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How To Deal With The Awful Awkward Chats (Without Even More Awkwardness)

“Yeah so ummmm”

In general, no-one relishes having to confront thorny issues or having difficult conversations, especially with people you care about and have to see again after the bomb has been detonated. There’s awkwardness, discomfort or, sometimes, a huge amount of anxiety and distress that can come with broaching unpleasantness, but sometimes it’s a necessity in moving forward.

Be Brave – Call People Out

You’re sitting around the table, making small talk with Uncle Derrick and the conversation abruptly turns sour. He wants to talk politics all of a sudden; he wants you to know all about his very important and totally legitimate intel on Sudanese crime gangs, and his scintillating thoughts on refugees. For anxious lefty pinkos like me, butting heads with your more conservative relatives can be a minefield of manners and conflict avoidance – you don’t wanna upset Nana, after all.

No doubt Uncle Derrick has done this before and you’re frankly jack of it. Summon your courage and articulate to old mate that the things he’s saying are both incorrect and offensive. Ideally – though you can never tell- he’ll back off, having been challenged on his nonsense.

Social Media Is Real Life

Some people consider the internet to be a sort of ulterior universe, that the things on Facebook or Twitter are not connected to us in “real life”. They’re just words on a screen, after all, they posit. Apart from our AI friends, there’s a real person behind every soc-med account, for good or ill. This means that a confrontation via social media is still very “in public”, and we can all be quick sometimes to get to our keyboards and smash out some barbarous riposte.

As I discussed here, it’s always worth taking a breather and considering what is worth putting into the public sphere. ‘Call-out culture’ is by no means the PC dystopian nightmare that conservatives/bigots make it out to be, but it’s worth considering the repercussions of an online confrontation, and the purpose it is to serve.

Accept The Awkwardness

Look, we’ve all been there: we’ve all been at a party where someone has said something off-colour and fills the room with secondhand embarrassment; we’ve all had to negotiate an apology when we misspeak or fuck up socially. It’s part of life, but it needn’t ruin you; accept that you’ll feel a bit gross for a bit (whether you’re the one being called out or embarrassed, or part of the line of fire of someone else’s word-vomit) and navigate through the anxiety.

Put it into context: is this confrontation a life-threatening or world-changing event? Will you even remember it happened in a year’s time? Are we all probably going to be an extinct human race alarmingly soon, so our petty social quibbles are rather minute in comparison? Compartmentalise and examine the icky feelings and put them into a realistic context.

Feel Free To Cut People Out

Where possible, don’t feel obligated to keep toxic or bigoted people in your life. Life’s too short to make nice with racists if you don’t absolutely have to; this is obviously more difficult to achieve if they are, say, your boss, but an acquaintance, say, that has proudly shitty politics isn’t worth much in your social circle.

I’m a big fan of the Great Social Media Tools (the Unfriend button, the Twitter block option, the Unfollow box) for those times when confrontation doesn’t work or isn’t worth the effort; offline, it’s harder to achieve such a swift result, but telling someone (if you want) that their behaviour or shitty opinions make you uncomfortable and you no longer wish to associate with them is a short-term uncomfortable, long-term beneficial Good Thing to do for your life.

Image Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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