New York magazine's "Science of Us" editor explains the compelling psychology of awkwardness, and why learning to accept your cringeworthy moments can be a social advantage.
Have you ever said goodbye to someone, only to discover that you're both walking in the same direction? Or had your next thought fly out of your brain in the middle of a presentation? Or accidentally liked an old photo on someone's Instagram or Facebook, thus revealing yourself to be a creepy social media stalker?
Melissa Dahl, editor of New York magazine's "Science of Us" website, has experienced all of those awkward situations, and many more. Now she offers a thoughtful, original take on what it really means to feel awkward. She invites you to follow her into all sorts of mortifying moments, such as reading her middle school diary on stage in front of hundreds of strangers, striking up conversations with busy New Yorkers on the subway, and even taking improv comedy lessons. She also draws on research to answer questions you've probably pondered at some point, such as:
* Why are situations without clear rules most likely to turn awkward?
* Are people really judging us as harshly as we think they are?
* Does anyone ever truly outgrow their awkward teenage self?
If you can learn to tolerate life's most cringeworthy situations -- networking, difficult conversations, hearing the sound of your own terrible voice -- your awkwardness can be a secret weapon to making better, more memorable impressions. When everyone else is pretending to have it under control, you can be a little braver and grow a little bigger.