My credit card was denied? I don't have any other form of payment on me. This is awkward…
Oh – I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to spit on you!
That wasn't me, it was the dog…
Congratulations – when's the baby due? Oh, I'm sorry – you're not pregnant…
Gentlemen, let's talk about awkward situations and how to overcome the embarrassment.
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#1: Embarrassing Bodily Functions
You sneeze all over someone. You emit a surprisingly loud burp. You're in an interview and your stomach is making all types of noises. Happens to us all… but what actions do you take?
You can make light of the situation and make fun of it – but you can also choose to ignore it, and there's a lot of power in that.
For instance, let's go back to that interview situation where your stomach's making noises. You can just say to yourself, ‘There's nothing I can do about these noises. I'm here to get the job – I'm going to power forward.' The interviewer's a professional – if they see you controlling your own reaction they'll just ignore it as well.
Now with the sneeze example, you're affecting another person. They're wiping your snot off their glasses. You didn't intend to do this, but ignoring it is not appropriate. You want to make sure to apologize.
Another awkward body situation: when your body isn't able to do what it used to be able to do.
You used to be able to drink all weekend and be fine for work on Monday – now you're dragging. You used to be able to go to the gym seven days a week – now you need your rest days. You used to be able to eat anything and not put weight on – now you're developing a gut.
As our bodies change it's going to affect all aspects of our lives – including in the bedroom.
#2: Putting Your Foot In Your Mouth
You said something you didn't mean… or just something you didn't mean to be overheard. Now you're wishing you'd kept your mouth shut. Awkward… so what do you do?
The first step of recovering when you stick your foot in your mouth is to ask: was it intentional or was it unintentional? If it was unintentional (e.g. accidentally cussing in front of somebody's child) you can go with a lighter apology. Just say, ‘I am so sorry, I didn't mean to do that,' and move on.
But if you said something in anger that really hurt someone, or if you were talking about someone behind their back and they actually heard it – then you owe them a serious apology.
Don't make it about you – talk about THEIR feelings, rather than yours and your excuses.
If you've talked behind someone's back, don't pretend it's not what it sounded like – nobody will be convinced. Instead, try, ‘I'm sorry, I should have talked to you about this directly instead of complaining to someone else.'
#3: Meeting People
Let's talk about awkward situations that happen when you're meeting people for the first time. Say you're at a networking event. You see someone across the room you think you know. You wave, you get up closer – and you realize you do not know this person. What do you do?
At this point, you're already on the way, so you might as well start talking with them. Maybe even tell them, ‘Hey, I thought you were somebody else – but tell me a little bit about yourself.'
Another awkward situation: you come up to a group of people and you're expecting them to open up the circle to let you in – but they're not. It's been 15 or 20 seconds. So what do you do after this embarrassing pause?
You simply ask, ‘May I join your conversation?'
Now what happens when you give someone an embarrassingly bad handshake? You can just say, ‘Hey, let me start this over – I want to give you a better handshake.'
So you made it past the introductions – but five minutes into the conversation you realize you've forgotten their name. What do you do?
Again, if it's a business networking event, you've got an advantage here. Ask for their business card, and when you get it, keep it out so that you can remember. If they don't have one, say, ‘Hey, can you put your contact information in my phone? I'd like to follow up with you after this event.'
Or you can just suck it up and say, ‘I'm sorry, I forgot your name – can you tell it to me again?' There's nothing wrong with doing this.
#4: Being Late
Let's talk about how to deal with the embarrassingly awkward situation of being late. The first thing to do is send a message and let people know you're going to be late.
Next up, when you arrive, let them know the reason. People want to understand why you're late – otherwise they're going to worry that you don't want to be there or you don't respect them and their time.
And third, examine your behavior patterns. Is this a habit? It's easy to fall into a habit of being late and start seeing your lateness as a permanent flaw in your personality.
Don't give up – you CAN be on time.
Keep trying different strategies and changes to your routine until you come up with something that works for you.
#5: Awkward Bathroom Situations
The bathroom is not a place for deep conversations. It's okay to say hi if you see someone you know, but you want to get in and get out.
Now let's talk about what happens when you fail to close your zipper. When you notice, you're faced with a dilemma. Do you blatantly zip your pants up in front of everyone – and risk calling everyone's attention to the situation – or do you hope they haven't noticed and you can somehow creep away and sort yourself out in private?
You should zip it up as soon as you notice.
And yes – I have zipped my pants up on stage.
It's better than worrying that you're revealing your underwear color to the world. Having said that – this is one more advantage of wearing a jacket. It'll cover your embarrassment pretty well.
#6: Embarrassing Drunk Behavior
You got really drunk at a party, and said and did things that you probably shouldn't have done. How to deal with this awkward situation?
First up, being drunk is not an excuse. You made a conscious decision, drink after drink, to get drunk – so you are responsible for whatever happened.
So at this point you want to apologize, and take a long hard look at why you're putting yourself in these situations. There's nothing wrong with controlled social drinking, but if you're not the kind of guy who can drink in moderation you might want to look at quitting before it hurts your career.
I quit drinking myself – and I still have plenty of fun in social situations.
#7: Awkward Eating Moments
These next embarrassingly awkward situations occur when you're eating a meal.
First: what do you do when you spill a drink all over the table (and sometimes on somebody else)? Again – you apologize, and you take action. If the waiter or the waitress isn't around, you need to get up and deal with the situation. I've had to do this – I simply go to the back room and ask for a towel. I'm not waiting for someone to come help us – I'm taking charge of the situation.
The other day I was talking over a meal and I spat food on someone.
I was so embarrassed. We just made light of it and cracked some jokes, because what can you do? It happens.
Next: do I have something in my teeth? Don't be afraid to actually take your phone, turn it on selfie mode, and check if you're worried you have something in your teeth. No one will care. Maybe go to the bathroom and check there. And if you have neither of those options, simply ask the person next to you, ‘Hey, do I have anything in my teeth?'
What about that awkward moment when you start eating and then realize nobody else is eating? If that happens – STOP. It could be that these people want to say grace, it could also be that not everyone has been served. If you've got six people at that table, you want to wait for everyone to be served.
If someone's food is taking a long time to get to them, you can always ask permission: ‘Do you mind if I go ahead and get started?'
Now what if you go to pay for your meal and your credit card is rejected? This just happened to me in London, because I was traveling and I didn't let the company know. Make sure to have a backup – I like to carry at least two credit card backups plus cash.
If you don't have any of that, just tell them. Most restaurants will simply take your information and send you an invoice. They're not going to throw you in the back and make you do dishes.
#8: Not Being Prepared
This matters more with a group than it does with an individual. If you are not prepared and a team of people are depending on you, you need to come clean and let them know what's going on.
If someone's expecting you on stage to give a talk and you don't have your slides ready, you're going to bring down their entire event. You need to communicate – so hopefully they can help you, and at worst you can simply bow out.
You may have noticed communication is a big theme here. In general, if you're stuck in an awkward situation – it's better to talk about it.
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