The 8 Steps to Surviving an Embarrassing Conversation

Whether you are considering talking to your coworker about your personal hygiene or are faced with a dramatic situation where someone needs you to comfort them because something bad has happened, you will probably feel obligated to remain silent.

It’s natural, since these types of conversations are usually very annoying.

How do you deal with an annoying interaction?

When there is a problem that cannot be avoided and we are unable to articulate a speech towards that person, environmental discomfort and stress can increase.

Once you are determined to deal with the situation, remember these tips to help prevent the current conversation from turning into a bad trance.

1. Avoid silences

Research reveals that, after just four seconds of awkward silence our anxiety levels skyrocket. Also, the more anxious you feel, the harder it will be to articulate the words.

To avoid this, you should, if possible, plan the interaction a little in advance. If you know what you want to communicate, your message will be crisp and clear and you will spare yourself the discomfort of intermittent conversation and the dreaded silences.

2. Conversation in an intimate place

It is not a good idea to have a relevant conversation in a busy place with distractions (people nearby, noise …). Look for a private place where you can feel relaxed and where there is no one who can hear you or put you.

If it is the other person who starts talking about this uncomfortable topic before you do, suggest that they find a comfortable place so that they can discuss it confidently and without outside interference.

3. Take a seat

When it comes to talking about a delicate subject, it is a good idea that we are resting on a sofa or a chair. We will feel more comfortable, especially if the issue is thorny or may lead to major emotional shock.

This is something I discuss in the post: “How to break bad news? 12 emotional keys”

When you sit next to (or in front of) the other person, try to be at the same height. If you stand up and the other person is seated, you will convey an image of superiority which can be very negative for the sake of interaction.

4. Start with a wake-up call

Difficult conversations can be just as incisive, but better received if you take a touch of attention beforehand. For example, instead of saying “Miguel, other workers can’t stay near you for more than a minute”, you can start with a sentence that softens the contextLike, “Miguel, what I’m going to tell you may be a little hard to adapt.”

This shade gives the other person a few seconds to mentally and emotionally prepare for what you’ll be saying to them in a moment.

5. Accept your discomfort as normal

Trying to deny the discomfort can cause the opposite effect to that desired. We can feel even more uncomfortable with the situation we are facing. If you notice something shaking, restless, and you can’t maintain eye contact with the other person … accept that you are a little nervous.

It is highly recommended that in such a situation you can utter a sentence that expresses the discomfort shared with the interlocutor. For example: “I feel a little uncomfortable talking about it.” this this will make the other person sympathetic to you and the level of discomfort is likely to drop.

6. Be polite but also direct

It is essential that you succeed in expressing yourself correctly and that you try not to be disrespectful. Here’s a basic tip: you have to be careful if you want your message to come to fruition. However, you can run the risk of softening your words to the limit and this can lead to a weak message that is not received with the force needed by the other party.

So it is interesting that you stick to the facts, use your own insurance and get a clear message without too much circumlocution and get right to the root of the problem.

7. Practice active listening

Communication is a matter of two. You must let your interlocutor process the information you have just transmitted to him, serenely. To be a good listener, it is important that you are receptive when listening to the other person’s response, Try to put the question together and try to resolve some points or misunderstandings.

If what you have just said is particularly harsh, you need to be prepared for the other person to experience (and express) intense emotions. These can range from shame or sadness to fear or anger. Either way, you should try to make the person feel like they have support in you and give them time to deal with the situation.

Find out more: “Active listening: the key to communicating with others”

8. Bring the conversation to a clear end

Annoying conversations they can also become endless and painful situations where quarrels or issues from the past can be brought to light, bringing us an even more awkward and absurd situation which only breeds more discomfort and confusion.

To avoid this, you must have a way to end the conversation in a clear manner and concise, while explaining what we expect from the conversation. In this way, we will “close the situation” and communicate a concrete and unambiguous message about the meaning of the interaction. If you want the other person to explain, let them know. If you want the conversation to end without further delay, say so too.

Bibliographical references:

  • Koudenburg, N., et al., Disrupting the flow: How brief silences in group conversations affect social needs, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2011), doi: 10.1016 / j.jesp.2010.12.006

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