We’re all constantly put in situations where awkward conversations happen. You know what I mean, the kind of polite small talk that starts but doesn’t seem to go anywhere. You find yourself smiling and nodding at the person as your mind runs through a million and one things to say next, but you’re suddenly distracted because your cheeks are paralyzed from all that forced smiling.
Most of the time you can get away with this by sticking your nose against your phone screen and look like you’re really, really focused. Sometimes, though, you come across that overly-friendly stranger that wants to ask you about your day. This is a situation which you can’t run from since you’re confined in a tiny box with this person. You could always try to turn around and face a corner, but I can’t guarantee that your sanity won’t be questioned once you’ve done so.
“Having a good day?”
“Yes, thanks. And you?”
“Yeah, yeah. Pretty good.”
*Awkward silence followed with foot tapping and alternating between staring at the floor and ceiling*
The good thing about elevators is that they never last for long anyway. The best way to overcome the awkwardness of this situation is engage in conversation… really, really slow conversation, while estimating the time it will take to reach your floor. So your conversation will be:
“Having a good day?”
“Well… *shake head*… It’s been a rough day… *sigh*… Work… *pause for dramatic effect*… Work is just hectic… OH! That’s my floor, bye now!”
Meeting Room Ramblings
I’m always torn between showing up at a meeting 30 seconds late so as to ensure that everyone has arrived, and showing that you mean serious business by showing up ahead of time and getting stuck with small talk until everyone’s there.
Being the complete nerd that I am, I usually opt for the latter. While you could easily set the scene for the meeting by giving a brief introduction about what you’re about to discuss, no one really wants to talk work until the meeting’s actually started. Since we’re all stuck in a dreary office, the topic that usually comes up is “been on any interesting holidays lately?” As you recollect memories of yourself on the beach, drink in hand, screaming “I love you man” at the DJ, you realize you’ve been sitting there with a blank look on your face for a good two minutes.
There is a very simple solution to this one. YOU need to initiate the conversation. Before your backside even hits the seat, jump in with a “So! The weather’s been such a drag. Tell me about your most recent holiday.” Chances are they’ll be so excited to recount their water rafting experience that you won’t even have time to contribute to the conversation.
We all have an acquaintance that we pretend not to see when out shopping. And we all know that acquaintance is going to make their way across the store just to say hello. It’s not like you’re subtle about avoiding them, they just do not get the hint. There’s a reason that they haven’t crossed into the friend-zone, and that’s because you have absolutely nothing to say to them.
Irrational Dinner Table Seating Arrangements
This unfortunately happens sometimes. You’re invited to a dinner party, and when you see where you’ve been seated you begin to wonder what your friend was smoking when he/she placed you on that table. You have to spend an entire evening with people you have absolutely nothing in common with, and start to struggle to make conversation before you’ve even sat down.
The way to get out of this one requires a little sacrifice. Once everyone’s been seated and the awkward conversation starts, wait for someone to say something remotely funny (or at least something that was intended to be funny, no matter how unfunny it was) burst into uncontrollable laughter and knock your drink over onto yourself. Now, I’m not saying drench yourself in the drink, but spill just enough that you can excuse yourself from the table to get cleaned up. Once you’re off the table, you can begin to work as the unofficial seat filler at the party, or just linger by the buffet.
This one is probably the most horrific situation of them all. I was recently put in this situation where I had to make the most meaningless small talk with my ex. Keep in mind that things between us didn’t end on the best of terms. Actually, things ended really, really badly. So badly, in fact, that he was terrified to have to see me that day. This is how I dealt with the situation at the time:
“OK… We should probably talk to that people don’t feel like things are getting awkward. Not that I really want to talk to you. Anyway. How’s your brother?”
I hope this kit somewhat helps you get through future awkwardness. And if it doesn’t, I hope it at least made you laugh.