In this video, I’m going to share the most common way to get out of an awkward conversation which is also perhaps the most terrible way to get out of an awkward conversation. I’m also going to share three strategies that are way better that you can use and apply in your own context and situation to get out of an awkward situation. My name is Chad. I’m the co-author of this lovely book Ask Powerful Question: Create Conversations That Matter. And at the end of this video, these three strategies will help you shift all of our awkward painful heart raising conversations into conversations that really matter. Let’s get into it.
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The most terrible way and unfortunately the most common way to get out of an awkward conversation is to lie and make an excuse that isn’t really based in reality so, that you can just excuse yourself. This doesn’t feel good for anybody because even somebody with a pretty low level of social or emotional intelligence knows when you tell them your dog ate your homework. It feels much better when there’s some transparency that happens.
Getting Out of An Awkward Conversation Strategies
Now, the the reason that you might want to get out of an awkward conversation is because it’s awkward. To be transparent and say, “Hey, this is really awkward. I’m going to leave now.” Is also very awkward, right? You want to avoid that. In this video, we’re going to unpack 3 strategies that are way better alternatives to get out of an awkward conversation instead of lying making up an excuse because that never feels too good. You can do that, right? There’s nothing stopping you from doing that. But it won’t feel great for you and it definitely won’t feel great for the person who you’re ditching. All 3 of these strategies that I’m going to share became way more clear to me after I did something that was remarkably uncomfortable and awkward for me. Because a big part of my job working with some of the top leaders and educators on the planet is to invite them to stretch outside of their comfort zone. I think I also need to be practicing that myself as well.
Every year, I pick something pretty big and uncomfortable to dive into. And a few years ago, I signed up for a 10-day silent meditation retreat. 10 days, no reading, no phone, no journaling, no tv, no speaking to anybody else. No eye contact even with the people that they were there. Meals were taken in silence at tables. This was like very outside of my comfort zone. And I learned a really phenomenal lesson in that that helped me navigate awkward conversations. And it was this concept of a nietzsche. I think it’s a hindi word. And it basically means rising passing, rising passing. It’s the idea that everything is impermanent, right? At some point, if your back hurts…
Re-label the Conversation
At some point, it’ll hurt and at some point it won’t. And at some point, you’ll feel really awkward and uncomfortable in a conversation and at some point you won’t. Making that come alive the first strategy to get out of an awkward conversation is to relabel it. Who labeled the conversation awkward. It was you. The other person might be feeling awkward in that conversation but not necessarily. For you to label that conversation as awkward makes it a thing, right? As soon as you put a label to it like that, it now becomes that much more real. The first strategy is simply to relabel the conversation and say, “This is not an awkward conversation. This is a conversation in progress.” And when you make that shift,all of a sudden, that conversation is changeable and you don’t need to live in that awkwardness.
Shift Your Focus
Second strategy… Oh, that’s going to be really loud. Probably not going to do that. Okay, second strategy. Shift the focus from this person to this person. Shift the focus from you to them. When you’re labeling a conversation awkward, that is a label that describes how you are currently feeling because you can’t actually know how they’re feeling. Now, you might be able to pick up. There are signs that people are feeling awkward in a conversation. But the only way that you can really know if something’s awkward is if you’re experiencing it. I found one of the most powerful ways to shift that dynamic is to take the focus off of yourself and turn it onto the other person. Focus on what they’re experiencing. What would make this conversation more interesting, more useful, more valuable for them as opposed to focusing on yourself of how you can get back to a place of comfort. And I don’t say that lightly, right? Like part of my job before I started We and Me was studying social anxiety. I know that being awkward in a conversation can be serious. It’s not just like, “Oh, this is an awkward conversation. I want to get out of it.” I recognize that some conversations are deeply uncomfortable.
These strategies are not like flip a switch and then you just make them happen. They take some some time and attention and practice. It’s like a muscle, right? If you’re if you’ve been labeling conversations as awkward for a long time, you need to re-label them as in progress for a while before you’re going to start to feel like you can really shift the focus in conversation. And practice this second strip. Practice the second strategy of shifting the focus away from you and on to them.
Put Purpose on Conversations
The third strategy comes from the foundational and first chapter of our book which is… The entire book is structured in this pyramid framework. The first tool concept that we share in the book is intention. And the third strategy to get out of awkward conversations is to put a purpose on those conversations. Put an intention to those conversations. In particular…. In particular, I would invite you to get clear on what is your intention in that conversation and share it with the other person. A lot of times conversations feel awkward because 2 people don’t know why they’re in them. If you think about like small talk, obligatory small talk. You bump into somebody an event or you show up both on 5 minutes early for a video call and you’re kind of just there, right? That might be a place where a conversation feels awkward to you. And I would argue it’s awkward because there’s no intention or purpose established. Your intention can be as simple as I’m really curious to… Actually, that can be the intention is curiosity. But stating that to the person. Let’s just say for example that you bumped into somebody at an event. You have never met them before.
You’re in a conversation, you’ve asked uh where are you from, what do you do, a couple other questions that are just like in your back pocket. They’ve just plugged a dvd or a usb drive into their head and like spit out what they said the last 15 times they answered that question. That is creating some level of awkwardness. What I would invite you to do with this person in the moment is get really clear about your intention and state it. To say, “Hey, I know typically when we’re in….” This feels very intimate. This feels strangely intimate. If I’m in a conversation with this person, what I’m… What my intention might be and your intention might be different. But personally, if I’ve just bumped into somebody brand new, I might say, “Typically, when we bump into somebody at an event like this we ask like the same 4 questions and you give the same 4 answers. I know there’s a little bit odd but I’m actually curious to not ask those questions and I’m curious what a highlight from the last week was for you.” There is social risk in doing something. There’s social risk in asking a question that’s outside of the norm. And yet, that conversation can go from painful awkward obligatory small talk to a more meaningful conversation if you take that risk and actually state your intention to that person. This video was fun to shoot. I hope it was fun to watch. If you want to get out of all awkward conversations in the future, there’s a link below with a free excerpt from our book Ask Powerful Question: Create Conversations That Matter. In that excerpt, there’s a whole bunch of tools that will help you have much more intentional, meaningful conversations.