Are All Programmers Socially Awkward?

There is an accurate stereotype that programmers are socially awkward and that they are introverts, and to some degree, this stereotype holds true, but sometimes it does not. Why is that? Many individuals have speculated on this, so we are going to go a bit in-depth into psychology and a programmer’s environment to figure it out. 

Not all programmers are socially awkward. Many programmers are socially awkward because they have this personality trait that is part of how they are wired (in their genes). However, many programmers are not, which can be attributed to their upbringing environment or them being in any other environment that helps promote social competency. 

This article will detail social awkwardness, address it as a personality trait, and compare it to other personality traits and disorders. Then we will look at the concept of nature versus nurture and how a programmer’s environment may influence their behavior and personality traits. Lastly, we’ll give you ten tips on improving your social competency. 

Are all programmers socially awkward?

Being socially awkward is a personality trait that many individuals are wired with due to how their brain functions. This does not mean that anybody who is wired this way will be socially awkward because being raised in specific environments or being placed in environments can also affect this. Therefore, the time-old debate of nature versus nurture comes into play here. This means that not all programmers will be socially awkward. 

Understanding social awkwardness (nature)

Let us get an understanding of what social awkwardness is and what it is not and then compare it to programmers to see if and why all programmers are socially awkward. 

Social awkwardness is the feeling that one gets or experiences when they feel and believe that their hopefulness for being accepted by others is threatened. Due to this feeling, a person will self-reflect and try to act to better their chances of being accepted. 

socially awkward programmer
Not all programmers are socially awkward, although many programmers can be identified by just their looks and the clothes they are wearing.

Symptoms of social awkwardness

There are specific characteristics that many socially awkward individuals have in common, and we listed them below.

  • They don’t understand social expectations
  • They find it challenging to handle social situations
  • They have extreme focus with regards to subjects governed by rules
  • They enjoy studying elements of a subject, taking them apart, and putting them back together again

Even though many individuals think that being socially awkward may be a bad thing, it can be quite rewarding. Due to the fact that individuals of this nature are more likely to focus with more intensity, this provides specific skills for systematic thinking. 

Social awkwardness is also typically mischaracterized as other personality traits or disorders, and now that we know what social awkwardness is, let’s look at what it is not.

Social awkwardness vs. introversion

Social awkwardness sometimes gets confused with introversion. Being an introvert and an extrovert are opposing psychological traits that do not resemble social awkwardness.

When someone is an introvert, they are considered to be reserved and reflective. All of their energy comes from interacting with their own thoughts and ideas. Individuals who are considered introverts generally like being alone and will know a handful of people and not a large majority. 

Social awkwardness vs. autism

Another condition that is a disorder and not a personality trait that gets confused with social awkwardness is autism. The two psychological conditions do share many simial characteristics, though. However, autism is a disease that has many other symptoms, which include;

  • They find it tough to control their emotions
  • They typically avoid eye contact even from a young age
  • They have behavioral characteristics that they repeat
  • They try to avoid and resist physical contact
  • They have difficulty with communication
  • They get upset over minor changes
  • They show strong sensitivity to stimuli

In addition to these symptoms, autism has varying levels, and someone who has what is known as low-functioning autism will suffer from cognitive impairments. This type of autism makes it difficult to carry out routine daily living functions. 

Why are some programmers socially awkward and some not?

Now that we understand that social awkwardness is a personality trait, we can appreciate that many programmers will have this trait due to their brain functions and personality. 

A programmers environment (nurture)

Environments play a significant role in molding one’s personality, and research has shown that an individual’s environment accounts for approximately 50 to 70% of shaping their personality. 

Take, for instance, a home environment with loving and caring parents and one who neglects their children. If both of these children are precisely the same, one would assume from the research that their personalities would turn out to be different, and they would be right. 

Therefore, it is safe to assume that a programmer who has been placed in environments that promote social awareness and or social competency would probably not be socially awkward. 

We touched on nature versus nurture and simply put, this is a debate on whether an environment determines a person’s behavior during their life or their genes. 

We can classify nature as having social awkwardness as a personality trait because this cannot be helped due to this being part of a person’s “human code” (their genetic makeup). The nurture aspect would consider the programmer’s lifestyle, how they were raised, and the environments that they find themselves in. 

Even though we said it is possible that a programmer may not be socially awkward due to them being in an environment that promotes social competency, we cannot ignore the fact that the job they do and the environment they find themselves in for work might amplify social awkwardness to a degree, so let’s look at that. 

A Programmers isolated environment

The job of a programmer is complex and time-consuming. It requires a lot of focus and intellect, and for long periods at a time, the programmer will sit at their machine trying to problem solve and do a multitude of various things like trying to build applications or systems or troubleshooting. 

Programmers and coders even use headphones to block out external distractions to help them focus.

Programmers sometimes work in teams, but they will be designated to work on a particular section of a project depending on their job title. This means that they will work alone and again for an extended period of time. 

Another factor of a programmer is the amount of time and understanding it takes to learn this skill. This takes years and years, and therefore, during this time, they will typically also be alone, primarily devoting their time to studying and trying to implement what they have learned using a computer. 

Keep in mind that programming is not a social skill like other subjects; hence, a programmer’s learning and work environment could influence their social awkwardness in a way that actually amplifies it. 

