Being a perfectionist, I have a very high bar for what a “smooth” interaction should look like and how it should go.
But life doesn’t work like that.
And sometimes situations can get, well… awkward.
When I experience an awkward moment, I have to stop myself from going down a rabbit hole of actively “fixing it,” apologizing for it, avoiding it, or shaming myself for failing to make it go away.
In fact, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that, not only is letting things be awkward better for my mental health, I can actually reduce the awkwardness by not dwelling on it.
Accepting awkwardness can be hard for most of us, so today I’m sharing my Three Laws of Awkwardness.
Read on to discover how you can come to peace with those stomach-churning moments that happen to all of us.
Those Awkward Moments
Before I get into my three laws, let’s talk about all the potentially awkward moments we can experience in life.
It’s pretty simple, really. We feel awkward…
- a) when we feel awkward and
- b) when we have an interaction with someone else and they say/do something awkward
Here are a few examples:
I don’t know why but shaking hands is one of those things that can easily go awry. When this happens, it can be very cringe-worthy — but it happens to all of us!
When you see someone and say, “How are you?”
They reply, “Great, how are you?”
And you say, “I’m doing well! How are you?”
Forgetting Someone’s Name
Nothing is more stomach-dropping than forgetting the name of someone you’ve met more than once, or calling someone you know by the wrong name.
I have done all of these things!! It’s so embarrassing. But remember, you get to have human moments!
And sometimes you can build a stronger connection by acknowledging and owning that you are having a human moment and connecting through vulnerability.
So let’s go through my three laws of awkwardness to help you overcome these uncomfortable (yet inevitable) interactions.
Law #1: It’s Not Just You
It’s easy to judge ourselves when we feel socially inept. We wish we were more outgoing, smoother, more confident, or better conversationalists.
But the truth is, most people feel awkward most of the time. Almost everyone is feeling socially uncomfortable and worrying about how they’re being perceived.
Knowing what to say, how to say it the right way — and what to do with your hands if you’re not eating — comes with practice.
But no matter how much experience you have with potentially uncomfortable social situations, you’ll always encounter awkward moments.
So know that feeling awkward is part of being human.
If you tend to overthink a situation, you might stay attached to the awkward feelings for days, weeks, or even years after the experience is over.
If that’s the case, do your best to forgive your own awkwardness and remember, you’re not alone in feeling this way.
Law #2: Accept the Awkwardness
Sometimes, we avoid certain situations for fear of feeling awkward. But doing this can limit the possibilities for your life and career.
If you’re able to tolerate the discomfort (and it’s okay if you’re not able to), remind yourself that this is an opportunity to grow and learn something about yourself.
Accept that some things are uncomfortable and awkward, and there’s no getting around it.
When you first get to a party, you might feel stiff or like an outsider. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you might feel anxious about keeping the conversation going. When you’re cold calling a presenter, you might stumble over some of your words.
If you can mentally accept that these things will happen, you’ll be less likely to fight them or judge yourself for them — and your recovery from the awkwardness will be that much quicker.
Law #3: Let Others Be Awkward
Remember that everyone is navigating the experience of being human, just as you are, so be as compassionate as possible when you perceive that other people might be feeling awkward.
Also remember that someone else’s awkwardness isn’t your fault. You didn’t cause it or make it worse. That’s their experience, and it’s not yours to “fix.”
In the past, I often struggled with taking responsibility for others’ awkwardness. I would always blame myself for making them uncomfortable or for contributing to the situation.
But I’ve found that it’s best to just be okay with the fact that an interaction is awkward or less than smooth.
Be kind and compassionate, and know that the more relaxed you can be in the face of awkwardness, the faster and more likely it will be to dissipate.
A Positive Change
Letting go of my desire to wage war against awkwardness has been a journey for me for many years. That said, I have to admit that learning this critical lesson has made me more likely to say “yes” to new experiences and has allowed me to have much more fun in situations that I used to hate and avoid.
It has also allowed me to stop focusing so much on myself and instead spend more time being present and aware of those around me.
Speaking of which, I’d love to hear from you.
How do you handle awkward situations?
Have you gotten more accepting of uncomfortable situations over time?
Leave a comment below.