About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerd Q & A: I'm a 15-year-old Nerd. How can I Build Social Skills?

An anonymous Quora user posted this conundrum that is a pretty common situation, so it's worth adding to the manual.

I am a 15-year-old nerd with an interest in computers and stuff. I lack social skills. What are some ways to build them?
My interests also include economics, and I'm almost engaged to computer and non-fiction books.

A previous article about Flexing Your Social Muscle will offer some advice on building your social skills, so take a look at it, but here are a few things that will be more specifically helpful in your situation:

I know that 15 seems like a lot of years, but you are young and it is absolutely OK to be unfamiliar with how to interact with other people, the same way you are unfamiliar with how to speak Portuguese or build a nuclear reactor. It's not a problem because you can learn how to do it, and since you're 15, and not 25 or 35, you will have a lot more flexibility to learn how to interact with people..

I'm encouraged that you are actively seeking advice on how to build your skills because I know you will try to make friends rather than hiding from the real world.

You might feel intimidated or even afraid of social situations. That's OK. There are some people who are never afraid of talking to new people and always seem to know what to say and do, but here's a secret: most people are not that cool, they just fake it and hope for the best, and usually things go fine.

Another secret: most people don't notice much about what other people do and say unless the person or what they're doing really stands out for some reason. People notice loud, flamboyant, funny, and attractive people. People also notice when someone gets hurt or hurts someone. And of course, people notice if someone does something really awkward, like falling face first into their lunch tray, but even that gets forgotten fairly quickly. So, don't worry about being awkward because most people will not notice or forget about it.

Since you're 15, most people you interact with will also be teenagers. This is unfortunate because some teenagers are the worst people on the planet. Not all of them are bad, but there are many that travel in packs and like to make other people feel uncomfortable because it makes the mean teenagers feel less awkward when they know other people feel worse. I know, it doesn't make much sense, but be aware that it happens. Avoid these people. Don't be afraid of them, but don't try to impress them or make friends with them, because you won't gain anything from your efforts.

Find the nice people. They might be popular or weird or pretty or scrawny or talented or have different colored skin or a different religion from you. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is if they're nice. Nice people will help you up if you fall face first into your lunch tray. Nice people will be OK with you whether you talk a lot or a little. Nice people will actually help you learn social skills.

Ideally, find nice people who share some of your interests because you will have common topics that you both can talk about without feeling awkward. Joining a school club centered around your interests helps you meet several different people and practice talking with more than one person at a time.

Pay attention to how the conversation flows. It will probably be fast paced and maybe even get loud, which is fine, but be aware that this is the kind of exchange that happens when people are very comfortable with each other and excited about their topic of conversation. When you are breaking into a new group of people, treat it like jumping rope: listen for a little bit first to get a feel for the rhythm of conversation before you jump in. Be polite and let other people talk, but offer your thoughts when they fit in. Talk loud enough to be heard, but not louder than everyone else.

Here's another tip when you're talking with a person or group you don't know very well: compliment them when they say something you think is interesting or smart, and ask what they think about things. This is like magic for conversations. It will also show people that you're a nice person, and we all know that nice people are the ones you want to be friends with.

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