The Atlantic

Awkwardness, Why?

The author of a new book explains the science behind the cringeworthy feeling—and how to overcome it.
Source: Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

It’s when a fist bump unwittingly meets a high-five. It’s when Ben Carson tries, unsuccessfully, to walk onto a stage. It’s trying to introduce an acquaintance to someone else at a party and then realizing you don’t actually remember their name. It’s awkward, and like so many other things, you know it when you see it.

We all experience awkwardness, of course, but some people seem chronically susceptible to it. In his new book, the appropriately titled Awkward, the writer and psychologist Ty Tashiro explores why certain people seem more prone to these cringe-inducing moments, and what they can do about it. I recently interviewed Tashiro; an edited transcript of our conversation follows.


Olga Khazan: Do you consider yourself awkward? What are some of the awkward things you do or used to do?

Ty Tashiro: I think most people you talk to who are socially awkward will say that they’ve been awkward for as long as they can remember. I think that would be the case with me. I think when you’re younger, you don

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