When Someone’s Words Or Behavior Make You Feel Awkward
When was the last time someone’s behavior made you feel uncomfortable? Maybe how they looked at you, encroached on your personal space, or talked triggered the alarm bells!
We’ve all experienced things that made the hairs stand on the back of our necks, or our spines tingle uneasily.
Walking away isn’t always an option. Besides, a lot of the time, it’s someone we must interact with regularly, like a colleague or a family member, perhaps even a spouse in a rocky marriage.
Sooner or later, you will find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. And how you handle yourself makes all the difference.
Use these strategies to help manage your feelings and reactions the next time someone makes you feel uncomfortable.
Wait Before Responding
The rule of thumb for anyone in an uncomfortable situation is to stop, wait, think, and respond.
Giving a knee-jerk reaction makes things worse and always ends badly or regrettably.
Wait for a few seconds and take a few deep breaths to keep your cool to avoid letting the pressure of that awkward situation rattle you; try to stay calm.
If appropriate or possible, get a glass of water or take a quick walk. When you return, you will see the situation from a fresh perspective.
If you can’t walk away, focus on your breathing to be calm and gain control of your nervous system. You will be less anxious and better able to handle the situation.
Here’s how to practice deep breathing:
- Inhale slowly through your nose, filling your lungs completely with air and expanding your abdomen.
- Hold your breath for three or four seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Repeat 4–5 times.
- If appropriate, maybe make a lighthearted comment.
There’s a time and place for jokes and lighthearted comments. Sometimes they can help diffuse an uncomfortable situation. But they can make it worse, too. So use sound judgment.
Sometimes playfulness or a lighthearted comment during a tense moment in a marriage can shift the mood and change the outcome from being a knockdown drag-out fight to something to chuckle at instead.
Defuse the Situation
People avoid conflict by ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug. Perhaps there are times when that approach is appropriate, depending on the severity of the matter.
Ignoring a situation just lets it fester, and it usually worsens over time.
Although uncomfortable, the most effective way to deal with awkward situations is to acknowledge what was done or said. Make sure you choose the right time to discuss it so everyone involved won’t become overly emotional or reactionary.
Explain clearly but kindly to the person behind the behavior or comment about how it might be taken as offensive or demeaning.
The person will probably apologize, not realizing the impact of their words or actions; sometimes, they won’t, but at least you shared your concerns calmly and maturely.
Embrace the Awkward Silence
In our experience, most uncomfortable situations are accompanied by silence — the kind when you can hear your blood pumping through your veins type of silence.
According to a study by the University of Groningen, people feel uncomfortable after only four seconds of silence.
Add to that an already awkward situation, and things become even more unnerving.
Even if the awkward silence is disturbing, trying to fill it can make things worse.
The key to overcoming the awkwardness is allowing yourself to embrace it for a few moments; hold the space.
Embrace the silence for a few moments.
Ponder what happened and run through a few scenarios of all the possible things you could say in response.
Avoid blurting out the first thing that comes to mind because those are the ones we usually regret.
Most of us struggle with feelings of insecurity even when we’re crushing it at home and work.
Then, we slip up, or someone makes us uncomfortable for some reason, and all those insecurities get multiplied tenfold!
If you struggle with confidence, consider finding a role model you admire; act like them during awkward moments.
You may have a self-assured friend, a manager at work, or even a fictional character from a TV series you admire.
Imagine how they’d react if they were in the same situation and take inspiration from their response; model them by borrowing their confidence.
This tactic is an excellent way to manage an uncomfortable situation, distancing you from your insecurities so you can see the situation objectively.
You will often have uncomfortable situations. But when you wait before you respond, defuse the situation, embrace the silence, and are confident, you rise about the awkward moment with dignity and grace.
Use this advice to free yourself from an emotionally-charged situation to unlock your best life, relationships, and marriage.