Well, That’s Awkward: Social Clumsiness and Personality Type
A job interview. A first date. Dinner with the in-laws. An office party. Bumping a stranger on the street. Social interactions can take many forms, some higher pressure than others. And while some folks seem as comfortable in these social environments as they do in their own living rooms, others don’t even know what to do with their hands!
It’s not uncommon to feel self-conscious from time to time about our own social awkwardness, but for some of us, social encounters can be so stressful or intimidating that they can have a serious impact on our self-confidence. To get a better understanding of the degree to which social awkwardness affects our sense of self, we asked our community to agree or disagree with the statement, “You feel clumsy in social interactions.” Overall, just over half (59%) agreed, with significant variations between certain personality traits, as shown in the chart below.
How we interact with other people – the Mind aspect – represented both the single strongest influencer in our community’s responses and the greatest variation between traits, with Introverted personality types (85% agreeing) being more than twice as likely as Extraverts (36%) to agree. But the results indicate that how we feel about our social aptitude is much more complex than whether we prefer to be alone or with other people. Let’s examine the data in further detail below.
Diplomats and Analysts (66% and 64% agreeing)
The Intuitive trait that all Diplomats and Analysts share played an important role in our survey; Intuitive personality types were 14% more likely than Observant types to agree that they feel clumsy in social interactions. Why?
Intuitive personality types are highly contemplative individuals who are often focused on the abstract: questioning things, making connections, and imagining possibilities. In social situations, even when Intuitive types are actively engaged with those around them, some part of their mind is always focused on some larger or more abstract idea; the wheels, so to speak, never really stop turning. Intuitive personalities always feel a bit disconnected from the world around them, a feeling that is generally not conducive to smooth, natural, or productive social interactions. Their awareness of the fact that others may perceive them as distracted or absent-minded is certainly reason for them to feel that they can be clumsy in social situations.
Explorers and Sentinels (56% and 49%)
The Observant personality types, Explorers and Sentinels, showed lower rates of agreement. As down-to-earth, practical individuals, they stay focused on the present and what is happening around them, and they bring that focus to their social interactions as well. Even those who don’t consider themselves social mavens may feel that their grounding in reality and their preference for clear, straightforward communication result in generally successful social interactions.
Respondents with the Prospecting personality trait were 7% more likely to agree with our statement than those with the Judging trait. One might expect Explorer personalities to be more adaptable to different social situations – and indeed, they may be. But just because they are flexible and relaxed doesn’t necessarily mean that their social interactions always happen as smoothly as they would like.
Sentinel personality types, due to their Judging trait, are organized and prepared and are unlikely to go into a social situation without having considered who will be there, what will be discussed, and what will happen. This is not to say that Sentinels are mechanical in their social interactions or focused solely on the outcomes they desire, simply that preparation can help them avoid feelings of clumsiness.
More so than with the Roles, we see dramatic variations between the responses of the four Strategies. Introverts, as previously mentioned, agreed with our statement the most. Turbulent personality types (72% agreeing) came in a not-too-distant second, agreeing at a rate 31% higher than Assertive types (41%). Let’s take a closer look at how Strategies influence how we go about, and how we feel about, our social interactions.
Constant Improvement (90% agreeing)
Nearly all the Constant Improvers who participated in our survey agreed that they feel clumsy in social interactions. Such a high rate of agreement suggests that many of these Introverted, Turbulent individuals struggle with feelings of discomfort and inadequacy in social situations, to the extent that it negatively impacts their self-confidence.
As Introverted personality types, Constant Improvers function best when they’re alone, so it’s only natural that they’ll feel a bit clumsy or out of place in social environments. Added to that, their Turbulent Identity can make social interactions feel even more stressful or intimidating. Turbulent personality types are self-conscious, always questioning their performance in all areas of their lives, including their social interactions. In other words, in a social situation, a Constant Improver is not only the most likely to feel clumsy in the moment, but also the most likely to go home later feeling frustrated or embarrassed, to relive every detail, and to continue to dwell on feelings of awkwardness and inadequacy for some time to come.
Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) know this feeling well, agreeing with our statement more than any other personality type (93%). As Introverted, Intuitive, Prospecting, and Turbulent types who are all the more emotionally sensitive because of their Feeling trait, it’s no wonder that Turbulent Mediators often feel ill at ease in social situations. Even if no one else thinks them awkward or socially clumsy at all, it’s their own perception of themselves that can be so troubling.
Confident Individualism (74%)
As Introverted personalities, Confident Individualists share many of the same difficulties as Constant Improvers – if not necessarily the same sense of concern. That’s because of their Assertive Identity, which makes them far more self-assured and tolerant of stressful situations. Their agreement with our statement may be more an acknowledgement of a fact – these personality types can be clumsy in social situations, it’s true – than an admission that they are bothered by this fact. They don’t usually suffer from the pervasive sense of awkwardness that Constant Improvers may feel.
Social Engagement (49%)
As Extraverts, Social Engagers are far more comfortable in social situations, but these personality types can still find them stressful, thanks to their Turbulent Identity, which explains why nearly half agreed with our statement. If an interaction with someone feels off in some way, a Social Engager will quickly begin to feel awkward and uneasy. Whereas a Constant Improver is likely to dwell on an awkward social encounter in terms of their own personal failings, a Social Engager is more likely to worry about how an awkward social encounter could affect their personal relationships or harm their social standing going forward.
People Mastery (24%)
People Masters demonstrated a rate of agreement significantly lower than all other Strategies. It’s no surprise that these Extraverted, Assertive personality types are both the most comfortable in social environments and the least concerned about being socially awkward. Seeking social contact in their personal and professional lives, People Masters thrive when they can take charge of a situation; they would be nowhere without their self-confidence and communication skills.
The least likely of any personality type to agree that they feel clumsy in social situations were Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) (18%), followed closely by Assertive Executives (ESTJ-A) (19%) – both Sentinels. Consuls are known for being extremely sociable, upbeat, and caring, qualities that make them popular with others. Feeling well-liked, they’re less likely to feel socially clumsy. Guided by their strong beliefs, Assertive Executives rarely falter or stumble through social situations, and these natural leaders are far more concerned with upholding what is right than with what others may think of them.
All of us have experienced social situations in which we have been less than graceful, but some of us clearly experience far more persistent and intense feelings of social clumsiness or inadequacy.
We can attribute this to more than just feeling naturally uncomfortable in social situations, as Introverted personality types do. Indeed, many of us with active imaginations, contemplative minds, more flexible lifestyles, and perfectionistic tendencies find ourselves feeling socially clumsy more often than others do. Some of us are able to shrug those feelings off quickly, but for others, concerns over our social awkwardness can become damaging to our overall sense of self-esteem.
It’s important to put these experiences into perspective – after all, most situations are only as awkward as we choose to make them. Rather than dreading our social awkwardness, we should embrace it as one of the little quirks that makes us who we are.
What about you? Do you feel clumsy in social interactions – and do you care? Please, share with us in the comments section below!