So there are numerous factors to consider when it comes to programmers being socially awkward or not socially awkward. These factors include their personality traits and how they are wired, and then their environments that could either promote or repress social awkwardness.

Video: How to stop being socially awkward

Tips for improving social awkwardness

Even though not all programmers are socially awkward, they can utilize some tips and tricks to improve their interactions with their colleagues, friends, and social environments. We came up with ten great tips for just that.

Kindness is key

It is great if you are excellent at your job, but even if you are the smartest and most hard-working in your development team, your colleagues might not want to work with you if you are not kind. They will not want to work with you because you lack the skills, but rather, it will be due to your attitude towards certain situations. 

Being kind can go a long way, and you do not have to work hard to do it. A simple kind gesture such as a friendly hello and smiling will trigger decency in your fellow colleagues, and they will respond in kind. 

Smiling is key

Studies have shown that smiling makes you feel happier, sincere, relaxed, confident, and attractive. Smiling is a great way to break down barriers and make other individuals feel comfortable, which means that you can make your colleagues feel more at ease if you are a team leader. 

Functions are key

We are not talking about the functions you use in your code but rather the English functions of “please” and “thank you.” No matter how insignificant the favor or situation you find yourself in, showing gratitude is a sign of respect that you just can’t obtain any other way. 

Showing gratitude has also been known to improve your physical and mental health as well as your self-esteem. It has even been known to relieve stress levels and help with the quality of sleep. 

Apologizing is key

Nobody that has ever lived has ever been perfect no matter what they did or tried to achieve, and thus we are all in the same boat. Don’t ever be afraid to be humble and apologetic if you make a mistake. Admitting to your faults, no matter how small they may seem, shows that you are humble and sincere. Your colleagues will see this as well, and instead of them looking down on you, they will probably respect you more. 

Apologizing for a mistake you made does not show weakness and will most probably strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. 

Showing interest is key

This can relate to being kind in that showing genuine regard for how your colleagues feel if they are stuck on something difficult regarding work or going through a tough time will make them feel more connected and closer to you, strengthening your relationships. 

Don’t be afraid to ask them if they need help on a project or get stuck with a problematic section of code, and give them motivation because this will lift them up emotionally even if you do not think it does. 

Showing praise is key

If one of your colleagues or workers has done an excellent job on something, then show your appreciation by telling them that. There is no stronger motivator than telling someone they did a good job and that the task that they accomplished was well worth their effort.

Showing praise does not have to be exaggerated and forced. A simple “well done” or “great job” will do the trick. Typically programmers forget about the ability they have to create and develop through code, and this is no mean feat. It takes time, dedication, problem-solving, intellect, and many more factors. Try your best to remember to give your colleagues a pat on the back when they have done something well. 

Avoiding criticism is key

Nobody likes to be criticized, and they will often take it as a personal insult. Because of the difficulty of the job, many programmers tend to think of themselves better in a way and often look down on other individuals thinking they are not as bright. 

If there is something wrong with an aspect of work that one of your colleagues has done, then point it out with a simple, polite and private critique. Don’t go shouting it out from the rooftops, pointing out the mistakes to any other of your co-workers. This will definitely hurt their feelings and make them feel offended. 

Avoiding arguments are key

The best situation you can put yourself in when finding yourself in an argument is to walk away. Even if you are right and want to protect your opinion, fighting in the workplace can severely damage relationships. You will find it hard to work with those individuals again, not to mention having to see them every day and trying to speak to them.

This is especially true if they are part of your team and you need to go back and forth for work asking for favors or help with some code. 

Phrasing is key 

Even if you are a team leader, it is always better to pose what you need your colleague to do as a question. You are much better off doing this than by giving direct orders because posing a question will make you seem more relatable and seem as if you are on the same level as your colleagues. 

For example, a simple phrase like “would it be possible for you to work out that section of difficult code for us” is much more friendly and appreciative than “I need you to sort out that section of incorrect code.”

Avoiding toxic individuals is key

No matter what job you have, there might be toxic individuals that work alongside you. Furthermore, there might be a handful more in the world of programming because, as we said, many individuals feel entitled and look down on others in this line of work because of its difficulty. 

If possible, always try to avoid these individuals and if you are in the hiring position, make sure you do a thorough interview and employ someone who is friendly as well as good at their job. 


We discovered that social awkwardness is a genetic personality trait and that individuals with a specific type of brain function typically have this trait. These are intuitive individuals who find it easy to focus and solve problems, taking elements of a subject apart and putting them back together again. Many programmers fall into this category, so many of them will likely have aspects of social awkwardness. 

However, we have to consider that social awkwardness is not the same and often gets confused with other personality traits and disorders which it is not. Other factors that play a role in not only a programmer’s personality but everybody is their environment. We discussed by applying it to nature versus nurture and concluded that a programmer’s environment could either amplify social awkwardness or reduce it to a large degree.

This is why some programmers are not socially awkward and act just like any other typical person would in a social setting. This is probably because they were raised or found themselves in situations that promoted social competency, and they learned how to do it. 

On the flip side, a programmer’s job, due to its varying degrees of isolation, may, in fact, promote their social awkwardness, so this is something you should consider.  

Lastly, no matter if you are a programmer or not, we gave you ten helpful tips that can promote your social competency in the workplace, and we hope you remember them and use them to make your work environment a little more pleasurable.