The Scientific Way To Tell How Awkward You Are

There is no denying it: I am an awkward person. But although I’m at peace with my awkwardness, I've still occasionally wondered if there’s an actual test that can tell you how awkward you are — and as I recently discovered, there is. It’s called the Conversational Skills Rating Scale (CSRS). Should you take it? Well, that depends on how much more awkward you think you’ll feel about knowing exactly how awkward you are.

Science of Us recently highlighted the Conversational Skills Rating Scale, which was first developed in 1987 by Brian Spitzberg, a professor of communication at San Diego State University. Why conversational skills? Because, as the paper presenting the scale notes, skills are “reproducible, goal-directed, functional actions and action sequences” — that is, they’re easy to observe and measure in a quantifiable way.

And it makes even more sense when you look further into the science of awkwardness. For example, as Joshua W. Clegg, associate professor of psychology at the City University of New York’s John Jay College, found in his research, there are certain themes that emerge in awkward situations: As U.S. News & World Report reported back in November, they typically involve social norms being violated, judgment being passed (and not in a good way — think lots of backhanded compliments and massive side-eye), and self-consciousness about the way other people might perceive you. All of these situations have a conversational aspect, so it stands to reason that conversational skills might be useful as a quantifiable way to measure awkwardness.

Me too, Elliot. Me too.

The development of the CSRS had four different stages, beginning with a literature review. A pilot study followed; the third stage “preened” the items that would eventually make their way onto the finished scale; and lastly, the fourth categorized those items. Ultimately, the items on the scale measure your coordination, attentiveness, expressiveness, and composure.

The scale itself works a little differently than most of the other scientifically-backed measures I’ve encountered, in that it doesn’t ask you rate statements as they apply to you on a scale of “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Instead, you’re given a general area of conversation, like speaking speed or volume, and asked to rate how you (or the person you’re measuring) do with it on a scale of “inadequate” to “excellent.” This means that if you’re, say, in what I'd call the Goldilocks range of volume — that is, not too loud and not too soft, but juuuuuust right — you wouldn’t rate yourself as a three; that’s not what the middle ground is here. Instead, you’d rate yourself a five for "excellent."

How do I know this? Because I just took it. Science of Us adapted the CSRS into a neat little widget on their site, which makes it easy both to take and score. For the curious, here’s how it went down for me:

The Test:

At 25 questions, the CSRS is fairly lengthy — or at least, it’s lengthy for an online quiz, because most of us have no attention span when it comes to the internet — so taking it isn’t exactly fast; however, since I’ve expressed some surprise in the past at the brevity of some of these kinds of quizzes, it was a bit of a refreshing change for me. Here’s a sampling of the kinds of questions you can expect to answer:

1. How Fast Or Slow Do You Talk?

This is my greatest weakness: I talk way, way too fast. It’s something I’ve been struggling with all my life, and working on it is still an ongoing project.

2. Are You Confident?

It sort of depends on the topic at hand. If it’s something I know a lot about or if I’m with people I know quite well, yes. If it’s something with which I’m less familiar or I’m surrounded by relative strangers, nope.

3. Are You Ben Stein?

If my speed is my greatest weakness, my vocal variety is probably my greatest strength. I express a lot with my tone of voice, but generally not inappropriately so.

4. How’s Your Posture?

This one was actually a little tricky — I think my posture is mostly fine, but I’m not totally sure. Part of that probably has to do with the fact that I work from home, which means that a lot of the situations in which I’d probably be keeping an eye on my posture don’t happen all that often for me. (On the phone or email, no one cares whether you can walk with a stack of books on your head.) I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt here.

5. Do You Fidget?

I am a little bit of a fidgeter. But only a little bit. And hey, at least research has found that fidgeting is good for your health.

6. Do You Talk With Your Hands?

Yes. Yes, I do. Probably too much, although at least I have never accidentally punched anyone while doing so.

7. How Are You With Questions?

This is an area I could probably do better with, but on the other hand, whenever I do ask a question, it’s because I genuinely want to know the answer — none of that “ask a question just to ask a question” nonsense.

8. Are You A Doormat?

Although I am on occasion kind of doormat-like, I like to think I’m at least a mildly entertaining one. Like this one. (Why, yes, I like bad jokes; why do you ask?)

The Results:

… Huh. That’s actually sort of surprising to me, especially given that I’m relatively socially anxious. But maybe I think of myself as much more awkward than I actually am — which might, in turn, contribute to my anxiety. That said, though, self-assessing on matters like these can be kind of difficult, so I might enlist someone I interact with frequently to measure me on it, as well. I never underestimate the usefulness of a second set of eyes, and, well… I might really need it in this case.

To take the Conversational Skills Rating Scale yourself, head on over to Science of Us.

Images: Gratisography/Pexels; Screenshots/Science of Us