How to Address Awkward Moments with Friends

Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself to relieve tension in an awkward situation.
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Friendships can be awkward for various reasons. Perhaps you have just met and don't know each other well. Maybe you had a disagreement and haven't resolved your differences. Whatever the cause of the awkwardness, most situations call for confidence and strong communication skills. Take the lead in offering a solution, and you and your friend can work at being more in tune with each other.

1 Listening Skills

If a friendship is awkward because you don't know each other well, open the lines of communication by asking your friend questions about herself. People find it reassuring to talk about themselves -- and it helps them to feel less lonely, says psychotherapist Darren Haber in the article, "I’m Introverted and Socially Awkward … How Can I Make Friends?" Ask your friend about her favorite movies, what she likes to do for fun on the weekends, where she grew up -- any topic that gets her talking and helps the two of you grow closer.

2 Body Language

Make the situation between you and your friend less awkward by practicing friendly and open body language, as discussed in the Helpguide article, "Effective Communication." Even if you don't feel confident, act the part. Lean in when you are speaking, keep your hands relaxed, smile and have good eye contact. Behaving in a relaxed and friendly manner will help those around you to feel more at ease, and it may also boost your confidence.

3 Find Humor

Break the tension of awkward moments by finding humor in the situation. Making fun of yourself is a good way to show that you don't take yourself too seriously. If there is an awkward silence in the conversation, say, "My mom is always telling me to put a lid on it at home, she would never believe I can't think of anything to say!" If you trip while walking away from class together, say, "I always did have two left feet. You should see me on ice skates!" Try to lighten the mood when things get awkward, and both of you will feel more relaxed.

4 Stay True to Yourself

If a friend is bad-mouthing someone else, it can be hard to know how to handle the situation, says communications consultant Cindy Bigbie in the article, "How to Handle Awkward Conversations?" on her website. For example, if a friend says, "Heather always wears designer labels. What a waste of money!" you might choose to change the subject or nod but silently disagree. Bigbie instead suggests approaching the situation more honestly but also with tact. Say, "I agree some clothing is wasteful, but I know some people shop at second-hand stores -- perhaps that is what she does?" Stay true to yourself while still acknowledging your friend's opinion.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.