Crystal Hammon is a vintage fashion enthusiast who blogs at Dressed Her Days Vintage. When she isn’t working as a writer, she teaches yoga, plays golf, sews and reads. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
For the longest time, I thought it was just me. I occasionally found myself in some social situation that made me feel odd. For days afterwards, I might think about it and wonder what went wrong. How would a more socially-skilled person handle the same situation? And then one day, as I wrestled some pointless question about an episode from the week before, it hit me: everyone has at least a few awkward moments.
Here are three social situations that can make you sweat—and possible strategies for handling them.
Your conversations die. Thankfully, the world is full of chatterboxes—people who can talk incessantly about nothing and/or everything. The fact that I’m not one of them is not a big catastrophe. People of my ilk can usually manage a little small talk when we must. But what happens when we’re tired or life’s challenges make us even less chatty—and no one else in a group holds up the conversation? Suppose a hush comes over your small social gathering?
In a society that’s steeped in online social networks, conversational skills are bound to falter when people meet in real life. When they do, accept it as a sign that you still have ground to plow if you’re going to make real human connections. If you don’t hang out with people often, a few awkward silences may be necessary for getting better acquainted. Relationships take time.
Don’t quit mixing with people over some uncomfortable memory of your last interaction. On a different day, the energy in a group may be totally different. Besides, who died and left you responsible for an entire group’s fun?
You exchange an awkward embrace. I hate to generalize, but I often think that the world can be divided into two camps: the huggers and the non-huggers. Family and regional culture probably influence this difference. When a hugger and a non-hugger meet under the right circumstances, awkwardness ensues.
Recently, an acquaintance (who is rapidly becoming a good friend) began to cry as she described how miserable she is in her job, the main source of family income. Having been there myself, I was overwhelmed with compassion and sorrow for her situation. We were standing side by side and I was carrying an armload of books when I turned and reached to embrace her. Small problem: the books in the crook of my arm were completely in the way, which made a shoulder-to-shoulder hug darn near impossible. Did we bump or hug? Neither of us knew!
How did we handle it? We laughed. “Wow,” I said. “Sorry about that, but I just feel so sorry that you’re in such an unhappy situation. What can I do to help or encourage you?” The sting of awkwardness we both felt could have defined our budding friendship—but neither of us allowed it. We still visit regularly, and our friendship shows no sign of wilting. Evidently, my genuine expression of concern trumped my awkward expression. People of good character overlook petty imperfections—theirs and ours.
Differences between you and other people make you feel isolated and strange in a group. Frankly, there are only two ways to handle this one. Love ‘em or leave ‘em.
I’m a church-goer. My husband is not. From time to time, we’re asked to socialize with a network of friends from my church. For reasons all his own, he prefers not to go. I don’t want to miss the blessing of companionship with people I hold dear, so I go solo. Occasionally, I feel like I’m leading a dual life. I wish things were different, but I must respect my husband’s choice.
That may seem odd to other people, but it works for us. People worth knowing eventually accept you for who you are without judging or imposing their values.
Go forth confidently with your differences! Everyone has something in their life that makes them feel odd compared to others. It may be well-hidden, but it’s there. Don’t waste a minute of your life feeling strange just because your life, circumstances or mindset are different from someone else’s. If we all stayed home based on our feelings of “differentness,” there would be few opportunities to socialize.
On the other hand, if a group of people perpetually suggest that you’re strange and you feel at ease elsewhere, it may be a sign that you’re not meant to hang with that crowd. It’s okay to move on or limit your exposure to people who don’t bring you joy.
What if your own family makes you feel that way? You know the saying: you can pick your friends, but not your family. Carry an imaginary umbrella and imagine the whole experience rolling off like rain, while you stay safely dry inside.
P.S. When you’re wearing something that makes you feel confident, you’re far less likely to have an awkward moment, don’t you agree? One of the styles that flatters my pear-shaped figure (the most common female form) is Penelope. I’m wearing Penelope in Abstract Floral for Easter. What are you wearing Easter weekend?