If there’s one thing that unites the nation, it's suffering acute embarrassment in uncomfortable social situations. And if you feel uneasy at the mere thought of accidentally waving at a stranger or getting toilet paper stuck on your shoe, it turns out you’re not alone. In fact, a new survey by TePe UK reveals that the average UK adult feels awkward at least twice a day – that’s over 700 times per year!
Among the situations when people are most likely to be caught cringing include eating in public, shopping alone, while at the gym or on a date. In addition, more than a third of those surveyed confessed they have been left embarrassed by tripping over a kerb, pulling on a door that says ‘push’ (or vice versa) and realising they had food trapped in their teeth hours after eating.
In light of the research findings, TePe has partnered with psychologist and social behaviour expert, Emma Kenny, who has shared her top tips to navigate the nation’s most awkward social situations:
Psychologically people wish to avoid awkward situations as they feel uncomfortable and at times challenging to confront. Even if you inevitably help the person by informing them that they have food stuck in their teeth for example, the short-term discomfort experienced by both parties is enough to dissuade the observer from taking action, even though in the long-term this would benefit the other party.
It's best to face the uncomfortable situation head on. For instance, if someone has food stuck in their teeth simply tell them directly and ideally point to the whereabouts of the offending debris. If you don’t appear awkward then they won’t feel awkward either.
If you care about someone then you have their best interests at heart. Bad breath causes people problems at work and in relationships and if they don’t realise that they have it, then they can’t do anything to change it.
Suggest that you are worried as recently their breath seems to smell and suggest they check with their dentist. This makes them feel that it is a recent issue and that you are concerned for their health in general.
Adopt healthy habits
Good dental hygiene shouldn’t be something we are ashamed of. After eating a meal or a snack, use a toothpick, such as the TePe EasyPick™, to clean between your teeth on the go and avoid any awkward ‘teeth taboo’ moments.
Offer one to your colleagues and friends too! Whilst you may initially feel you are breaching social etiquette; the reality is that you are simply forming a healthy habit. By normalising this behaviour for yourself and others it will become second nature, ensuring you feel empowered as opposed to awkward.
If you need to tell someone that they have toilet paper on their shoe or spinach in their teeth, a clever tactic is to empathise with their situation by relating when this has happened to you.
Practice makes perfect
Awkwardness often stems from a lack of confidence and the best way to improve this is by rehearsing certain scenarios. Practice striking up more conversations with strangers or making new friends to help you get used to unexpected or uncomfortable social situations. If you’re still feeling at the mercy of awkward situations, don’t underestimate the power of faking it till you make it.
It can be hard to tell someone that they are getting something wrong, such as calling a colleague by the wrong name, or walking around the office with their jumper on inside out, but ask yourself how you would feel if you were in that situation and no one told you? If you adopt the mindset that you should treat people how you would wish to be treated, then chances are you will always act in the kindest way possible.
Laugh at yourself
There is nothing more disarming that someone who can poke fun at themselves. If you trip over or find yourself still connected to a trail of toilet roll, make a joke about it. This instantly diffuses tension and makes everyone around you feel more at ease and amused.
No matter what awkward moments you endure, remember that they are fleeting. By reframing that these are just temporary bumps in the road you minimise their impact and reduce any anxiety you may have about dealing with them.
Make a polite exit
Not every conversation goes to plan. If you find yourself at a networking event, or a party engaged in an awkward conversation, instead of enduring it in the hope that you will be rescued by a passing friend, or colleague, suggest you need the loo, or that you have an important call to make. Remember, this is your life, so don’t waste it in situations that are simple to avoid!
Remember, that's life!
So, you fall up a few stairs in front of your new boss, find yourself driving up a one-way street with a car full of colleagues, or discover that you are still wearing the price tag on your new shirt whilst out on your first date, yes, this may be awkward, but it is also entirely human.
Remember, we all make mistakes, have accidents and at times say, and do the wrong thing. Instead of seeing this as a “you thing”, just accept that it’s an everyone thing and you will instantly feel better!
Emma Kenny is working with the oral care experts at TePe UK to help the nation navigate socially uncomfortable situations and highlight that when it comes to oral hygiene, there are a range of quick and easy solutions available to help avoid any awkward moments.
For more information, visit: https://www.tepe.com/uk/