Psychologist Ty Tashiro, author of “Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially awkward and Why That’s Awesome,” explains why awkward people are more likely to demonstrate “striking talent.”
“There is a stereotype in our culture that some people are too smart for their own good. There’s a finding in psychology that people who are socially awkward are also more likely to demonstrate what psychologists call “striking talent,” which means that they have tremendous ability in a specific area.
So it’s not the case that people are usually smart across the board, it’s usually the case that people are really smart in one or two areas and then they might be average or even below average in other areas. One of the splits that you see is that if someone’s really smart in a certain area, they’re less likely to be socially skilled or be a good communicator but they also have this obsessive interest. They have this tendency to focus really intensely and really narrowly sometimes on a specific topic.
Now, that can work against them sometimes. Sometimes they’re overly rigid or sometimes they don’t like it when their routines are broken. But that can be a real strength as well because someone with great focus and great energy is more likely to persist through hard times, more likely to persist when task could get boring to other people. And this manifests in what psychologists call “deliberate practice,” which is the idea that you practice the same thing over and over until you reach a point of mastery and key to deliberate practice is the idea that you are willing to work the hardest on the parts that you are the worst at. And awkward people seem to enjoy the kind of persistence and long hours that go on to mastering a certain area or certain topic.
So we often like to say that people are “nerding out” about something. That’s actually a very awkward kind of characteristic. You are super enthusiastic about it, you are super focused on it. But all of this focus and energy can sometimes result in expertise and can even result in times when they reach groundbreaking innovation or redefine the way that a field operates or thinks.”