Everyone is pretty familiar with uncomfortable conversations, courageous conversations, uncomfortable courageous conversations. What about awkward conversations? Conversation that are hard to do or deal with, have an embarrassing feel to them, that sometimes what you are saying or how your are saying it feels clumsy? Or sometimes you just do not know what to say or respond because your tongue gets tied up? Where your words seem to come out all wrong and you do not know what to do!
Awkward, clumsy conversations have a place in communication. Talking about how they work, the feelings invoked by these conversations, can help clarify , increase understanding, and perhaps make the next awkward conversation you have go a little better.
I used to go into my courageous conversations with the mindset that the other person was going to follow my preconceived script. I would share my feelings, they would respond in the manner that I felt they should, I would share another brilliant thought or feeling and they would continue to say all the right things I thought they should say in the way I wanted the other person to say it. Isn’t this the way all uncomfortable, awkward conversations should go? I learned early on and quickly not to expect this. After fumbling my words and saying many awkward things when these conversations were not following my script, I learned I needed to change my expectations when I was initiating this type of conversation or when someone was talking with me. Working on identifying the emotions I was feeling, what I wanted to express, letting go and allowing myself to be vulnerable actually helped to defuse the awkward and sometimes let the humor in the clumsy shine.
I like to fancy myself as being able to hold a conversation with anyone. I like learning about people and occasionally enjoy a polite chit chat. However I have had my fair share of conversations with people that I did not know all that well that the conversation flow stopped. The other person clearly did not want to be conversing with me, I did not want to be talking with them and we became stuck in the awkward revolving door conversation.
Danielle Vega said “You should be allowed to scream in public whenever a conversation gets awkward. And then time would reset yourself and you would get a do-over.”
Awkward conversations are real and present. So what to do when you are in the midst of an awkward moment.
First own your awkward. Embrace your emotions and try to understand why you are feeling how you are feeling. Is the the topic being discussed, the person, are you feeling insecure, disempowered. Feelings never lie. It is totally okay to be feeling awkward. You have the right to feel your feels.
Depending upon who it is and why it is you are in the clumsy, awkward conversation determine your plan of action. You can say to someone “I am thinking about what you said” before responding. You can ask clarifying questions, reflect back what the other person stated. It’s totally cool to have a giggle and use some humor. If the other person it talking about a topic or someone and you do not want to participate you can state that. As a valid human being you can say “I don’t want to talk about that”. In the past I became trapped in the mindset that I did NOT want to make the other person uncomfortable when I was feeling uncomfortable. I know if I was saying something that was making someone else uncomfortable I would want to know. I have put my foot directly in my mouth. I also know I have the right to express in a respectful manner my discomfort with another person’s statements. So I speak up.
Also own your right to not talk if you do not feel like talking. Just because we are with other people does not mean we have to talk. If the other person is not responding to your chitchat read the cues and stop talking. Perhaps you do not feel like talking so say “I don’t feel like talking right now.” Silence is okay. You can pause a difficult conversation and say can we talk about that later. Now is not a good time.
Buffer any difficult topics you are going to discuss. You can begin with “I need to talk about something with you that is uncomfortable”. Give the other person a chance to mentally prepare. Express how challenging and difficult it is for you to talk about whatever it is you are talking about. If you are feeling nervous you can state that. If needed place a clear closing boundary on this awkward moment in time. End it in a manner that is respectful and honorable.
“That awkward moment when you are having a conversation telling a really awesome story and then realize no one is listening to you.” Unknown author
Awkward conversations are real, and exist. I have learned so much about myself in my many awkward conversations. These clumsy moments in my life offer the potential and possibility for me to learn more about myself and sometimes others too. Amazing person we all have some awkward going on. Embrace yours for what it is. It is part of your wonderful DNA called the awkward gene.
May your awkward conversations be with you💜