, he’s the kind of guy who finds it endearing that I brought a book with me.

    More book recommendations by me at

  • Keely

    In "Awkward," psychologist Ty Tashiro examines the trait of social awkwardness and both the challenges and advantages that come with it. On the positive side, socially awkward people tend to have intense focus on their personal interests, which often leads to extraordinary achievements or innovations. In addition, awkwardness frequently overlaps with remarkable talent or areas of giftedness. On the other hand, awkward people also tend to devote attention to their areas of interest at the expense

    In "Awkward," psychologist Ty Tashiro examines the trait of social awkwardness and both the challenges and advantages that come with it. On the positive side, socially awkward people tend to have intense focus on their personal interests, which often leads to extraordinary achievements or innovations. In addition, awkwardness frequently overlaps with remarkable talent or areas of giftedness. On the other hand, awkward people also tend to devote attention to their areas of interest at the expense of developing social graces that communicate positive intent and help them fit in. This is especially problematic because awkward people desperately need good social graces to balance a natural inability to pick up on social cues and see the bigger picture in social situations. Throughout, Tashiro celebrates what's awesome about being awkward while also offering strategies to help awkward individuals navigate social life and develop nurturing relationships. I felt like the book got repetitive at times, but as an awkward person and a parent of awkward kids, I also found it both affirming and helpful.

  • Karen

    More useful advice than Quiet.

  • Scott Neigh

    General nonfiction exploring the phenomenon of social awkwardness. Brings together the latest experimental research, anecdotes from the author's work as a psychology PhD and his own life as an awkward person, and broader context. Overall, a mixed bag. The writing is pretty good, and effectively integrates professional literature with slice-of-life stories, but I found my interest in the content varied a lot across the book. One axis of this variance, though not the only, was that the material mo

    General nonfiction exploring the phenomenon of social awkwardness. Brings together the latest experimental research, anecdotes from the author's work as a psychology PhD and his own life as an awkward person, and broader context. Overall, a mixed bag. The writing is pretty good, and effectively integrates professional literature with slice-of-life stories, but I found my interest in the content varied a lot across the book. One axis of this variance, though not the only, was that the material more focused on self-fashioning, which was more densely present earlier in the book, was somewhat more compelling, whereas the more descriptive content and the general pronouncements about life didn't do as much for me. As well, it shows the weaknesses inherent in approaching people and our interactions purely through psy discourses (leavened with a dash of basic positivist sociology and a sprinkling of evolutionary biological storytelling) -- that is, an impoverished understanding of the self and some pretty dodgy claims (or at least implications) about the social world. Ultimately, probably part of my lukewarm response to the book is because its relevance to me personally felt uneven: Social awkwardness is a fairly coherent set of characteristics, according to experimental psychology, and it feels like this cluster cuts across rather than clearly describing my own particular pattern of social capacities and incapacities.

  • Lesley

    I received Awkward for free through Goodreads' Giveaways program.

    Ty Tashiro tackles the subject of awkwardness in this book. He explains how and why people can be awkward, using both his personal experience and anecdotes. He also brings in research from many studies, which can be helpful in illuminating his ideas.

    This book struck me as a "pop psychology" book in the vein of Jonah Berger. There was some interesting information, but there was nothing especially groundbreaking.

    An entertaining and

    I received Awkward for free through Goodreads' Giveaways program.

    Ty Tashiro tackles the subject of awkwardness in this book. He explains how and why people can be awkward, using both his personal experience and anecdotes. He also brings in research from many studies, which can be helpful in illuminating his ideas.

    This book struck me as a "pop psychology" book in the vein of Jonah Berger. There was some interesting information, but there was nothing especially groundbreaking.

    An entertaining and quick read.

  • Bob

    There were some interesting anecdotes, but I don't know if I'm any closer to knowing the difference between the awkward and the shy. I think I'm more the former than the latter.

  • Issac Stolzenbach

    Review of AWKWARD: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome written by Ty Tashiro, PhD

    13 July 2017

    Stolzenbach Hessen

    (Original from

    )

    New Ways to Join the Human Condition Club

    I’ve never experienced this before: It’s a great feeling to have Christmas shopping finished in mid-July! I’m going to purchase a copy of Dr. Ty Tashiro’s new book, AWKWARD, for everyone who puts up with me.

    Ty is very kind to his reader and his Voice on the page

    Review of AWKWARD: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome written by Ty Tashiro, PhD

    13 July 2017

    Stolzenbach Hessen

    (Original from

    )

    New Ways to Join the Human Condition Club

    I’ve never experienced this before: It’s a great feeling to have Christmas shopping finished in mid-July! I’m going to purchase a copy of Dr. Ty Tashiro’s new book, AWKWARD, for everyone who puts up with me.

