One of the most important things to realize as we grow up is that everyone feels awkward sometimes. Some days, you’ll head to work feeling amazing, rocking a great pair of shoes or a killer outfit, and you’ll feel like you can conquer the world. Other days, you’ll leave your house and realize your shirt is on backwards right after someone tells you about that piece of spinach stuck in your teeth. Everyone feels awkward sometimes, but there are things to do to limit your socially awkward interactions in everyday life. Check out a few on the list below.
Take care of yourself
It’s hard to feel awkward when you’re really feeling great about yourself. A lot of people don’t realize how important self-care is to everyday life. People who exercise, eat a moderately healthy diet, and who take care of their physical appearance generally have much higher self esteem than someone who feels self-conscious about themselves or their body. Self-consciousness is the root cause of most awkward encounters, so if you find that these keep happening to you, take a look at why you might be feeling awkward. Treating yourself to a fresh haircut or new outfit might seem like a quick fix, but it can do wonders for your overall self-confidence.
Avoid self-deprecating humor
Many people who feel awkward in social situations fall back on self-deprecating humor. A lot of people acknowledge that it’s often easier to make fun of yourself then it is to have others make fun of you. However, unless you’re in high school or summer camp, this tends not to happen as much as we think it does. People who constantly use self-deprecating humor project an aura of dissatisfaction with themselves, and can make it awkward for people to be around them. Most people love to give compliments, but it can be exhausting to have to be doing it all the time.
Avoid sarcasm or negativity
Sarcasm is something that requires a very deliberate person to be able to pull it off. It often works best in close social circles, and can often come off as mean or negative when used with people who don’t understand. If you find that you’re caught up in a lot of awkward moments, maybe take a look at the type of humor you default to. Sarcasm can often unintentionally hurt people. Even if someone isn’t directly affected by your observations, it can really bring the mood of a conversation down.
Practice active listening
One big reason why awkward social situations occur is because people aren’t really listening to each other. Active listening can help with that. If you’ve never heard of it before, active listening is the practice of intentionally focusing on the other person in a conversation — not thinking of what to say next or looking at your phone. Some key active listening strategies are positive body language, and maintaining eye contact.
Read social cues
One thing that active listening is great for is learning social cues. This skill comes very easily to some, while others find it much more difficult. Social cues are the things like body language, tone, and eye contact that allow you to observe someone’s mood and how they’re feeling. Reading social cues is difficult if you’re buried in your phone or just generally spaced out. Conversations are much easier when you give them 100% of your attention.
Awkward situations quickly arise when it’s clear that someone isn’t listening. Avoid this at all costs by stowing away your phone for conversations and being present in the moment instead of trying to multitask. Focus on the other person instead of what’s going on in your own head, and you’ll probably find that the conversation flows much easier.
Use the old fall backs
There’s a reason why everyone talks about the weather all the time when they’re in a new social environment — it’s something neutral that we all have in common. Many awkward social situations arise because we bring up something incendiary, and people in the room are unsure of how to respond. Keeping the conversation topics neutral is a safe bet. Once you get to know someone, it’s easier to bring up controversial topics, but especially in the workplace, keep the conversation light and easy.
Read the news
Many awkward lulls in conversation occur when someone attempts to start a conversation, but other people either have no inkling of what they’re talking about, or no inclination to continue the conversation. While it’s not a great idea to bring up politics during a conversation unless you know everyone well, it does help limit awkward situations if you’re well-versed in current events. That way, you’re always able to participate in a conversation rather than awkwardly sitting on the sidelines because you’re not up on the current happenings of the world.
Acknowledge an awkward moment and move on
If you’re ever caught in an awkward situation, the best thing to do is to acknowledge the moment and move on. Many people try this strategy without the “moving on” part, and find that it just makes things even more awkward. Moving on is key because it shows that you’re confident enough to step past your mistake and continue on with the conversation. People who dwell in the awkward moment with the hope that the awkwardness will forge a bond just projects the image that they’re desperate for validation.
Don’t bring up topics that could potentially be embarrassing
It seems obvious, but one way to avoid awkward situations is to avoid bringing up topics that could potentially embarrass people. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but people will very quickly come to resent you if you make them the sudden focus of attention in order to cover your own awkwardness. If you don’t know what to say next, bring up a neutral topic or ask people questions about their life. Never volunteer information about others in the hopes of making yourself feel better.
Understand that everyone feels awkward
What a lot of people don’t understand is that most people go through life feeling awkward at some time or another. For the most part, we lack the ability to see beyond ourselves and notice when people are struggling, so when we struggle ourselves, we feel as if we’re the only ones this has ever happened to. Social media exacerbates this problem. When all we see is someone’s picture-perfect life, filtered through the lens of their Instagram or Facebook feed, we assume the rest of their life looks like that as well. Cut yourself a bit of slack, and realize that we all project an image on social media that is completely unrealistic. Occasional awkwardness is normal!
Reflect and respond
The next time you feel awkward, think about the situation later and come up with some ideas for how you could respond differently next time. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you made a mistake, but learn from the experience and move on.
Team up with a friend
Many people feel more comfortable if they’re able to socialize with someone they already know. The next time you’re worried about heading out to a new social situation alone, convince a friend to come with you. The relaxed and comfortable vibe that you already have with your friend will help smooth over any potentially awkward moments when you meet new people.
Take an improv class
Many people believe that taking classes in improv, which is a form of theater focused on unscripted comedy and collaborative stories, can help you feel more confident in everyday life. Improv classes can help you hone skills such as creative problem solving, communication, and team work, which makes them ideal for people who don’t feel confident in social interactions.
When in doubt of what to say next, ask someone a question. Most people like to talk about themselves, and you might find out something about the other person that you never knew before — maybe even something you have in common! Many people default to talking about themselves if they feel awkward, but this can be problematic because it can often make a person seem self-involved or self-centered. Avoid this by using the lulls in a conversation to probe the other person for interesting details about their life.