Awkwardness – Part 1: What is it and what should you do with it?

We all know an awkward situation when we see it. Learn what we should do in an awkward situation and some themes that exist around awkwardness.

It’s funny how life circles around. When we’re young, we can do things that are silly, goofy or awkward and everyone thinks it’s funny. Things like tripping over our own feet, burping in public or using a word in a sentence incorrectly by mistake. At some point, usually in adolescence, those mix ups become embarrassing, mortifying, humiliating and even shameful. It’s hopeful that somewhere in early adulthood those awkward happenings will subside and our own personal coolness factor will come forth and shine. Even if that coolness factor never becomes prominent and we’re stuck in awkwardness for a while, it’s likely that by the time we’re considered elderly, using the latest lingo or jargon in conversation will become hilarious once again.

The first part of this two-part article series by Michigan State University Extension will explore avoiding or addressing awkward situations and some situational themes that surround awkwardness. Learn how to manage awkward situations in the second article, “Awkwardness – Part 2: How do you and youth deal with it?

What is it about awkwardness that makes something weird or strange? It’s hard to put a finger on it, but we sure know it when it happens. In the article “The Importance of Feeling Awkward: A Dialogical Narrative Phenomenology of Socially Awkward Situations,” published in Qualitative Research in Psychology, Joshua Clegg found that awkwardness is often displayed in social behaviors through anxious, hesitant, disjointed or avoidant actions. Those who experience an awkward situation want it resolved quickly. Often times, two different reactions occur: avoid it or address it. Do you know which is better to do?

  • Avoid it: This will magnify and extend the effects of social awkwardness.
  • Address it: Addressing the awkward situation helps to re-establish the sense of social harmony.

In the article “The Science of Awkwardness” on U.S. News, it was reported that Clegg’s research also found the following situational themes surrounding awkwardness:

  • Some violate social norms, such as by interrupting someone when they are speaking.
  • Some involve negative judgements of others, such as making fun of a particular group of people when that group is represented in the room.
  • Some make you see yourself “as a social being,” such as looking in a mirror and feeling self-conscious about what others see.

Other articles in this series

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