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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

15 Ways to Avoid a Severely Awkward Situation

No doubt you’ve seen—or made—more than one of these boneheaded blunders. Avoid them and you won’t have to engage in spin control later.

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Awkward: You’ve forgotten someone’s name

Always say a person’s name aloud after you’ve met them—twice, if possible. Introduce them to a friend, compliment something they’re wearing to associate the name with a visual cue, or simply say “It’s great to meet you, Ashley!” If appropriate, ask for their business card; now you don’t need to remember anything. Here are 7 scientific tricks for remembering names.

2 / 15

Awkward: You’ve insulted someone’s size

Never comment on a woman’s pregnancy unless you know for certain she’s pregnant. Period. While you’re at it, never say any of these things to a pregnant woman.

3 / 15

Awkward: You’ve barged into an occupied bathroom

Always knock on a closed bathroom door before entering it. Don’t let a busted lock or the other person’s negligence put you in the middle of, perhaps, the most awkward situation possible. And definitely put your cell phone away, please.

4 / 15

Awkward: You’ve played too friendly with a business acquaintance

Never address someone you don’t know by his or her first name in business correspondence. If the person responds to you by first name, you officially have clearance to reply in kind. Be sure you avoid these annoying email habits, while you’re at it.

5 / 15

Awkward: You’ve vented to the wrong person

Always check the recipient line of your email before you hit send. If you send an angry email to the wrong person, there’s nothing you can do but own up to it and apologize, apologize, apologize.

6 / 15

Awkward: You’ve let a silence turn toxic

Never let an “awkward pause” in conversation last more than 4 seconds—research shows that’s all it takes to induce feelings of rejection in the brain. Counter a silence with a question to get the other person talking. Need inspiration? Here are 7 magic phrases guaranteed to keep a conversation moving.

7 / 15

Awkward: You’ve forced your date to pick up the tab

Always carry cash if you plan on dining out with friends or on a date. It makes paying your share of the bill effortless, and if your share of the bill is “all of it” then you don’t want to risk a credit or debit card getting declined. Offering to pay and finding yourself unable to is the epitome of awkwardness.

8 / 15

Awkward: You’ve insulted two friends at once

Never assume two people are a couple (or aren’t) based on their race, gender, age, or earning power. Don’t butt in; they’ll tell you something if they want you to know.

9 / 15

Awkward: You’ve stranded yourself in an argument

Always carry a cell phone on your person. Pretending to receive a call or email is like a silver bullet for removing yourself from the awkwardness around you.

10 / 15

Awkward: You’ve ruined your rep on Facebook

Never post anything you wouldn’t want your boss (or your mother) to read on your Facebook or Twitter account. Many companies build social media checks into their job search process now—and many mothers have too much time on their hands.

11 / 15

Awkward: You’ve fallen victim to autocorrect

Always employ a two-second rule before sending a text message, no matter how short; taking two seconds to proofread your message before hitting “send” is ample time to catch a face-reddening autocorrect mistake. Follow this group-texting etiquette so you’re not that annoying person on the chain.

12 / 15
iStock/Petar Chernaev

Awkward: You’ve laughed when you should’ve sighed

Never pretend to laugh at something a person told you just because you couldn’t hear it and are sick of asking them to repeat themselves. Laughing may not be the appropriate response—and if they catch you bluffing, it will turn the whole situation sour.

13 / 15

Awkward: You’ve lied to the waiter’s face

Always be polite—and honest—with restaurant staff if you decide to leave before you order. A simple “thank you, but we’re in the mood for something lighter (or more formal, or whatever the restaurant isn’t)” will suffice, so don’t lie to them about a fake emergency or plans you forgot; they’ve heard ever excuse and deserve the truth. If the wait staff brought you bread and water already, consider leaving a small tip before you bolt.

14 / 15

Awkward: You’ve let one go in public

Try to never pass gas in an elevator—especially if you’re alone. The moment the elevator stops and a new passenger arrives, it will be impossible to deflect blame if you’re caught alone in a ripe-smelling chamber. Instead, wait until you exit—and say this if you get caught.

15 / 15
iStock/Martin Dimitrov

Awkward: You’ve taken awkwardness too seriously

Always see a mistake as a learning experience. You’re not going to be flawlessly charming 100 percent of the time—if you do flub one of these rules, see it as a chance to improve yourself and do better next time. And trust us: there will be a next time.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest