What to Do in Uncomfortable Situations

Woman covering her face
Everyone experiences embarrassing situations. Jamie Grill/JGI/Getty Images

Have you ever found yourself in the uncomfortable position of being served a food item you were allergic to? Have you experienced having a friend's dog pounce on you as soon as you entered her house? Have you ever sat down to eat dinner with a friend, when her cat decided to jump up on the table?

These are awkward and can make you wish you were anywhere else. Remember that everyone experiences uncomfortable situations in life, so try to put it into perspective.

Some are serious (like being faced with something you're allergic to), while others are merely momentary nuisances. Here are some suggestions for how to deal with these situations.

Served Food You're Allergic To

As soon as you are aware that a food you can't eat is about to be served, discretely call the hostess aside and let her know. When she apologizes (assuming she's polite enough to do that), tell her you understand that she didn't have any way of knowing, and you'll eat the other food. Then don't make a big deal of it to other guests.

Served Food You Don't Like

If you aren't allergic to something, go ahead and take a bite of the food you think you don't like. You might be surprised. Sometimes a different seasoning can take something from gross to delicious. Plus your taste buds change, and something that left you getting as a small child might wind up being one of your favorite foods.

Forgetting Someone's Name

Don't make this a more embarrassing situation than it needs to be. Simply apologize and state that you can't recall his or her name. Most people have forgotten other people's names at least once in their lives, so they'll understand.

Awkward Conversation

Most of us have been in situations when the conversation turned to something that made one or more of the people squirm.

It might be political, religious, or something else that's not appropriate for all settings. Try to steer the conversation to something not quite as awkward. If the other people don't get the hint, you can politely leave.

Hearing Something Offensive

Whether you are at a family reunion or by the coffee pot in the office, you don't have to stick around when someone tells an off-color joke or gossips about someone who isn't there. You can speak up if you have the nerve to defend your position, or you can back away graciously so you don't have to hear it. Most people will get the message that whatever was being discussed was offensive.

Awkward Silence

Most people enjoy lively dialogue, but there are times in many conversations when there is nothing to say. This lull can leave you feeling flustered, or you can embrace it or change the subject. Arm yourself with some conversation starters so you'll be able to keep the discussion going.

Confrontation at the Office

Whether you're being confronted or doing the confronting, maintain your dignity at all times by speaking in an even tone and using appropriate language. It's never good to lose your temper in an office environment. Confrontation can be a positive experience if both parties take turns expressing their views and actually listen to what is being said.

Personal Confrontation

Friends and family members need to maintain polite respect for each other, even when they have issues that need to be discussed. Don't resort to name calling or an angry outburst. Take turns stating your case and be willing to apologize so you can move on.

Dinner Table Mistakes

Obviously, some people don't know proper table manners, and there's probably nothing you can do about that if you don't know them well. However, even the most mannerly people make mistakes. If you accidentally spill something or interrupt another person during a conversation, apologize and discreetly do something about it.

If something embarrassing happens to the host, be empathetic. If her dog pounces on you as soon as you enter the house, take a step back and let her get control of the situation.

She'll appreciate a few kind words later. If she spills the gravy while carrying it to the table, offer to help clean it up and let her know that you'll enjoy your meal just as much without it.

Don't make a bigger deal out of any awkward situation than necessary. If you break something at the home of your dinner host, let her know you'll pay for a replacement.

Your Worst Nightmare Happens

Many of us have fears that cause nightmares or keep us awake at night. Perhaps you're giving a speech the next day, and you're worried you'll forget something you're supposed to say. Or maybe you worry that you'll trip and fall in front of people you're trying to impress. If this actually happens, take a deep breath and try to find some humor in the situation. Most people will laugh with you rather than at you.