Many people in the world spend a lot of their time in fear of awkward social interactions- whether they happen at work, at a party, or even at a family function.
Whether you have felt awkward your entire life, or are just entering into an unusual social situation, there are always things that you can do to ease the situation, and help yourself feel more comfortable.
Here are a few helpful tips on ways to avoid awkward social interactions.
With a little practice, you can become the confident conversationalist you’ve always dreamed of being.
When you first enter a room, it’s easy to spot the people circulating in the crowd who look like they haven’t been taking care of themselves.
When we don’t take care of ourselves, it becomes apparent to everyone around us that we’ve lost interest in engaging with the world.
This lack of care for our appearance and well-being is not only unfortunate to witness- it can make people feel awkward because someone who doesn’t care about themselves usually has a limited amount of resources to care about others.
Avoid hiding your self-consciousness with negativity
Everyone has days when they feel self-conscious- maybe it’s a bad hair day, an illness, or maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
If you’re feeling self-conscious in a conversation, try and remember that most people won’t be able tell that you’re feeling off.
Self-consciousness is most obvious when people use self-deprecating humor or aggressive negativity to try and cover up their discomfort.
While these types of humor can be funny if you already know the person making the jokes, it can make people who are unfamiliar with you feel uncomfortable and awkward.
Practice active listening
Many awkward conversations happen between two people who are trying to communicate but are failing to hear each other.
If you want to avoid uncomfortable social situations, and make people around you feel at ease, practice active listening- this means turning your body towards your conversation partner, making an effort to tune out distractions, and listening to them without subconsciously planning what you’re going to say next.
Read social cues
Another reason to practice active listening is so that you can become more adept at reading human facial and social cues.
These cues, which manifest as things like posture, facial expressions, and body positioning, tell us a lot about what a person is feeling without them having to say a word.
If we aren’t able to read social cues, it’s like we’re not hearing half of the conversation.
Conversations are a two-way street.
The more we’re able to find out about our conversation partner, the better we’ll be able to relate to them, and the only way we can find out information about them is to ask!
Even if a person seems reticent to answer questions at first, most people are flattered when people seem interested in their life, and can generally be cajoled into opening up.
Interactions get awkward when one person dominates the conversation.
Know your solid conversation topics
Another reason why people sometimes feel awkward and out of their depth in social situations is because they feel unable to contribute to the conversation if it veers away from their areas of expertise.
If this happens to you, it doesn’t hurt to listen attentively, so next time you’ll know more.
It can also help you feel less awkward if you have a pre-prepared stock of subjects that you feel familiar with, so the next time there’s a lull in the conversation you can jump right in.
Acknowledge awkwardness and move on
Everyone feels awkward at times.
If you have an awkward blip in conversation, or bring up something that makes someone else feel uncomfortable, the best way to handle it is to acknowledge the awkwardness and move on.
If you acknowledge it, it can turn into a bonding moment, but if the unspoken awkwardness is allowed to linger, it will only prolong everyone’s discomfort.
Approach incendiary topics with grace
Another way that you can help yourself and others feel more comfortable in social situations is to approach delicate or potentially incendiary topics with grace- and ideally, avoid them all together.
Topics like politics, religion, and parenting can often drift into uncomfortable territory unless you tread with caution.
If these topics do come up, don’t be afraid to express your opinion, but be prepared to listen to others do the same.