In a previous post I talked about small talk, and the problems that arise when you’re forced to engage. I fancy myself a kind of expert when it comes to these, partly because I feel like I have participated in so many such exchanges. I like to think that I can now navigate these conversations in such a way that the other person either doesn’t feel the full awkwardness of the exchange, or we get a good laugh out of it somehow.
I think the key to my “success” (I don’t think you can really call it that, but I choose to anyway) is being aware of the conversation’s inelegance, and finding my way around it. When I do have to make small talk – because it is inescapable sometimes – I go into it with this understanding; If you have this kind of conversation in a social environment where you can admit it for what it is (an awkward exchange), and you’re able to laugh at yourself, then it takes a bit of the simulated edge off the conversation. Acknowledging awkwardness sometimes introduces an element of authenticity that is often lacking in most obligatory and/or unrewarding small talk.
If you’re a bumbling idiot, and you know it, and can laugh at yourself, then hurray! Because that could actually be adorable to an extent – it’s endearing, and also connotes a sense of sincerity. However, if you’re a bumbling idiot and are completely oblivious to the fact, or continually/consistently deny or ignore it, then that’s just tragic. Because, trust me, if you can’t laugh at yourself, others will do it for you.
I must say that in my experience, self-aware awkwardness can be overdone! Too many times, I’ve heard people START conversations with “OMG, I’m so awkward, sorry!” and it often leads to me wondering if their private thoughts were responsible for this otherwise incongruent outburst.
It’s definitely not a good idea to let yourself be known as that one person who always claims to be weird and awkward, because you might just speak that reputation into existence. I have a friend who apologizes for her “awkwardness” after almost every sentence, and sometimes even before she starts a statement. A typical conversation started by her would begin with something like, “I’m sorry, this is gonna be so awkward, but what do you think about so and so?”
As someone who is introverted, or shy, or just handicapped when it comes to impromptu social exchanges with non-friends, it really just comes down to being aware of your environment. If there is no indication that other people sense the awkwardness, or that pointing it out will help the air, then you’re most likely better off not doing so.
This is probably a good time for me to say that I still stand by my belief that silence can be better sometimes. How ‘bout you save yourself from the stress on occasion?