We’ve all been in awkward social situations.
And sometimes getting out of them all by ourselves is not easy.
Wouldn’t it be cool then if we had a friend or a partner skilled in helping people out of awkward social situations?
And what if we could become that person?
This article will explain just how you can become that God-sent gift with the magic touch of rescuing people out of awkward social situations.
- Rescuing People From Awkward Social Situations
- 1. Let Them In
- 2. When Ignored, Show Interest
- 3. Hurtle Away From Awkward Situations
- 5. Put Your Social Weight On Their Side
- 6. Undermine The Awkward Opinion
- 7. Make a Joke and Relate
- 8. Throw an Emotional Life Preserver
- Social Support: The Top Socialite Way
- The Social Rescue Equation
- Awkward Social Situations: Summary
Rescuing People From Awkward Social Situations
These are some of the most common socially awkward situations and how you fix them:
1. Let Them In
When They’re Standing Outside, You Open The Door
Standing at the edge of a group is a typical awkward social situation for many.
The longer someone stays in the periphery of the group, the stronger the message they are not welcome is broadcasted. And you don’t want that to happen to your friends.
What you then do is this:
- Take a step back
- Put your arm on your friend’s back inviting him to step in
- Step back in together with your friend
- Introduce him or mention him in what you say next
Being ostracized and left outside in the cold is a great fear of human beings. Rest assured that people will remember and cherish those very few who notice and open the social doors for them.
2. When Ignored, Show Interest
It happens relatively often that someone is telling a story but the people around start ignoring him. What to do then?
Here’s an example:
A few weeks ago a friend of mine, let’s call him Terry, was telling a story to a group of 4 guys, all knowing each other, and 2 new girls.
Terry was looking at the two girls as he spoke, but they suddenly turned to each other and started talking to themselves. Now the story might not have been the most captivating ever, but that was very socially oblivious and rather rude of them.
Terry looked shunned and was losing big social points.
The quickest and easiest way to rescue anyone in Terry’s situation then, is to jump in and make a wrap up question (read below why wrap up). This will allow Terry to finish his story, show everyone that he’s not isolated and comfort him that there people who care.
It looks like this:
Friend: I tried La Casa pizza parlor last week, and it was superb. (nobody listens, tries with a question) Have you guys ever tried La Casa
Group: (Looking away, starting side conversation)
You: Oh cool man, I’ve heard about that place a few times, how was it
3. Hurtle Away From Awkward Situations
The Shorter The Time, The Less The Embarrassment
A very common way of helping your friends out of awkward situations is to move away from them as quickly as possible. You can pretend it never happened, change topic or keep going.
Leil Lowndes call it “see no bloopers, hear no bloopers”
It’s a very easy and simple method that doesn’t require much effort, so in the very worst case scenario you can always come back to it.
You can see an example here:
What do you think about this example? I guess you probably noticed the intrinsic weakness of this technique.
The issue with it is that it lessens the consequences, but it does not address the core issue and doesn’t really fool anyone. Everyone knows what happened.
5. Put Your Social Weight On Their Side
And Openly Take Your Friend’s Side
Most people who put our friends in awkward situations do so with opinions or with out of place questions. Imagine they take one side of the scale.
But if you can put your own judgement on the other side of the scale and you have more weight, you win. Let’s review the same Sex & The City example:
Antony: Mother of God, what’s with the gut. Well she’s eating something out there
You: Totally stupid to say. She’s fit and attractive. Between us, if it weren’t my friend, I would totally tap that. Day and night
This works particularly well if your opinion is highly regarded in the topic and the attacker’s opinion not so much.
In this case for example it works great if you’re a guy with a good taste, or rumored to sleep around. Then your opinion on the topic matters. And his opinion as a guy naturally not interested in women, matters much less.
6. Undermine The Awkward Opinion
No Social Weight, No Harm Done
Opinions and questions that put our friends on the spot often look powerful because, the moment we set ourselves as the judges, we become the judges.
If you on the other hand can highlight it was simply an opinion -and a silly one at that-, you take away power from the judge. And your relieve the social pressure.
Your do so by questioning the attacker on their motives, or undermining their authority.
A great way to do is using humor, so that people will laugh. A humorous moment also decreases tensions and helps moving on more quickly. And, of course, you won’t look butthurt.
Antony: Mother of God, what’s with the gut. Well she’s eating something out there
You: (rolls eyes, speaking as if you don’t wanna be heard by him but loud enough that everyone hears) says the guy highly experienced in women. We’ll ask him when we need an opinion on di**s. In the meanwhile come on in Samantha, you look spectacular (hugs her and welcomes her in)
Notice also this is the same technique Jesus Christ used to save an adulterous woman from being stoned (talking about awkward social moments lol). It’s when he said:
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone
With one simple sentence Jesus put the attackers on the same level as the victim: everyone’s a sinner. Once everyone was on the same level, he robbed the attackers of their ability to pass judgments. And relieved the pressure on the victim.
