Interview with Chris MacLeod of Succeed Socially

Learn More About the Author of this Social Skills Website

Succeed socially can help you be less awkward.
Succeed socially can help you be less awkward. Getty / DigitalVision / Sydney Robert

Below is an interview with Chris MacLeod, author of the website Succeed Socially.

Chris put this website together to help others overcome social difficulties in the same way that he did in his own life.

Q. What motivated you to start the website?

A. I was pretty shy, lonely, and socially awkward when I was younger, up until about the end of my early twenties.

I was just a late bloomer, and eventually I became more comfortable in my own skin and figured out the social guidelines most people seemed to have automatically picked up when they were younger.

I didn't transform into a social superstar or anything. I just went from Unhappily Below Average to Contentedly Average.

As I was going through this process I kept thinking that many of the basic social concepts I was putting together for myself weren't spelled out in any book I had come across.

Like one may have explained the importance of being a good listener and making eye contact, but I was left asking, "Yeah, but there's this guy in my Philosophy class. How do I ask him if he wants to hang out sometime? What if he thinks I'm weird and desperate?"

So as I figured things out I played around with the idea of taking what I learned and writing the kind of guide to getting over social awkwardness I wish I had when I first started.

I dismissed the thought though and didn't think about it for another few years, since I didn't see how I could do it. It's not like I could ever get a book published.

One day I stumbled across an article about starting a website and realized I could share the information that way.

Q. Who is your site geared towards (who is the main audience)?

A. The site is geared towards adults and older teens who feel they're below average in some aspect of their people skills and just want to get up to a more typical level.

This could mean not knowing how to make friends, or hold conversations, or feeling really shy, insecure, and anxious in social situations. I explain concepts most people know already, but some of us have to figure out later in life than others.

There's nothing on the site like, "Here are five secret handshake tips that will help you get promoted faster!"

I also write a bit about issues that aren't about feeling socially awkward, but just having social problems because you don't fit in, for example, you're less social by nature, or you have different interests and values than most of the people in your small town.

Q. What have you learned from writing about social skills?

A. I think most of my learning has come from researching and writing about social issues I didn't struggle with myself.

When I started the site I focused on things that were relevant to my own development. Over time I started covering other issues.

For example, back in the day I was unhappy with where I was socially and was eager to make changes.

However, some people are a lot more ambivalent about the idea of changing socially.

They may feel like they'll lose a part of themselves, or have to sell out to be like irritating people who are always asking them why they're so quiet all the time.

The site now has a whole section that covers those kinds of concerns. I'm always trying to flesh out my knowledge and keep myself up to date, and I've learned a lot that way too.

The other thing that has really been driven home to me is that tons and tons of people feel socially awkward or anxious at times. When you're in the middle of it yourself you can feel like this uniquely flawed person, but actually billions of people throughout history have gone through the same thing.

It's just a pretty common part of the human experience, and there are a lot worse things someone can be than, say, feeling a bit ill-at-ease while meeting new people.

Q. If someone were to read just five articles on your site, which would you recommend?

A. I wrote a single article for new readers that sums up the main concepts on the site, and which links to many other of the site's key articles:

The Main Concepts For Improving Your Social Skills On SucceedSocially.com

Q. Do you get feedback from readers that you have helped?

A. I don't have any neat testimonials or anything to share, but I do get emails from readers thanking me for putting the site together and keeping all the content on it free.

Some of them were in a similar spot to where I was, and are now doing much better, while others just needed help in one area, like making friends after moving to a new city, and appreciated that I had written about it.

I also read feedback to my site when people link to it in various forums and tell people it's helped them and they wanted to share it.

Q. What do you see as the difference between shyness, social awkwardness and social anxiety?

A. Shyness and social anxiety are on the same spectrum, but I think the main difference between the two is that with social anxiety, the anxiety is a lot more prominent and creates its own set of problems.

Like if a shy person went to a party where they didn't know anyone, they may feel inhibited and insecure and not speak much, but they may not necessarily feel that nervous while they're there.

Someone with social anxiety may be just as insecure at that party, but on top of that they may also feel panicky and nauseous and worried that everyone will notice how shaky and keyed up they look.

The shy person may have gone to the party a bit reluctantly, while the socially anxious person may have worried about it for a week, and barely forced themselves out the door. And maybe 9 times out of 10 they would have avoided the party all together because the anxious symptoms it brought up were too much to tolerate.

I think social awkwardness is a broader, harder-to-define term. Shyness and social anxiety could be a part of it, though not necessarily. I think it entails just not knowing the proper way to act in certain social situations, and therefore not getting the results you want.

One person could feel socially awkward because they're nervous around people and that makes them tend to babble in their conversations. Or someone could be awkward because they have a kind of oblivious over-confidence where they keep unintentionally offending people with their inappropriate humor.

Q. What are your plans for the future of the website?

A. For the most part I'm just going to keep adding new articles to cover any topics I haven't written about yet. I also tinker with and refine my older articles if I think I can explain the ideas better, or my views on an issue have changed.

I've got some other long-term plans I'm thinking about, but I'd rather not say anything about them until they're actually in place and ready to go.

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