Monday, February 04, 2013

Impervious to Awkward

In my last post I appealed to people to help them stop saying awkward things to pregnant ladies. The thing is, whoever you are, pregnant or not, people are going to say awkward stuff to you, and you have to find a way to deal with it. I learned to deal with it when a super-awkward person came into my life, and I knew this person was never fully going to leave my life, ever. This person was going to keep popping up and keep being awkward FOREVER.
 At first I dealt with them the way I always had dealt with awkward people: smiling blankly and making non-committal remarks to pretend like our conversation was not insanely awkward.

This did not work well. The whole time I could not stop thinking about how crazy annoyed I was at how awkward this person was making me feel, and I could not stop pretending to be polite.

And then, suddenly and simultaneously I ran out of fake-politeness and I ran out of energy to be annoyed, suddenly I was just honest, and I said:

I wasn't mad, or feeling superior, or anything. I just blurted out exactly how I felt, and suddenly that statement made the awkwardness evaporate. I was no longer a hapless victim, and the person I was talking to was no longer in the dark.

We didn't become best friends, but suddenly I didn't mind so much that I didn't agree with anything I had heard. We could have a conversation, and I could just be honest. It was a relief to us both.

Since that day, I have perfected this skill. I am not impervious to ALL awkwardness, but when it comes to face-to-face interactions, I am pretty much immune.

The keys are:
1. You cannot feel spiteful, or angry. Your honesty cannot be designed to get any revenge. It helps me to trust that the person does not mean to make me uncomfortable.
2. Make it about you. Accusing people makes then all weird, but having feelings is something they can understand and not argue with. My favorite sayings are, "Wow, that is awkward", "That doesn't make me feel very good", and "I just can't agree with that".
3. I have found that awkward folk are often generally surprised to find that their conversation was  embarrassing/hurtful to you, and they want to know why. Just tell them why, kindly, they are glad to know.
4. Being honest does not have to be rude. Never be rude. Treat the awkward person as you would want to be treated if you accidentally made a faux pas. 

Now be free! Never smile through gritted teeth again! 

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