Don't we all just hate feeling embarrassed? By the very definition of the emotion, embarrassment due to awkward situations is an uncomfortable and ugly place to be.
Taking the hand of the wrong daddy in the department store as a child, accidentally walking in on someone in the bathroom, or completing an important day only to realize you wore one large earring for the entirety are only samplings of the awkward moments of my life. Over the years I have become quite the pro at handling uncomfortable moments simply due to my inexplicable knack for having them.
Almost weekly I am approached by someone at church who strikes up a conversation about something they somehow think I am privy to. Immediately I feel awkward and out of my element. But I encounter numerous other equally uncomfortable moments on a regular basis, too.
- "Sue Smellfungus is in the hospital again, you know." Who is Sue Smellfungus and why was she in the hospital to begin with?
- On the telephone: Hi Kay! It's me. Just tell James I called. I'll be back in town next week and I'll drop by then! Whose unfamiliar voice was that? Why did they assume I knew them? and who is coming to my house next week...for what?
- "Did you bring me that book I asked you about?" Who are you and what book did we talk about?
- On Facebook: We had a great time at Josie's Frozen Yogurt tonight, but we missed Kay Winton Harms! (I had invited all our MOPS moms via FB just a few days before to meet me on Tuesday night at Josie's. I forgot and sat on my sofa that night wishing I had some ice cream to eat! What a dork!)
Many of my awkward moments, quite innocently, are due to our ever-changing church. Because we live in a military town our church pretty much plays fruit basket turnover every year, sometimes multiple times during the year. It's hard enough to remember names when I have years to finally attach faces to names. But here I get weeks sometimes. And I try, believe me, I try. But people tend to feel like they know me and my name well before I am able to associate their name with their face. So the name/face thing creates plenty of awkward moments, more than I can count!
But I have to take the blame for many others. I can be forgetful, negligent, and just dumb at times. Then again, I'm sure some of my awkward moments really do find their blame with the other party. But I don't want to perpetuate awkwardness by casting blame. And of course, some times no one is really at fault; things just go haywire and we're all left looking at each other dumbfounded.
So what's a gal to do when things get a little awkward?
If you find yourself in an awkward moment occasionally, whether you've forgotten a name, missed an appointment, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, or confused two people, I'd like to offer a few tips I've found for handling such tricky times. They don't all apply to every situation. Obviously some awkward moments are more serious than others. So pick and choose as they apply to your uncomfortable dilemmas.
Tips for eliminating awkwardness getting back on level ground:
- Keep your sense of humor. Laughing at ourselves is so important in such situations. It can bring a little levity to an otherwise tense situation and help us all b r e a t h e.
- Listen. In awkward situations I sometimes race to explain myself or make excuses, but pausing to listen is much smarter. It shows the other person respect and helps us pick up on vital clues we may have previously missed that would help get the situation back on track.
- Ask questions. When someone at church begins rattling off information, assuming I know more than I do, it's tempting to try to appear as though I do indeed know what they're talking about. Pride causes me to want to look "in the know," when indeed I am not. Instead, I'm better off (and so are they) if I just back us up by asking some appropriate questions. In the end this tactic makes less of a fool of me than otherwise.
- Keep the defenses down. For some reason, really awkward moments can cause us to get our backs up in indignation. I suppose it's a natural reaction to feeling out of control, foolish, or embarrassed. But such defensiveness only makes the situation worse. Humility, on the other hand, always helps ease the tension and embarrassment.
- Shake it off. When the awkward moment has finally passed, chalk it up as an embarrassing moment and move on. Don't label yourself or the other person or people as awkward, stupid, foolish, or anything else negative. We're all human and we all have goofy moments. But Satan would have those moments stick to us like glue, pasting us with unfair and unattractive labels. That's counterproductive.
- Give grace. Learn to give yourself and the other person lots of grace. Grace absorbs the offense and creates an atmosphere in which you can move forward from there.