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Column: How to navigate awkward situations

by Alyssa Daley - Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Oct 24th 2017 11:00 am
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Socializing isn't always as easy as it looks. The majority of us can easily recall a moment when we've humiliated ourselves either by chooosing a strange phrase to say or by doing something `weird.` Don't worry though, even awkward turtles can find their `bale.`
Photo courtesy of Flickr Socializing isn't always as easy as it looks. The majority of us can easily recall a moment when we've humiliated ourselves either by chooosing a strange phrase to say or by doing something "weird." Don't worry though, even awkward turtles can find their "bale."

Dear readers,

This weekly column is devoted to breaking down all awkward experiences we encounter as human beings, from little things like waving back at someone who was waving at someone else. Or big embarrassing moments that make us cringe whenever we recall a time we undoubtedly made fools out of ourselves. 

There are some people who may adamantly deny ever being un-suave but the likelihood of that being true is very slim. We hear the saying, “nobody’s perfect all of the time,” all of the time which means it holds some sway in our thinking. Granted, when we are told this, it is by somebody who cares about our self-perception after we’ve done something particularly humiliating, but hey, what can you do? 

So that is the overarching theme of this column: breaking down strange, weird things that happen to us during our “daley” grind. To touch on the name briefly, it is a play on my last name and yes, I know not everyone will think it’s funny, but I get a chuckle out of it. Hopefully Daley is a name you’ll come to recognize and search for each week in the paper. 

My goal is to elicit a response from you at some point while you read this column, whether it be a shake of your head about some of the vernacular I use or a look around you to make sure people don’t see you relating to a particularly socially-ostracizing scenario.

Okay, enough of the introductory jargon; let’s jump right into the first topic which is, insert drumroll please; awkward silences … I felt the need to pause there to let a figurative awkward silence generate, one that included crickets in the background and each of us struggling to figure out where to look besides one another. 

Hopefully I succeeded because even if you had never experienced awkward silence before, now you have, even if it wasn’t in person. Urban Dictionary (I know, super reliable source, right?) defines an awkward silence as the “silence in a conversation when all other parties feel that someone else should be talking, yet no one does. Usually happens directly after a weird comment is made or between two partners on a date.”

I’ve definitely been on the receiving end and giving end of these. Sometimes you create them on purpose to make people feel uncomfortable because it’s fun to watch people squirm, other times it happens on accident and you just find yourself not knowing what to say, how to respond or how to climb out of the giant hole of unexpected awkwardness you and the person you were talking to just fell in. 

Well, I’m writing this to let you know that there is absolutely no way to get out of it, no way to take back the words that are left hanging in the air as blatant agents of the unbearable silence, and if you are cursed with a moment of awkward silence, the best form of treatment I can prescribe to you is to just stop whatever you were going to do and run. It doesn’t matter in what direction as long as it is in the opposite of the person you just tried to have a conversation with. 

I’m just pulling your leg. There are ways to come back from making someone uncomfortable. Well, most of the time. There are those situations where people take it too far and there’s no going back but let’s hope that’s never you. For the normally painful awkward silences, there are a couple different methods to amending the impending dead air. WikiHow has two listed on it’s website. The first one assess what you said, fix the situation with humor, stay calm, change the topic, bring back previous discussion topics.

My reaction to this method was a nodding of my head, concluding that it’s not a bad way to go about things. If someone asked me how to come back from an awkward silence, staying calm would definitely be one I’d include. Nobody wants someone to just start spouting nonsense like, “there was this one time where I stepped in a puddle when it was raining outside, insert uncomfortable laugh, and my shoe got all wet and I had to walk all the way back to my dorm to change it even though I had an extra pair in my backpack that I swore to my mom that I wouldn’t ever wear outside …” There are just so many things wrong with that and the most devastating part is that “stories” like those can go on forever. 

The person whose trapped standing there listening is equivalent to a slow torturous death. So the take away from that method is definitely to stay calm.

The other method WikiHow has on file is: avoid questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” replies; ask for opinions; look for mutual interests; ask about hobbies; talk about shared surroundings/environment; and lastly, ask about things that are cared for. 

This “method” seems to be a list of things you can do to avoid an awkward silence in conversation. Once again, all of them seem. like pretty effective ways of avoiding silence. 

The most important thing to mention is that no matter which technique you decide you’re going to make as that default, remember it’s all about the delivery. For example, if you were to choose the “ask about hobbies” as a way to break the silence, you wouldn’t want to pull out the information you have about that person’s life when you happened to see them walking into T.J. Maxx the other day because then you sound like a stalker. 

I hope these little tips will come in handy the next time you unfortunately become immersed in an uncomfortable silence. If you have any bright ideas or any thing else you think I would to hear I’d love to get suggestions from you in regards to topics I should cover. 

Don’t be afraid to send me a quick email like, “Hey, Alyssa it’s ‘fill in the blank.’ I just had this super embarrassing thing happen to me just now on my way to class and I think it’s super relatable and that you should definitely cover it in your next column.” 

Now it’s back to the “daley” grind.

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