Megan Shepherd
February 19, 2015 1:26 pm

We’ve all been there: Everything’s going great and then, suddenly and sometimes without warning, a situation gets sticky. Even the most well-laid plans can go off the rails, and try as you might to plan for the best, sometimes stuff just gets weird. And by “weird,” we mean downright awkward. Here’s a game plan to help you navigate 15 commonly awkward situations that every human encounters (some of us more than others).

When someone owes you money
Even Daddy Warbucks knew when to collect. Whether is a small loan to a friend or a missing check from a job you did, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and ask for what you’re owed. If a friend owes you money and you really need the cash, be honest: “Hey girl, do you have that $20 bucks yet? Gotta pay my cell phone bill by the 20th, so anytime before then is great!” If it’s for a job, don’t be afraid to be even more direct. You can be polite and professional without being a pushover: “Hi, Just wondering if my check for this project is in the mail? If not, do you know when the bill will be paid?” Feel free to add a hard deadline here, if necessary.

When you’re too proud to say I’m sorry
It’s especially awkward when the awkwardness of a situation is your fault. If you’re having a hard time apologizing for something and the tension is only growing, check in with yourself: Would the situation look different through someone else’s eyes? If so, it might be time to buck up and admit your fault. A simple, “I think I might’ve overreacted, and I’m really sorry for how I responded. Can we start over?” will do. Keep the focus on reconciling, and try to hold off on the blaming.

When you’ve been over-charged
No need to be snooty about this one. It was probably a mistake! Kindly ask the customer service person if the total is correct. If they insist it is, politely explain what you expected it to cost, and ask how they got their figure. If they still won’t budge, it might be time to bring up the dreaded M-word: Manager. Keep calm and don’t feel bad about making sure you’re comfortable with the solution. Talking money can feel painful and awkward, but it’s a necessary part of life.

When the service sucks
If you receive truly subpar service, it’s okay to (politely) speak up about it. Yes, you should totally take common sense into account (life if your bad experience was during dinner rush at a popular restaurant, remember that your server probably had ten more customers just like you to please), but if someone is just plain rude, you can always ask for a comment card, or, if the situation is really awful, ask to speak with a manager.

When someone’s saving spots at the gym
Nobody likes getting to class early only to find that the last bike is being saved for a no-show. Know the rules at your gym before proceeding. If saving is against the rules, speak up or, if you’re too shy for a direct confrontation, ask the front desk to post a notice reminding other members about the policy. And, if all else fails or saving machines is A-OK with your gym, find an early bird buddy to save you a spot next time.

When you get caught gossiping
This one is so uncomfortable because you’re no doubt ashamed of your bad behavior, which only compounds the awkwardness. There’s no trick around it: Own up and apologize. Gossip is ugly, but everyone makes mistakes. No need to be a mean girl.

When it’s time to ask for a raise
Ahh, the compensation talk. Sometimes super scary, usually very necessary. First things first: Check your attitude. Nothing turns off a boss hearing your request for more money more than entitlement. Rather than focusing on how your coworkers got raises and you didn’t, or how long you’ve been at the company, highlight all the ways you’ve brought collective value through your work. Did you land a big client this year? Do you perform tasks that nobody else wants to?

When it comes to the numbers talk, know what you have in mind and how flexible you’re able and willing to be. Be prepared for some pushback and negotiating and enter talks ready to be flexible, gracious, confident, and above all else, excited! If you can’t be all of these things, maybe it’s not quite the right time to ask. When you truly believe you’ve earned something, it’s easier for others to see it that way, too.

When you don’t get asked to be a bridesmaid. 
As much as it can sting, try to remember that it’s not a sign that you don’t matter to the bride or that she doesn’t want you to be a big part of her special day. Rather than focusing on what you didn’t get asked to do, try to get amped on sharing their wedding day in a new way. Volunteer to help plan the Bachelorette party, hand out programs or read a special passage on the big day.

And, if I’m being 100% honest, being a bridesmaid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When you get past the warm fuzzies of being asked to take on the honor, being a bridesmaid has a lot of downsides: Expensive dresses, tying bows on chairs, sitting around for five hours of pictures, walking down an aisle carrying flowers while people stare out you for basically no reason. Be happy that you’ll get to enjoy the wedding festivities as a guest — it’s way less pressure.

When your politics don’t align.
Talking politics can be tough in any situation, but when you butt heads, politically, with a close friend or family member, it can take a turn for the painfully awkward — fast. If things are getting truly ugly, stay calm and switch gears into a less rage-inducing topic. Find common ground on safe topics, like music, art, food or television.  But when there’s no getting around the heavier stuff (or when you feel like you need to speak your piece about something important to you), remember it’s all about delivery. If someone asks your opinion, don’t be afraid share it, but be respectful when others disagree.

When someone won’t clean up after their dog.
Dogs are great and amazing and cute and cuddly and perfect… until they poop on your floor. If you’re living with someone who’s in the throws of new puppy parenthood, don’t be afraid to speak up and hold them responsible for their furry friend’s messes. There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to puppy poo on your floor, so it’s time to put your big girl pants on and be direct. Tell your friend or roomie that you know it’s hard to potty train a new pet, but that leaving messes for you to clean is unacceptable. If you’re a super generous soul, you can offer to help in the potty training process, but stand your ground and know that you’re in the right.

When you’re just not that into them.
you’re just not that into them.

It’s tricky when you can’t find anything wrong to blame a breakup on, but sometimes you just have to chalk it up to chemistry. If you want to pull the plug, be upfront. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t make up an excuse. Don’t say you might be interested later to try to cushion the blow. Don’t say you want to be friends if you don’t mean it. Just be honest: “I think you’re awesome, but the connection just isn’t quite there for me. Thank you so much for letting me get to know you better, and for showing me a great time.” It doesn’t have to be harsh. It just is what it is.

When you’re not getting along with a co-worker. 
Although it might sound like the absolute last thing you want to do, sometimes the best remedy for a colleague clash is some socializing. Do whatever you think you can handle, but a little time out of the office and on neutral ground is often a great fix. Ask your office frenemy to grab coffee or have lunch, and spend some time getting to know them beyond the other side of the email chain. You might be surprised how much you have in common (and how well you get along) with out the stress of work to bog things down.

(Image via here. )

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