How to Survive Awkward Situations
Often wish that you could hide under the nearest piece of furniture to avoid having to speak? Chances are that your sticky situation isn’t as bad as it seems. Here’s how to extract yourself from some common conundrums painlessly, and without stepping on any toes.
I Forgot the Name of Someone I Know
Don’t be mortified when you forget the name of an acquaintance or coworker. These things happen to everyone. Just say, “Oops, I’ve forgotten your name” and lightheartedly promise to remember it next time. When the person reminds you of his or her name, repeat it aloud as a way of helping you remember it better.
I Called Someone the Wrong Name-the Really Wrong Name
What may be worse than not remembering someone’s name is calling the person by the wrong name. For instance, you’re speaking to a friend’s new husband and you call him by the old husband’s name. Or you refer to your new boss by the ousted boss’s name. Try to acknowledge your mistake with a little humor. Perhaps say, “Oh, I really know you’re Mike and not Tom.” Apologize for your slipup and let it drop. If your mistake obviously insulted a person of authority, such as your boss, who wasn’t impressed with how you recovered from the error, you might want to send a quick note later, again apologizing for the lapse.
I Really Put My Foot in My Mouth
You wrote a nasty e-mail message about someone-and now you realize you accidentally sent it to him. Or you just mocked an acquaintance who, you discover too late, is standing nearby. Since the floor isn’t going to open up and swallow you whole, much as you wish it would, you’re going to have to deal with this. You must offer an apology, and it must be a good one. Don’t say, “I didn’t really mean it.” You probably did mean it, and denying it will just compound the error. In other words, don’t apologize for what you think, feel, or said about the person. Instead, apologize for the effects of what you said. Try something like this: “I cannot apologize enough for making those careless comments about you. It was heartless, it was dumb, and you don’t deserve whatever embarrassment or irritation I caused you.” Apologize profusely and sincerely and then be done with it. Don’t stretch out the explanation or keep bringing up how sorry you are later.
My Buddy Has Bad Breath
How do you tell your friend he or she has breath that would slay the devil? Here’s an easy, roundabout way: Pop a mint or piece of gum into your own mouth and then offer one to your friend. This way, you won’t be saying anything outright, and if he or she accepts your offer, everyone wins. If not? Well, it depends on how strong your friendship is. You either risk offending your friend with the truth or ignore the problem and excuse yourself to get a breath of fresh air.
I’ve Bumped into a Friend Who Didn’t Invite Me to His Wedding
Your circle of college buddies swore you’d be friends forever. So your feelings were hurt when, five years after graduation, one of the guys invited everyone else to his wedding but not you. You’ve just bumped into him at a class reunion, and you feel awkward. In this case, take the high road and don’t mention not going to the wedding. Perhaps you lived far away from the ceremony, and your friend didn’t want you to feel obligated to buy a plane ticket. Or maybe the other friends had stayed in closer touch with the groom than you had. Whatever the reason, don’t make a big deal of it. When you see your friend, congratulate him on his marriage and wish him and his wife the best.
A Stranger Asked Me a Personal Question
Perhaps you’re pregnant. Or your child has a birthmark or disability. Or you’ve adopted a child of another race. You’d think these matters would be your business alone, but unfortunately there are a lot of overly curious people out there. Although such questions are undeniably rude, bluntly telling the questioner to mind his or her own business is not the way to go. People don’t mean to be rude. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Have a few polite responses ready, but don’t offer too much information. Say something like “Yes, I’m expecting” or “Yes, she’s adopted.” Continue with “I’m in a really big rush” and keep walking.