It's Not Automatically Your Fault If A Social Interaction Goes Poorly

We all have conversations that don't go well. For example:

It's not always your fault if one of these things happens. Some of us see that as common sense. Others are prone to putting all the blame on themselves:

People who are insecure and socially anxious

People in this category have a negative overall view of their social skills and value as a person. If a conversation doesn't go well, they "know" it's because they're so awkward, boring, and unlikable. They zero in on every mistake they made and beat themselves up for it. They blow up minor, everyday errors to be worse than they are. They may even think they committed a blunder when they didn't do anything wrong.

People who have been told their whole lives how socially awkward and off-putting they are

For example, they have a bunch of painful childhood memories of trying to join a conversation at school, doing their best to fit then, then being told they're annoying and that no one wants them around. On a bone deep level they can believe that if a discussion goes off the rails it must be because, once again, they accidentally did something odd or abrasive to torpedo it. They don't even consider that there might be another explanation.

People who are actively trying to improve their social skills

If you're working on your people skills it can be useful to be objective and dispassionate and ask questions about your past conversations such as:

It's good if you can identify some of your weak spots, then try to correct them. For example, maybe you'll look back on an interaction and realize that you approached someone when they were clearly busy, ignored their polite signals that it wasn't a good time to talk, and then started going on about one of your hobbies without checking if they were interested in hearing about it first.

It would be draining and impractical to dissect every conversation you had for the rest of your life, but if you're in a short-term phase where your social skills are a priority, there's nothing wrong with analyzing your interactions and trying to learn from them.

However, when you're trying to get past your social awkwardness, and doing lots of conversation post-mortems, you can sometimes unintentionally slip into a mindset where you assume your current people skills will always fall short somehow, and if something goes wrong it's all on you. You can get so focused on spotting your flaws that you can overlook obvious ways the other person wasn't pulling their weight, or were even just a jerk.

Why interactions may go badly through no fault of your own

I know this article is making an obvious point, but sometimes we lose sight of "obvious" things and need to be reminded of them. The fact is some of your social interactions won't go well, and the other person, or people, will be to blame. Even if you have top-notch charisma, you can't prevent every stilted, uncomfortable, or tense encounter.

Here are some reasons a conversation my go south that don't lie with you:

Again, it's fine if you want to think about what you might have done wrong in a failed conversation. It can be a good learning opportunity. But do your best to remember the other person has a role to play as well.