3 Common Awkward Moments at School (and how to overcome them)

It doesn’t matter how great your social skills are, or how many friends you have—at some point you’ll be caught in an awkward moment. Awkward moments can arise whenever you aren’t able or aren’t sure how to uphold a social norm in public.  Some people find it easy to push these moments aside and make a quick recovery. But this can be particularly difficult for children to do, especially those who don’t have a very solid grasp on social norms to begin with. Since today is Awkward Moments Day, we thought we’d break down three awkward social situations commonly encountered in school, and give our advice on how to overcome them as quickly and painlessly as possible.

  • The Situation: You find yourself alone in the crowd.

Why it’s awkward: Nobody likes walking into a room full of people they hardly know. But it can happen in the classroom, cafeteria, class assembly, pep rally, etc. Most children, and even adults cringe at the thought of being all alone in the crowd. It raises all sorts of insecurities, one of the most common being the “everyone is looking at me” fear.

How to overcome it:  Recognize that as long as you aren’t doing something totally out of the ordinary in an effort to attract your friends or get someone to talk to you, everyone is probably not looking at you. Instead of wondering what is going through the minds of your classmates, focus on the task at hand-beginning your classwork, eating your lunch, waiting politely for the meeting to begin. If you happen to end up sitting near an acquaintance who is not necessarily a friend, take the opportunity to get to know them better by asking appropriate questions such as “how did you feel about the homework?” or “what did you think of the book?” You may not make a life-long friend, but you will at least have someone to keep you company.

  • The situation: A group project is assigned in class—and you don’t get to pick your group-mates.

Why it’s awkward: Random peer groupings typically force you to interact with people outside of your usual social group. This could mean learning to work with people you don’t know very well, or even people that you haven’t gotten along with in the past. It can be uncomfortable spending time with unfamiliar classmates, voicing ideas that have the potential to be rejected, and figuring out your role within the group.

How to overcome it: Remember that regardless of who the group members are, you all have at least one thing in common: you’re working on the same project. You may find that you connect with your group-mates on other topics, but at least in the beginning it’s okay to limit your interactions to discussing the project. Things can get tricky as you find that everyone is bringing different ideas, visions, and working styles to the table, but that doesn’t mean you need to get fired up. Instead, try listening carefully to what the other group members are saying. Show them that you’ve given their ideas consideration by talking through the pro’s and con’s with them. Acknowledge that there are ways to approach the assignment other than your own, and be open to those ways. Your group members will appreciate your patience, and open-mindedness, and hopefully follow your example.

  •  The Situation: General hallway clumsiness

Why it’s awkward: We’d all like to be graceful, smooth and poised as we navigate a crowded hallway, but unfortunately, most of us just aren’t. When you trip, slam into another student, drop your belongings in public, it feels like you are calling attention to yourself for something you’ve done wrong. Making matters worse, the other children might laugh or stare at your mistake. In cases where another student was involved, you also have to worry about his (or her) reaction.

How to overcome it: Realize that it’s okay to laugh at yourself. Acknowledge the moment, remember that everyone makes mistakes, and go about your day. If another student was involved, be considerate. Apologize and check to see that he or she is okay. Odds are, everyone will have forgotten about it by the time they make it to their next class as long as you stay polite and composed.

It is worth noting that overcoming any awkward situation requires social skills. In most cases, you need to keep your cool, be patient, and communicate effectively with those around you. For children who struggle socially, these things can be especially difficult to do. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to take note if your child seems to struggle with social skills, and help find the best way to him or her improve them. I think we can all agree that the fewer awkward moments a child has to encounter, and the more tools he has at his disposal to overcome them, the better!

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More