7. Make a Joke and Relate
No Worries, Everybody Poops
Of course some of the most typical awkward moments involve body functions at the wrong time.
Ideally your friend will own it without making a big deal about it, but this post is on how we can help our friends, not how to control their minds.
So a good technique to relieve pressure is to laugh at it… Naturally.
You want to avoid anyone thinks it’s weird, and you to do so you gotta believe it first. It’s a natural, healthy body function.
Your friend might still feel singled out though. “Yeah sure, it’s a healthy body function, but it was me who did it and you’re all laughing about what I did”, they might think.
That’s when you relate a short personal story of when you were also embarrassed. Make others laugh at yourself so you take pressure off of your friend and get your own share of laughter.
Them you can keep talking about other people embarrassing stories or move on the conversation to something more relevant.
And this the wrong way to do it:
The host perks up, all surprised as if to say “oh my God, what have you just done”. Even worst he looks around, which is a typical way of showing emotional disconnect. People who laugh at other people’s expenses start by looking around. They’re looking for others to support them and “gang up with”.
All of which of course puts further pressure on the woman.
8. Throw an Emotional Life Preserver
Problems Are Twice As Small With a Partner
The emotional life preserver is one of my favorites because there are no dangers of escalation, no losers and it actually strengthen the bond between the group.
Look at the example of Meet The Parents, a fantastic comedy based on awkward social situations and people more or less dealing badly with them:
Why is it so awkward?
For a few reasons, a big one being that nobody really takes Greg’s side or helps smoothen the transition. Ideally the person who will help us is either the most powerful or the one closest to us. In this case, imagine if this had happened:
Doctor: oh really what field
Doctor: ahahaha. no really, what field
Greg’s GF: (gets up, goes to Greg, kisses him on the cheek) Greg is one of the very best nurses in his hospital. He aced the MCATs but decided to be a nurse to stay closer to the patients and follow his heart. And that’s why I love him. (takes a chair, invites him to sit, changes topic). Greg, you absolutely have to try this jam, it’s from our aunt’s farm, Michelle (points to Michelle) and it’s deeeliiicious. Greg also loves natural products auntie.
Social Support: The Top Socialite Way
The top socialite save their friends from awkward situations in two socially savvy ways:
Smoothly & Subtly
Your Friend is Not a Lost Puppet
Subtlety is the name of the game. Your goal is always to land a hand in the most subtle way possible. And draw the least possible attention to your social rescue move. Why?
Because the more obvious your rescue is, the more attention you draw to the social faux pas and the more you are communicating that your friend made a mistake. And, of course, more attention to the fact that your friends needs your help.
People resent those who help them too obviously, because that’s not real help . That’s us showing off our social power.
Do it subtly instead. Help them save face, but making it seem as if nothing happened.
Cordially & Quickly
Save The One Without Destroying The Whole
Ray Dalio says that the whole is more important than the single person.
If your friend puts himself in an awkward social situations it’s often because he’s done a social faux pas. And he’s being “socially punished” for that.
If you save him too obviously, you are at the same time going against the group. And you don’t want that.
You will notice in the Terry example that the friend helping him asks “how was it”. He didn’t ask “I’m super curious, tell me all about it”. or “oh cool man, do you like Italian food”. These kind of questions invite to talk more, but you don’t want.
Terry has done a mistake and the group has already spoken about that. And albeit he didn’t deserve a harsh punishment, you don’t want to keep going against the group.
“how was it” instead is a question that invites a final reply, such as “oh it was really good”. Terry saved faced, the topic is closed… And now we can all happily move on.
The Social Rescue Equation
To generalize, you rescue people in social situations in two ways:
- Putting your social weight behind them
- Neutralizing the social threat causing embarrassment
Notice that it doesn’t really matter what the “social threat” causing the awkward situation is.
It can be another person -as in Antony’s case-, a blooper caused by the person himself -passing gas- or anything else in the surrounding. But the principle is still always the same.
Your friend might be embarrassed because they “walked through” a glass door and hit their face. The situation is embarrassing because, the mind goes, it’s silly not to see it was a door.
But is it really silly? You can still single out the door as the “embarrassing agent” and take power away from it to rescue your friend.
You can say for example that it’s idiotic to use such perfectly transparent glass as a door. “I would have hit it myself”, you can add.
Now it’s less about your friend being awkward and more about the safety issue of a transparent door.
Awkward Social Situations: Summary
Saving our friends from awkward social situations is about showing we our close to them and then helping them up; and, when applicable, by taking pressure off of them and shifting blame to the embarrassing agent.
Always do it as smoothly and quickly and possible. And everyone will love you for that.