About The Site's Author
My name's Chris MacLeod. I'm a man in his early thirties from Canada. I started this site in late 2006. I write everything on it myself, and do my best to do all the other little tasks required to keep it running. Below I'll cover my own experience of being socially awkward when I was younger, and then talk about my education, plus some other assorted thoughts.
My own years of social awkwardness
As I explain in more detail in another article, I started this site so I could create the kind of guide to getting over social awkwardness I wish I had when I was going through those problems myself. As I've continued to write for the site I've broadened its scope to cover social issues I may not have dealt with myself, but which other people struggle with.
A lot of the information on this site is derived from my personal experiences and observations. I had to figure out a lot of basic social skills from scratch, and have thought a lot about the topic. I was quite lonely and socially awkward in high school and college. By my mid-twenties I was over the worst of my problems. Of course, like everyone, my social development will never be 'done', and I'm still learning new things to this day.
I don't want to make it sound like I was a complete wreck back when I was younger; I had many good traits too of course, but my bad ones got in the way when it came to social situations. I didn't have a ton of friends, didn't know how to purposely make them, and often unwillingly spent weekends alone playing video games. I was insecure and uncomfortable in many interpersonal situations. People often remarked that I was nervous or weird. I had a stereotypically dorky appearance. I was too uptight. I was a late bloomer when it came to dating and relationships. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Many the other issues I go over in the site's articles also applied to my past self.
My social skills now
I now consider myself contentedly average when it comes to my social life and skills. I think more importantly, I'm happy with the results my improved people skills have gotten me. I didn't have to change into a totally different person either. Anyone would still recognize me as the same old Chris. I keep up with many of my old hobbies. I've always cherished my alone time and still do. Sure, I'm more polished and well-rounded now. I have fewer bad habits, a wider range of interests, and a bigger social 'toolbox' to draw on, but my core self hasn't been totally altered.
Sometimes when people write about this topic they portray themselves, intentionally or not, as super popular, charismatic figures who are socially flawless and have it all figured out. I don't see myself that way at all. Like everyone, I still have rough spots in my personality. I continue to have my awkward moments. I don't instantly win over everyone I meet. There are many aspects of socializing I don't know much about or still want to work on (e.g., public speaking, sales, leadership). If you asked my friends or family they could easily rattle off a bunch of quirks I have.
As I've written this site one doubt I occasionally have is, "Your own social skills aren't perfect. Who are you to give advice about this topic?" The answer I give myself is that this site is about getting over social awkwardness. It's about how to go from Below Average to Average. This is an area I definitely have something to say about. I don't write articles on how to become some super magnetic person with the power to instantly make everyone love them. I do my best to stick to what I feel qualified to talk about. Plus, expecting social perfection from anyone just isn't realistic.
My education and experience as a counselor
I have a B.A. Honors degree in Psychology, and a Master of Social Work. I worked in various psychology and research-related office jobs for a few years in between getting the two degrees. My MSW focused on counseling (as opposed to community organization and development). Through various internships and volunteer positions I've gained a couple hundred hours of direct clinical experience as a therapist. That means I'm still fairly new to it in the grand scheme of things, though hardly completely green. I've been drawn to helping people with their personal problems since high school, and I think starting this site and seeking training to become a counselor are two manifestations of that core interest.
Part of me hesitates to bring all this up though, since I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression about where the advice on this site comes from. I'm mentioning my background to give you an idea of what kind of person I am, not because I want you to think, "Oh, he's got some letters after his name. Everything he writes is automatically more correct and authoritative." I believe my advice should be evaluated on its own merits, and not be given special consideration because of outside factors. Most of it I put online before I got my MSW, and would have thought it up even if I never got a graduate degree. As I said, the site's articles come from my personal experience and observations, or from research I've done on the topic. I'm not regurgitating any secret knowledge about social skills I learned in school. We never really covered that topic. I didn't arrive at any insights while doing therapy with people. For all but a few clients, I was working with them on issues other than their social lives.
Where I get the ideas for this site
Besides the personal experience piece that I've talked about several times already, I also learn a lot through my informal research, mostly by reading web forums for people with social issues. When you've read a ton of that stuff you start seeing the same concerns, complaints, and themes come up again and again, and you get a good sense of the issues that people with social problems struggle with, and how they tend to think about them.
I read my share of more clinical sources as well, e.g., treatment guides on overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder or teaching social skills to people with Asperger's Syndrome. I have to say I don't find academic research journals particularly useful for my purposes, though every so often I'll get a good little nugget of information in an article.
My clinical reading mainly shows up in the site's articles on Moods and Thinking, which are mostly a summary of well-known psychological principles and treatment techniques for those issues, with some of my own thoughts sprinkled in. Researchers and therapists have those areas pretty well figured out, and there wasn't much new for me to add or deduce for myself. Same goes for the handful of articles on Developmental Differences.
Do I consider myself an "expert" on social skills?
This is just something I think about. Personally I have high standards for using the word "expert". For me an expert is someone with a decade or more of experience, and who knows their topic inside and out. On the internet I've noticed a tendency for some people to declare themselves experts after having written a handful of articles or blog posts on a subject. To me just writing about something may make you interested in a topic, or maybe a bit more knowledgeable about it than your average Joe, but that doesn't automatically mean you're an expert.
I think I have quite a few years to go before I'll feel comfortable calling myself an expert on helping people get over social awkwardness. I feel there's still so much I need to learn. Don't get me wrong, I realize I know a lot about this area, and many people have told me my writing has helped them, but I still hesitate to anoint myself as some uber-authority.