Awkward situations can be momentary, like honking your horn at the guy in front of you, and then sitting next to him at a business lunch. That’s not the subject of this article. What I’m talking about here are those awkward situations that are more significant than your fleeting road rage.
For example, you’ve given your employer two weeks’ notice, or you’ve told your spouse you want a divorce, but you still have to deal with them on a daily basis. These awkward situations are undeniably complicated, and navigating them is like getting out of a sand trap with your nine iron. Is there a way to reduce the stress?
Some people stay in a marriage or at a job because they’re afraid of the unknown. But that’s not who you are. You’ve decided to take a leap of faith and move on, and you’re almost there — just not quite. You’re waiting for that last paycheck, or you have to live with your ex until the house is sold. No matter the cause, you’re stuck in your own personal purgatory, and it’s awkward, uncomfortable, and weird.
Admit it, you’re focusing on, and maybe even obsessing about feeling stuck. If so, I have four thoughts about how you might improve the way you’re handling your awkward situation.
First, remember your manners. Whether you find yourself alone with your manager in the office lunch room, or you’re waiting for your ex to get out of the shower so you can get ready for work, act as normally as possible. Then up your game by being excessively, even condescendingly polite. You’ll look like you’re rising above the awkwardness, yet your subconscious self knows you’re deliberately faking it. Ha! Joke’s on them!
Second, use this awkward situation as an opportunity to plan your escape. Get specific, do your research, be proactive about what’s on your own horizon. People who impulsively quit their jobs, or walk out of their relationships without a plan generally end up floundering. And who really wants to be a flounder?
Third, distract yourself. Most likely, you don’t have the freedom at work to simply take a movie break, or sit in your car and read a book. But you have your mind, your imagination, your fantasies. Use them during the awkward times to give yourself a mental health break. And if you find your mind wandering back to the awkward situation, take a breath and think about something else. Like what you’re having for lunch, or what you’re going to wear tomorrow.
Fourth, (and this is last for a reason because it’s the most difficult) talk about it. Discuss your feelings of awkwardness with those closest to you. Ask for help, for feedback, for support.
And finally, whether I’m navigating myself through an awkward situation, or helping my clients work through theirs, I often rely on two small and simple words that pack a wallop:
For now . . .
I’d love to know your thoughts.
Great advice. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most aggressive) I, and those who know me, would rate my personality as a 2 or 3. I mostly avoid confrontation so I have employed the techniques that you speak about in almost every awkward situation and they have served me well.
I have found success using some quick self-deprecating humor about the situation, coupled with a warm smile and no expectations.