8 Etiquette Tips to Handle Awkward Situations

Everyone has experienced awkward situations, even after trying to follow the most basic rules of etiquette. These may be insignificant events that you won’t remember a year from now, or they may be much more impactful to your life. Regardless of how much they affect you, there are some things you can do to minimize the aftermath.

  • 01 of 09

    Busybody Questions

    USA, Utah, Provo, Two friends gossiping
    Tetra Images - Jessica Peterson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    There’s always someone who thinks it’s his or her right to know your private or personal business, and they'll ask you inappropriate questions. Come up with a few pat answers to put these people in their place without sounding self-righteous. For example, if one of your coworkers asks how much you make, say, “Enough to pay my bills but not enough to buy that Lamborghini I have my eye on.”

  • 02 of 09

    Email or Text Sent to the Wrong Person

    Woman using cell phone on city street
    Make sure you send your text to the intended person. Caiaimage/Tom Merton / Getty Images

    The instant you hit “send,” you discover that your message went to the wrong person. Now it’s time for damage control. First, try to find a way to “unsend,” but that doesn’t always work. It’s not too difficult to apologize if you haven’t said something inappropriate. However, if you have, pick up the phone and talk to the person. It’s always easier to explain with back-and-forth conversation than with another email or text message.

  • 03 of 09

    You're Running Late

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    Man running late. Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

    It's always a good idea to be where you're supposed to be at the designated time. However, there are occasions when you may be running late. The best thing is to apologize and do whatever you have to do to catch up on what you missed. Don't make up reasons for your tardiness because that's simply a waste of time, and others will see right through the excuses.

  • 04 of 09

    In the Presence of an Ex

    Awkward teenagers at prom
    It's awkward to see your ex when you're on a date. Jupiterimages / Getty Images
    You’re sitting across the table with the man or woman of your dreams, and someone at the door of the restaurant catches your eye. As soon as you glance up, your heart falls when you realize your ex has just arrived. Be very straightforward and simply state the situation. If the person you are with seems put off, try to reassure him or her. However, this is an opportunity to see the person’s reaction to a sticky situation – something that will show true character.
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  • 05 of 09

    Flirty Boss

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    Boss flirting with assistant. Jupiter Images/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Flirty bosses can make your job unbearable, so it’s best to nip that situation in the bud immediately. Let him or her know that this kind of behavior makes you uncomfortable and you would like for it to stop. If the person continues, you have three choices: Tell your boss’s supervisor, live with it, or quit your job.

  • 06 of 09

    Inappropriate Office Relationship

    Businessman and woman flirting at office window
    Inappropriate office romances make coworkers uncomfortable. Westend61 / Getty Images
    The discomfort of spotting one of your married coworkers engaging in inappropriate behavior with someone else in the office can be overwhelming. If this happens to you, leave the scene and give one of the people an opportunity to explain. You may have misunderstood what was happening, but if your first hunch was correct, resist the urge to comment. Don’t gossip about an office romance with others either because often the messenger winds up in more trouble than the ones who commit the infraction.
  • 07 of 09

    Forgot Someone's Name

    Office workers shaking hands at desk
    Don't be afraid to ask someone's name. Caiaimage/Sam Edwards / Getty Images

    If you encounter someone whose name you should remember but don’t, extend your hand and say, “Hi, I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m Jane Miller from accounting.” The other person will probably take the hint and do the same. If not, continue chatting with the hope that something will trigger your memory. You can also try honesty by saying that you are terrible with names. Most people are understanding and won’t be offended.

  • 08 of 09

    Foot in Mouth Syndrome

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    Man sticking his foot in his mouth. BunnyHollywood/Vetta/Getty Images

    Almost everyone has stuck a foot in the mouth at least once in his or her life. When this happens to you, take a moment to recover and come back with something flattering. For example, if you ask a friend when her baby is due, and she lets you know she’s not pregnant, say, “Oh, but you’re glowing. Something wonderful must be happening in your life, and I’d love to hear about it.” Then make it a point to avoid saying anything rude in the future.

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  • 09 of 09

    Request for a Loan

    Businessman holding twenty dollar notes in shirt pocket, close-up
    Use caution when borrowing or lending money. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

    Someone you know has asked you for money, but you have a rule to never lend money to a friend or coworker. Simply state your policy, and if possible, offer a small cash gift. If you don’t have extra money to give, offer something else, like an alternative to borrowing money. You may even know of a lending institution that you can recommend.