    Ty is very kind to his reader and his Voice on the page is patient and wise. While offering enviable real-world insight, Ty also cites his sources, which are based on the latest neuroscience and psychology research (2017). The psychologist describes what it was like coming up awkward through grade school in the ‘80s with such precision I had to ask him about his handedness (#truestory). While everyone else in junior high was wearing black Metallica t-shirts and bluejeans, we the awkward took an overthought tack instead:

    “My blanket philosophy that an adultlike approach would be my best bet led to a number of misguided tactical decisions. When the first day of [junior high] school arrived, I chose an outfit that included a starched baby-blue oxford, a crisp pair of pleated khaki pants, and a pair of extra-large, square silver glasses that looked like the bifocals my grandparents’ friends wore. If I were a sixty-year-old accountant, I would have looked dashing.” ~Ty Tashiro

    My first day of seventh grade at Lassiter Middle School in Louisville (after getting kicked out of a third Catholic school) went down pretty much the same way. I stood so brilliantly out of place, Patrick Delkener swam across the packed lunchroom wearing ripped jeans and a black Megadeth shirt — he took me under his wing: “Dude, it’s so obvious you’re gay,” he said quietly patting my shoulder, “I know because my older sister is gay too. It’s cool man, just don’t tell anyone.” Patrick protected me and – after a brief discussion on all the sex stuff I knew nothing about – we discovered that I was simply lefthanded.

    Ty often uses the stage- and spotlight metaphor as a way to accurately describe how awkward people see the world: while watching a play on stage, socially intuitive people can see the whole production under stagelight; socially awkward people, on the other hand, have a spotlight focus on one part of the stage. This means it takes an awkward person – upon entering a social event – more time for their brain|eyes to react to the scene.

    Lefthanded kids experience the same thing, but I always described it as “reverse-engineering” the situation: seeing the end goal; evaluating the steps required to get there; execute. After evaluating and testing hundreds (or perhaps thousands?) of social interactions, it is possible to develop social intuition.

    Ty Tashiro has used his doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota in many capacities: as researcher, professor, and practitioner. His unique interests, skills, and talents have landed him publication in the New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME, and The Atlantic – he’s even given TED@NYC talks. I welcome many of his mantras sinking into my skull: be fair, kind, and loyal in all things; work to widen spotlight view to stagelight; recognize rage to master tendencies.

    Be fair, kind, and loyal in your friendships and social interactions. I will repeat this to myself daily and be aware of the “rage to master” personality trait. Ty attributes the rage-to-master theory to Professor Ellen Winner, chair of the psychology department at Boston College and senior researcher at Harvard, who claims that gifted people tend to exhibit a unique ability at the sacrifice of something else (i.e., smart but not socially adept):

    “Technically, giftedness is defined by someone’s level of ability, their raw intelligence, athleticism, or artistic ability. But Professor Winner and others have found that gifted individuals are also more likely to have a certain type of personality. Gifted people tend to be stubborn, rebellious, and perfectionistic. They show an unusual drive to master their area of interest and they are constantly trying to push the status quo, which motivates them to pursue their interest with an unusual intensity and persistence. Winner calls this constellation of personality characteristics and attitudes the ‘rage to master.’”

    I’m betting the folks who know me are currently nodding their heads. I laughed out loud when I read this next bit b\c I’d recently experienced it at Spalding University’s writing residency: “Even when talented people share the same areas of interest as their peers, their rage to master can be off-putting to others who want to have fun instead of rage. When talented people cannot approach their interests with the intensity or pace they prefer, you will sometimes hear them say, ‘This person has no sense of urgency!’” 😂🤣😂 [my emphasis]

    AWKWARD is an important text for the current era in which we live. I have never witnessed and experienced the heightened-mean-spirited vibe that is currently permeating the United States. It’s a lefthanded thing to be able to blend in just about anywhere, but currently I’m at a loss as to what Chameleon color I should be in 2017. Until I figure it out, I’m looking for ways to bring the rampant tribalism closer toward the center. One way is following the lead of Tori Murden McClure, author of A Pearl in the Storm, who created the first Charter for Compassion (charterforcompassion.org) school in the U.S. (Spalding University); Ty Tashiro’s philosophy in AWKWARD is another way to bring us all closer.

    In this text, Ty identifies – through both research and personal experience – a specialized group (like leftys) that may sometimes appear out of place (and sound aggressive in person) but always maintain the best possible intent. He also provides guides for people like us interacting with the world, and for the world interacting with people like us 😬

    I wrote to Professor Tashiro b\c I had to know if he was lefthanded (supporting documentation for my creative thesis Sinistral Way) and it turned out even better than expected: “. . . I was interested to see your question because as I thought about it, I was kind of surprised that I’m not lefthanded. I’m not an expert in the psychological research on left-handedness, but from what I know, the creativity and stubbornness to follow a different path (which of course can be positive) does seem to overlap with some of the dispositions that characterize many awkward people. It’s interesting that compared to the base rate of left-handedness in the general population [10–15%], I seem to have a disproportionate number of friends who are left-handed. Hmmm . . . so interesting.”

    Ty found a way to include everyone and anyone in this specialized group. I will endeavor to do the same in the book I’m working on, Sinistral Way. I can’t thank Ty enough for showing me a way to do that in AWKWARD and I have personally thanked him for writing this book: it is a rare treasure. Please purchase a few copies: it will shed light on past awkward interactions, better prepare you for future interactions, and give you an edge in communicating with the highly skilled people who can bring your vision to fruition.

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