When Someone Says, “This is Awkward”

Just recently, I had a couple of conversations that included someone expressing to me, “This is awkward.”

awkward

In each case, I understood why these friends felt that twinge of discomfort. But each time, my internal reaction was the same.

Please, don’t feel awkward. That’s just life.  It’s totally OK.

I admit. Not feeling awkward in conversation might come a little more naturally to me because I grew up in a large, half-Italian family where our energetic dinner-time conversations were as likely to be about periods and medical procedures as they were about politics and who had to mow which part of the lawn next.

Plus, I wrote a whole book about infertility and regularly mention my own early menopause on this blog. So yeah, I’ve had a little practice overcoming the tendency to feel awkward about certain topics.

I do get it, though. I married someone whose childhood dinner times were much quieter than mine, and I have since figured out that ours were probably the exception, rather than the rule.

I realize, too, that many times, feelings of awkwardness flow out of a desire not to hurt feelings or step on toes. That is, they are simply a byproduct of being considerate.

They also might come from a place of being burned once too many times—after awhile, maybe bridging the awkward gap just becomes too risky or painful.

Here’s the thing, though.

While I understand that certain topics are hard to bring up, especially out of the blue, I would hate for feelings of awkwardness to keep anyone from telling me something I need to know or from getting the encouragement or help she might need from me.

I want to be a safe place, an awkward-free zone, an unoffendable listener—no matter the subject matter.

I have been wildly fortunate (and I don’t use that phrase loosely) to have had women in my life, at almost every stage, who have been this for me. Some of them have been close friends and mentors. Others were more like passers-by—there for an occasional transparent conversation, and then gone again.

Either way, they shared freely from their own lives as they spoke truth into mine. And no topic was off limits.

It’s probably impossible to make the awkward feelings go away completely. It’s not like we can magically set people at ease by wearing signs that say, “You can tell me anything and I will listen carefully and empathetically, without taking offense or expressing shock, disgust or impatience.”

Maybe it’s not even possible to be this kind of listener 100 percent of the time. I, for one, have a long way to travel before I reach that goal.

I do believe, though, that ready smiles, warm hugs, a healthy ability to laugh at ourselves, and space in our schedules for conversation over coffee goes a long way toward helping people feel comfortable around us, especially when they want to bring up a topic that might feel uncomfortable to them.

Like periods or politics.

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Crystal Storms at Intentional Tuesday, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.



30 Responses to When Someone Says, “This is Awkward”

  1. Lisa notes says:

    What a great post, Lois. I want to be this person too: “I want to be a safe place, an awkward-free zone, an unoffendable listener—no matter the subject matter.” I’ve had some opportunities to live this out, and it always blesses me as much as the other person to not feel like I have to pronounce judgment or offer advice.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks, Lisa. The tricky part for me right now is trying to figure out how to balance this in my role as mom of a teenager. I know I need to listen more and talk less, but my natural inclination is to do the opposite! I find myself praying for wisdom and discernment quite a bit these days, that’s for sure. 🙂

  2. ~ linda says:

    Lois, this is so real for me. I grew up with a half-Italian mother who did not know how to talk about the awkward things of life, thus not making it easy for me to ask those so very important life questions at the times I needed to know the answers. Over some of my adult years, I had a job where I had to be the one to share answers for difficult questions to youth. I learned the answers in order to be honest. I have also learned through that process that I needed to be able to ask and be willing for answers, to listen and be willing to be upfront. I am 68 so the lessons have been long in coming, but I am able through the help of God. How grateful I am.
    (My mother’s Irish mother kept order at the table and kept her Italian husband (Grandpa) in line too!! What a mix! They loved each other dearly though!)

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Linda, thank you for sharing your life experience here. It’s so encouraging to read how you did the hard work of learning to be upfront and honest when that was not the example you had growing up. It seems like so many people can never quite overcome the fear of vulnerability, no matter how much it might help them in the long run. I’m glad that, through God’s help, you’ve been able to do that. I know in the season of life that I find myself in right now, it’s sometimes hard for me to ask questions because I’m afraid of what the answer might be. But that’s not helpful for anyone, is it? 🙂

  3. Now here’s a topic we all relate to. Love these thoughts, Lois. How many times have I botched a conversation or a relationship or the smallest thing and I carried the awkward feeling with me for much longer that I had to, wore it like a coat, even replayed it for others so they don’t miss out on how embarrassed I was. Extra confirmation for totally the wrong thing, LOL.
    He’s still working on me in this regard, that’s for sure…

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Oh Christine, I know how you feel … I hate that sinking feeling of desperately wishing I could go back five minutes and erase what I just said! Doesn’t this make you extra grateful for friends who know the heart behind your words and don’t take accidental bumbling to heart? And one more thing … I see the care and thought you put into the words on your blog, and so I can’t help but suspect that you have botched conversations far fewer times than you think! 🙂

  4. Awkward moments are rough, but I don’t know the meaning of the phrase TMI. 😉 I love open conversations!

  5. Sometimes, someone brave needs to go first in order to open up a room to having the conversation they need to have. It sounds as if this is the gift that God has given to you.

