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What You Need To Remember When Faced With An Awkward Moment

July 30, 2020

There's something remarkably human about those awkward moments that come up, honestly, pretty often in life. And while they can be supremely cringe-worthy, they may not be quite as bad as we think.

Celeste Headlee, award-winning journalist and author, appeared on the mindbodygreen podcast to share some pointers about having better conversations (by not being a conversational narcissist) and why there's actually good reason to sometimes do something with no productive purpose.

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Headlee also had wisdom to share about what to do in those awkward moments, starting with a bit of perspective: "I will console everyone in telling you you are not as awkward as you think you are," she explained. But there are two more important things to keep in mind to keep some perspective on those moments.

What to remember when faced with an awkward moment.

According to Headlee, there are two things to keep in mind in the fallout after a less-than-comfortable exchange: "A) people like you more than you think," she said, "And B), they're thinking about themselves, not about you."

And there's actually research to back up that first claim. In a 2018 study titled The Liking Gap in Conversations1, they found that people's self-analysis is blocking them from understanding that they're more liked than they thought.

"They realized a surprising thing," explained Headlee, "which is that people like you more than you think. And people enjoy your conversation more than you realize. And the reason you don't realize it is because you're so wrapped up in analyzing yourself."

What can you do?

Since the core of bearing those awkward moments is realizing that we're probably overthinking it, it's about adjusting our awareness instead of allowing our anxiety over the perceived awkwardness to derail.

"We're missing all the signs the other person is giving us that they're just enjoying our company," says Headlee, "So, yes, you may feel awkward during that silence. But it's a good chance the other person doesn't think you're awkward."

Awareness is the first step toward practicing mindfulness and begins with noticing where your attention had moved to, in this case toward staying hung up on thinking we've been awkward. Then, once we realize our mind has wandered, it's time to refocus on the current moment.

So next time a conversation hits an awkward bump—or a moment you perceive as awkward—try to remember that you may just need to shift your perspective. And if you're regularly feeling like your conversations could be better? (Hey, it happens!) Maybe it's time to brush up on your conversation skills.

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