Do you avoid small talk because you fear awkwardness? Dread parties because you aren’t sure what to say? Rush to fill silences because you feel like something’s wrong if the conversation lags?
You’re not alone if you do! One of the greatest fears of younger generations is a fear of experiencing awkwardness, whether at the hands of someone else or through your own social faux pas.
But what if I told you that avoiding awkwardness is actually making you more awkward? Because that’s exactly what it’s doing! Awkward situations and conversations are a part of life. Even in childhood we run into situations where awkwardness is uncomfortable and embarrassing. But the more we attempt to avoid it, the less we know how to navigate awkwardness with grace.
You can turn an awkward conversation into a blessing for another person just by tweaking how you handle the conversation. It starts by facing your fear.
Face It: Awkwardness Is Here to Stay
The first step to facing a fear is to acknowledge that it’s real, it’s present and it’s not going anywhere. So you have to go THROUGH it to OVERCOME it. On the scale of fears, awkwardness is one of the least damaging to your personal and physical well being! We can handle a little social discomfort if it helps us grow in character and maturity.
Awkwardness is going to happen in work, home and relationships, so accept it—and get ready to face it.
Sit With the Discomfort
You’re at a party, making small talk with someone you don’t know very well. You sense yourself running out of questions and the conversation lags…then stills to silence. You start to sweat. The awkwardness is REAL. What now?
In that moment, allow yourself to sit with the discomfort. Why do you feel anxiety? Probably because you 1) feel like something SHOULD be happening; 2) feel like you’re failing at whatever should be happening; 3) feel like the other person is judging you for failing. Let’s debunk these thoughts:
1) Just because a conversation has a silence doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. Good conversations NEED silence for the parties to form another thought. It takes more than 15 seconds to form an independent thought or change of topic. It’s not your fault if the conversation slows.
2) The other person in the conversation should also be playing a part. If they don’t ask a question to fill the silence, that’s on them. Conversation is a two-way street.
3) The other person is probably not thinking about you at all. They might be wracking their own brain for the next topic or trying to figure out a way to graciously end the conversation.
By sitting with the discomfort, you teach yourself how to face negative emotions instead of running from them (or hiding in your phone). This is an essential life skill.
Change Awkwardness to Graciousness
Gracefulness is outward beauty; graciousness is inward beauty. A gracious person beautifies an awkward conversation or situation by placing priority on PEOPLE as opposed to appearances. Ultimately, we fear awkwardness because we fear looking bad. This is rooted in pride! And while we’re all naturally prideful on some level, pride is not a godly trait and is one we should be gradually letting the Spirit sanctify out of us.
So when an awkward situation arises, think about the people around you. What would bless them? Asking a question? Introducing them to a friend? Offering to get them a drink? Inviting them to walk to another part of the event? Use this as your transition. If they say no, your conversation has ended. If they say yes, you can continue talking.
Avoiding awkwardness makes you more awkward because you never learn to overcome your fears. But facing them strengthens your mind, spirit and relationships. We need this generation to grow such an inner strength and use this gift to bless those around them!