  6. Those are the best kinds of listeners! It’s a great goal to have. Thanks for your post!

  7. Hi Lois,
    First, I love the image of the bird — so appropriate! 🙂 And as a fellow half-Italian, our families did talk about everything because I think we are genuine sharers and are truly interested and curious about the stories of others! It’s so important not to be shocked when others share something with you and it’s a true gift to offer those in our lives. I actually think you have a unique experience with your story of infertility and willingness to share that invites openness from others and you are so soul-beautiful, friend!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Valerie, I love that you noticed the bird … it just screamed “awkward” at me the minute I saw it! I so appreciate your encouragement … it’s been one of those weeks, and your words were a gift in the middle of it! And speaking of presents, I hope you are having a lovely birthday today and a wonderful year to come. You are a blessing!

  8. Christi says:

    I loved these words on my phone this morning. I feel like if we were given the chance, there would be NO awkward 🙂 Dinner was never quiet at our house. Love your heart and so thankful you share it!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s always so nice to hear from you, Christi. I think of you whenever I see your email updates and wonder how this time of huge change is going for you. Praying that God sends smiling faces and thoughtful words your way today …

  9. I don’t do awkward well AT ALL. I cannot overcome elephants in the room and it makes me feel all sorts of uncomfortable when things that need to be said are not spoken. But…I receive awkward much better. Like you said, I want to be a safe place for others, so I don’t get uncomfortable by other people foibles and missteps or gut spilling – just my own. Which makes me think I might need therapy?! 😉 Love your words as always – and ready smiles and warm hugs. xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Your comment is bringing a smile to my face this morning, Tiffany! I don’t think you need therapy, and I have a feeling the grace that you offer to the people in your life is more therapeutic than you could ever know! 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful day, my friend.

  10. Trudy says:

    I love your awkward-free, safe place in the blogosphere, Lois. 🙂 I always want people to feel that way with me, but I’m afraid sometimes I’m the awkward one. I always worry about whether my words will come out right (it’s always easier to express my feelings in writing than in speaking) or sometimes I can’t even think of something to say. And yes, I always worry about hurting people’s feelings. And sometimes it depends on the person. If a person often talks badly about others, I don’t dare share much with them as I wonder what they’ll say about me. Anyway, you sound like a safe person in real life, too. 🙂 Blessings and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Trudy, I know what you mean about feeling like the awkward one and being able to express feelings in writing better than speaking. Especially in big groups, I try to keep in mind that lots of other people are probably feeling the same way … that helps me somehow. 🙂 Thank you for your sweet encouragement … you are one of the bloggers who has really been an example to me of how to nurture this kind of community, and I so appreciate that!

  11. Joanne Viola says:

    Lois, I loved this post probably because I just had an “awkward” conversation with someone. May God be with us, helping us, to make those awkward moments safe & comfortable for others. With His help, we can be that comfortable and safe place. Blessings!

  12. Linda Stoll says:

    Gosh, I do hate those awkward moments, those stilted conversations, where something is blocking the freedom and joy of true connection and you just can’t wait to head for the door.

    There is something about shared laughter, smiles, and a warm touch of the hand that can ease the way to deeper interaction. Maybe the body language is keeping us from going deeper.

    May we find safe people to do life with …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I think you are on to something about the body language, Linda. As I ponder this conversation, it also seems clear that different personality types respond to these situations differently … an extrovert may be completely unaware of any potential awkwardness until after the fact, while a more sensitive introvert might be mortified about it. I never really thought about these realities until recently … it has really been very eye-opening and helpful!

  13. Kristi Woods says:

    You brought a smile today, Lois. I like to talk about “things”, but often the words come out different than what I envision. (sigh) And sometimes feelings get hurt. (dbl sigh) So often, I keep quiet. But those warm smiles, hugs, and an ability to laugh at ourself certainly lighten the load. I have a feeling you’re a great listener. 😉 Blessings to you today.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your sweet words, Kristi. I know of those things that make you sigh in your comment … they definitely make me thankful for friends who don’t take offence, no matter how we stumble around with our words! I hope you are having a good week. 🙂

  14. I grew up extremely shy and self-conscious. EVERYTHING was awkward for me. Then the Lord started working on me (including allowing me to marry a guy who would be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease before our first anniversary). Now, poop is a regular topic in our household (having two dogs helps), and I find myself blurting out all kinds of stuff that I never would’ve been comfortable to share out loud before.
    I, too, want to be the kind of person it’s safe to talk to — about anything. The Lord has brought me a LONG way.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Suzy, I appreciate what you wrote so much. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to look back and see clearly how God has used the hard stuff to bring about growth and goodness in our lives? I’ve been reflecting on some of those very things in my own life lately, and I am so thankful. I also can relate to growing up self conscious, shy and awkward … and to see how God has changed me is another cause for thanksgiving! It’s been a long time since we were able to talk in person, but I remember our conversations from those long-ago newspaper days and how they made me feel more welcome in a world that often felt foreign to me … thank you, my friend!

  15. Awkward free zone.., I love it! And YES,we can all listen more emphatically. Thank you for the reminder!

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