Monday, January 8, 2018

Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome - Ty Tashiro

Title: Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome
Author: Ty Tashiro
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 261 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction
Started: January 1, 2018
Finished: January 8, 2018

From the inside cover:

How can the same traits that make us feel uneasy in social situations also provide the seeds for extraordinary success?

As humans, we all feel the need to belong. While modern social life can make even the most charismatic of us feel gawky, for roughly one in five of us, navigating its challenges is consistently overwhelming - an ongoing maze without an exit. Often bewildered by the social rules of engagement or how to master the skills and grace necessary for smooth interaction, we feel out of sync with with those around us. Though we may recognize we have awkward dispositions, we rarely understand why that is - which makes it hard for us to know how to adjust our behaviour.

Psychologist and interpersonal relationship expert Ty Tashiro knows what it's like to be awkward. Growing up, he could do complex arithmetic in his head and memorize the earned run averages of every National League starting pitcher. But he struggled to add up social cues during interactions with other kids and was prone to forget routine social expectations. In Awkward, he unpacks decades of research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology to help us better understand this widely shared trait and its origins. He considers how awkward people view our complex world and explains how we can comfortably engage with it, delivering a welcome, counterintuitive message: the same characteristics that make people socially clumsy can be harnessed to produce remarkable achievements.

Interweaving the latest research with personal tales and real world examples, Awkward offers us reassurance, and provides valuable insights into how we can embrace our personal quirks and unique talents to realize our awesome potential.

This was a Christmas gift from my better half, and when I received it I was actually excited to read it and didn't take offence to his choice of reading material for me (we're all self-professed awkward introverts in our family and we admit it proudly).

Similar to Quiet (a lovely book on introversion I highly recommend), the author outlines the subject matter and explains it (what social awkwardness is), tackles societal shifts regarding the subject, and then concludes with how the particular trait has benefits in the real world and how people with said personality trait actually bring quite a lot to the table.

The book is well-researched and decently written; I'll admit the first two sections didn't really do much for me since I realized based on the author's anecdotes that I'm actually not as awkward as I recently thought. Social experiences, though sometimes anxiety-inducing for me, are not mystifyingly difficult; so I'm pretty sure that I'm more introverted than socially awkward. The third section correlates awkwardness and giftedness in terms of the precise focus and need to master their preferred subject matter (similar to children with autistic characteristics, which as he outlines, all tend to overlap and come from the same genetic base). That though these individuals tend to sacrifice social exposure in lieu of time alone to hone their talents, they do have a lot to offer through their dedication and persistence to their craft. I particularly appreciated the advice to parents of awkward (and gifted) kids to give their child opportunities to find other like-minded kids who "get" them, which, unsurprisingly, makes social interaction easier for them.

A great book to help understand that awkward individuals need acceptance and patience while they navigate situations that don't come easily to them, and that they are worth knowing as friends and colleagues.

Thoughts on the cover:
The emojis don't make for a very professional book cover, but they sure are cute here.

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