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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
Berlin Has Become an Unlikely Home for China’s Expat Artists
The German capital offers not only freedom, but also invites people to provoke and challenge orthodoxy.
The Atlantic9 min read
When You’re in Command, Your Job Is to Know Better
In war, the temptation to take revenge is strong. Fighting that temptation is a commanding officer’s job.
The Atlantic7 min read
Uber’s Drivers and Riders Are Locked in a Pine-Scented Battle
Many passengers can’t stand air fresheners. Drivers say they’re just trying to provide a pleasant ride.