Awkwardness – Part 2: How do you and youth deal with it?

We all know an awkward situation when we see it. Discover some tips for managing those situations for yourself and the youth in your life.

In this second part of this two-part series from Michigan State University Extension, we’ll learn how to manage awkward situations and how to help youth navigate through them. See the first part, “Awkwardness – Part 1: What is it and what should you do with it?” to explore avoiding or addressing awkward situations and some situational themes that surround awkwardness.

Social savviness is a skill some are born with, some have none of and others have to work at constantly. Regardless of the type of person you might be, knowing what to do in an awkward situation can be extremely helpful. Adults often have the skills necessary to manage these situations, but lose track of them in the moment. It’s equally important for adults to help youth navigate through potentially embarrassing awkward moments.

In the article “The Science of Awkwardness” on U.S. News, Anna Miller reported the following tips for managing awkward situations based on research in “The Importance of Feeling Awkward: A Dialogical Narrative Phenomenology of Socially Awkward Situations,” published in the Qualitative Research in Psychology:

  • Know they’re normal. Awkward situations are a part of life, but the trick is deciding how meaningful they are and how much they get in the way. Remember that often times it’s how you interpret the situation or make sense of it that makes it awkward, not the situation at hand.
  • Get a reality check. Ask if there is really evidence to prove what you believe someone else is thinking. Even if there is evidence, how much does it really matter?
  • Call it out. Acknowledge the situation. Do it with humor if you can, and move past it.
  • Don’t run away. When you avoid addressing an awkward situation, it’s likely that if or when the situation occurs again, it will be just as awkward as the first time because it wasn’t addressed. Own the discomfort and find out how to recover from the situation.
  • Be kind. We like people who like us back and are kind to us. Part of building relationships is finding mutual interests or offering compliments, which can be extremely helpful in awkward situations.
  • Get out of your head. When someone draws unwanted attention to you, it’s likely that it’s not as noticeable to others as it is to you. Don’t get hung up it. Focus on other things.
  • Get help. If you’re so concerned with avoiding awkward situations that it effects your everyday life, you may need to seek professional help to overcome your negative thought patterns and learn to face situations that cause you discomfort.

We can wait for awkward situations to never occur, but it’s not likely they’ll go away. So in the meantime, it’s better that we learn how to navigate through those times when we wish we could put the words back in our mouths, hide under a rock or become suddenly invisible. Recognizing the situations for ourselves and managing them is important, but remember that if you’re working with youth as a mentor, teacher, leader, counselor, etc., how you help them manage an awkward situation may make all the difference in their self-esteem. It can help with how they manage their feelings and nurture relationships with others.

Other articles in this series

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