Mentally Strong Person of the Week: Social Awkwardness Expert Ty Tashiro

Tips for staying mentally strong when you're feeling incredibly awkward

Ty Tashiro is the mentally strong person of the week.

Verywell / Julie Bang

In the “Mentally Strong Person of the Week” series, I’ll share wisdom from some of my favorite guests on my podcast, “Mentally Strong People." I’ll explain the strategies they use to stay mentally strong and then give you my take (as a therapist) on how you can apply these strategies to your own life.

Ty Tashiro has a PhD in Psychology. He’s a popular TED speaker and the author of a great book called Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome

While he talks about the scientific reasons some people are socially awkward, he says much of what he shares also comes from personal experience. He’s a self-described awkward child. But he worked hard to address some of his social quirks, and he says he now feels much more comfortable with social skills. 

Ty Tashiro

We all have awkward moments, no matter how socially competent we are.

— Ty Tashiro

His willingness to talk openly about embarrassing moments—and what he learned from them—is the reason he’s the “Mentally Strong Person of the Week.” During our conversation on the Mentally Strong People podcast, he shared lots of valuable tips for staying strong when you’re feeling socially awkward. 

Here are three of my favorite tips he shared along with my take on how you can apply them to your own life. 

Focus on Learning New Skills, Not Putting Yourself Down

Whether you’re convinced you can’t hold up your end of a conversation or you rarely go to networking events because you’re shy, Ty said putting yourself down only makes things worse.

Fortunately, he said everyone has the ability to improve their social skills. He sharpened his skills by observing other people. He watched people who seemed comfortable in social situations and learned how they interacted with others. This helped him figure out things some people take for granted—like how to greet people and how to end a conversation. 

Ty Tashiro

I have to break things down more. I have to put in extra effort and practice.

— Ty Tashiro

My Take

Rather than declare yourself a “socially awkward” person who can’t change, commit to improving your skills. Similar to the way you might get better at soccer, math, or anything else, you need to practice social skills if you want to improve.

Like Ty, you might learn new skills by carefully observing a friend or family member who seems socially fluent. You can also watch YouTube videos on social skills or take an online course. 

Keep Your Awkward Moments in Proper Perspective

Ty talked about our natural tendency to exaggerate how awful a social blunder was. But sometimes things aren’t nearly as bad as we imagine. Other people might not have even noticed what we did.

Ty said there’s even research that shows awkward behavior might make you more likable. People might find you more relatable when you’re able to acknowledge an awkward moment and shrug it off. 

Ty Tashiro

You might feel silly for a little bit, but an awkward moment is not the end of the world.

— Ty Tashiro

My Take

Beating yourself up for forgetting someone’s name or for spilling your drink won’t do any good. If you’re embarrassed, own it. But don’t dwell on it!

When you acknowledge an embarrassing moment and are able to laugh about it, other people might be more willing to share their awkward moments too. And then you’ll all feel a little less alone in embarrassment. 

The truth is most people aren’t analyzing your every move. They’re more focused on how they are being perceived. 

Mentally Prepare Yourself Before Walking into a Situation

Ty said that when he’s about to enter a new situation, he takes a minute to mentally prepare himself. He thinks about what he needs to do when he walks into the building or what he should say when he greets someone. 

This helps him feel better, and it likely helps him to be at his best when he’s interacting with others.

Ty Tashiro

Get your mind right before you go in.

— Ty Tashiro

My Take

Mental preparation is great advice in many situations—including social situations. Whether you’re about to walk into a job interview or going to a dinner party, a little mental preparation might make things go more smoothly.

You might imagine yourself successfully talking to several new people. Or you might picture yourself making good eye contact and asking questions that keep the conversation flowing.

Of course, you don’t have control over everything. But one thing you can always control is your own behavior. A little mental preparation can help you feel calm enough to be your best self in social situations.

To hear more of Andrea’s mental strength suggestions, listen to the full episode on my Mentally Strong People podcast. Each week, I’ll share another Mentally Strong Person and explain how their strategies can help you think, feel, and do your best in life.

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