Avoiding Awkward Situations Unknotting the Tongue Tied: Cutting the Cord on Circuitous Conversations Eliza Hurwitz

The other day, I was meeting a woman I didn’t know well for coffee. I found myself having one of those “off” days where I felt like everything I said and did was awkward. I started to feel weird about my arm movements, as well as my facial expressions. As if I needed more things to worry about, I realized I was repeating the same phrase (“Absolutely!”) over and over again. Even though I was fully aware of this, I couldn’t stop. Has this ever happened to you?  So here are some ways out of this “awkward circuitous conversation.”

Facial Expressions:

Focus on your face and the rest will fall into place, is a new phrase I just made up but it really seems to work. When you find yourself smiling and repeating something like, “That’s good,” take a break from talking, take a break from thinking and just move your face. You can turn your smile into more of a scared face, you can wink, you can frown, you can even smirk – and a new phrase should pop into your head. For example, with the scared face, “That’s good” might turn into “That’s scary good.” Although it’s only a slight change, it makes a big difference. Instead of seeming generically supportive, you become uniquely and fearlessly supportive. Just remember to look confident as you say your new phrase, because if you don’t, you just sound insane.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should not even for a second look confused by your own facial changes, even if the person to whom you’re speaking seems confused. Just remain calm and believe that a new and interesting phrase will come to you; once it does, all of your strange faces will be forgotten.

Tongue Twisters:

With the use of a simple tongue twister, you will be able to impress anyone with your articulation and enunciation skills. You will also be able to get your own repeating phrases out of your head. You should have a “go-to” tongue twister such as, “She sells seashells by the seashore,” or “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” If possible, try to make your phrase of choice be relevant to the conversation. This may not be possible, however, since most tongue twisters have absolutely no significance beyond the fact that they’re difficult to say. But there is no reason you can’t make it have meaning. You can do this by adjusting your tone for the conversation at hand.  For example, say someone is telling you a serious story involving a lot of drama. You are worried for them, but you realize you’ve said “Oh, no!” fifty times during the conversation. A nice alternative would be to say, “A big black bug bit a big black bear, made the big black bear bleed blood.” Say it very somberly with profoundness, as if you were saying “Oh, no!” I assure you, the person will be freaked out, in the best possible way.

A tongue twister, when recited perfectly, will both distract and exude confidence; in fact, when done well, it should bestow greatness unto you. It should make those surrounding you feel proud, moved, and blown away. If for some reason you feel too embarrassed to recite the tongue twister aloud, you can always whisper it. But remember, whispered tongue twisters are harder to master, so don’t get discouraged and start yelling about it if you can’t say it perfectly. This screaming will just bring you negative attention, which is the polar opposite of the respect and esteem one gets from a perfectly executed tongue twister.

New Phrases, New You:

Before stepping out into the world of scary and unknown conversation, why not think of some new phrases to use? Think of some of your favorite television shows, movies or literary characters that inspire you and try to combine all of these into one, wonderful phrase. For example one of my favorite television shows is The Simpsons. One of my favorite movie quotes is from Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” When Homer’s iconic catch phrase, “D’oh” is combined with Yoda’s mantra you get, “ D’oh no try.” It’s short, sweet and to the point. And most importantly, it’s a phrase that is completely your own.

Thinking of new phrases, working those tongue twisters, and letting your face be your guide should empower and uplift you. These should also bring joy to those you are speaking with. As always practice makes perfect. And remember that you are your own harshest critic. Absolutely!

Featured image via Glamour.

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  1. This is an odd article, a little disappointing because I do actually have this problem sometimes, socially as well as professionally, and I’d hoped something here might help. Sometimes I feel really awkward sitting behind a desk and meeting with people in my office and I don’t think saying “D’oh no try,” will help. I do think reciting a tongue twister (in my head) might be a good way to exercise mentally and pull me out of a rut if I’m feeling distracted or awkward. :)

  2. I do agree that there is a lot of silliness in this article. If you’re feeling awkward around a new friend, the last thing you should do is hide behind made-up phrases and tongue-twisters and any other general falseness. BUT there were good points as well, such as sitting back and listening frequently, and being mindful of your facial/body language. Showing you are interested in a story can help you relax into the social setting and get over whatever awkwardness you’re experiencing. Here’s a tip: I’m a bit introverted myself around new people, so I try and ask questions. “Oh, that’s a cool necklace? Where did you get it?” Bam, conversation about fashion. Anyway that’s my two cents.

  3. What is this, I don’t even.

  4. Nice job, Eliza! People forget that not everything is meant to be taken seriously. It’s a comedy site! :) keep on killin it

  5. I’m sorry but this article was utter bullsh*t. “D’oh no try” means nothing. It’s short, maybe, but it’s not sweet, or to the point. “A perfectly executed tongue twister” will get you funny looks from your friends, never mind people you barely know. I see what you’re on about, trying to break the repetition you get stuck in, but please, do it in a dignified way. All of the above will only result in you seeming like a whimsical idiot.

    • i agree with you i have problems with talking to people i don’t know and i was hoping this article would have something useful in it. but i would never do anything like this.