What's the best way to react to a socially awkward situation?
August 24, 2008 8:51 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to react to a socially awkward situation?

What I mean to talk about here is those kind of conversations with people you know just a bit that turn sour.

Sort of as in neither side says anything mean, but both people don't understand what the other person is trying to get at and get very finicky and frustrated as a result. And then silence and awkwardness follows.

The funny thing about such a situation is that though it really is no big deal and nothing particularly negative has happened, there's still a major feeling of a bad vibe. There's also the sense that because this conversation has gotten off to a bad start, future occasions will be impacted with the same awkwardness and/or perhaps a strategy of avoidance. (There's already an instictive avoidance that is grabbing hold of me)

Sorry for the long-windedness, but what's the best way to sort of deal with this situation?
posted by gregb1007 to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Breathe deeply, relax, smile. Then look the person in the eye and find a topic where you do have common ground.

You can let it fester or you can try to find a place to connect.
posted by 26.2 at 9:16 PM on August 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

"How 'bout them Red Sox?"

Seriously, though, I think I know what you're talking about. People get all caught up in making a point or something and that becomes the engine of the conversation. Once they get it out, that's it. This is a perfect time for an "Aaaaanyway, I really like the beer/wine/foie gras here..."

Just make light of the obvious change in topic.
posted by rhizome at 9:42 PM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

When things get weird, just say lightheartedly, "Oh, there I go again, bringing up sex/religion/poltics when I know I shouldn't, shame on me for killing the conversation!" And then the other person will probably go, oh no, don't worry about it, and they'll change the subject. If they don't, then you can change the subject.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:44 PM on August 24, 2008 [5 favorites]

I know what you're talking about, and I think it's just that some people's personalities' don't mix. There are just some people you encounter that you find dull/unattractive/uninteresting/etc, and they probably feel the same about you. I recently spent a year at a job with, more or less, one guy I could talk to on a daily basis. From the moment I shook his hand the day I met him, I knew that I didn't like him. He seemed distant, aloof, pompous, serious. After about 2 months on the job we got into a heated argument regarding work-related issues. Eventually, though, we got to a point where we could discuss work issues dispassionately, and even were able to have some good conversations about some shared interests, namely movies and books and such.

But we had to work at that. Me and him both. Even on the last day I worked with the guy, after a year, we were still having those awkward conversations that went nowhere.

Some people just don't click. There are those born with the super-outgoing gene (sadly, I was not), who can befriend everyone, but they're the exception to the rule.
posted by zardoz at 9:49 PM on August 24, 2008

"How 'bout them Red Sox?"

Beat me to it. I usually go with "Dodgers," though.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:23 PM on August 24, 2008

smile and don't say anything.

let's repeat that last part:

d o n' t . s a y . a n y t h i n g .

let someone else do the heavy lifting for once
because if you're like me, no matter what you say will be the wrong thing.

perhaps it's timing, intonation or demeanor but I always manage.
posted by krautland at 12:27 AM on August 25, 2008

I usually say "AWK-warrrrrd."

Like Brian, in Family Guy, that one time.
posted by disillusioned at 2:58 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd just try to wipe your face of any reaction, change the subject quickly to something mutually agreeable and pretend nothing had happened.

That's if I'm not trying to make a joke out of it. Sometimes I like a good awkward conversation and want to make it more awkward, but that's usually with friends. If it's a formal conversation I think it's good just to barrel through and pretend nothing happened.
posted by sully75 at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2008

seconding disillusioned.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:59 AM on August 25, 2008

awkward turtle!
posted by kidsleepy at 6:26 AM on August 25, 2008

I always bring in a mellow and well-liked mutual friend to, well, not referee, but refresh the conversation.

Example: Hmm, anyway...hey, Courtney, tell Mike that story about wombats! Mike, you're going to love this.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:46 AM on August 25, 2008

My ex-husband would often say "I thought JFK was an excellent movie" when he felt stuck in awkward conversational situations. It worked especially well when my mom and a gaggle of her friends asked him whether he thought he'd be able to handle my temper. Picture a table full of matronly Chinese women looking slightly baffled and then laughing uproariously and telling him that he'd do just fine.
posted by oreonax at 2:24 PM on August 25, 2008

What krautland said. I'll just say, "I'm going to shut up now and let someone else talk."
posted by muddgirl at 2:53 PM on August 25, 2008

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