At a BBQ
Awkward Situation: You attend a summer BBQ in which the host declined your offer to contribute food or drink. You normally would bring something anyway, but didn’t want to presume that she would be lacking something. When you arrive, everyone else has brought a dish or bottle of wine.
Solution: You are now the official helper. Be at your host’s side when she’s serving food, offering to help with anything in the kitchen. Be the first to initiate cleanup and offer to pick up any refills at the store. It might be a little much, but you should even offer to start on dishes. If she refuses your help, send a bottle of wine with your thank you note, and be sure to invite her for dinner to return the hospitality.
At the Bar
Awkward Situation: You, or a friend of yours, is treating your group to a couple rounds of beer. You notice that no one in the group is offering to get the next round, and frankly this is getting expensive.
Solution: The simple solution is to cease the offer. The absence of drinks will always prompt someone to get the next one. If you’re truly on a budget but would like the evening to continue, simply say in a congenial manner, “Alright, who’s eager to impress by getting the next round?”
At a Wedding
Awkward Situation: You are attending an outdoor wedding and everything is going swimmingly…especially the sweat in your underarms/back/enter-awkward-place-here.
Solution: Against all odds, get up and move. While it would seem that sitting at your dinner table would be coolest, standing upright and allowing a breeze to do it’s work is much more effective (especially for the ladies…hello skirt!). Gentlemen, you are completely free to remove that jacket, but the tie stays. If you need instant cool, grab a beer.
At the Spa
Awkward Situation: You are getting a pedicure and the woman working on your nails just asked you a polite question, but you cannot understand her accent so you have no idea what she just said. You feel horrible and racist and completely useless.
Solution: See if you can catch the eye of a person sitting near you, or another pedicurist. Emphasize that you are completely mortified that you aren’t sure what was said, and simply repeat back a question that sounds reasonable for the situation. Most times someone will chime in with what was actually said, and you’ll be saved. Huge smiles and a tip go a long way, too.
Awkward Situation: You are having dinner with a new friend who recalls exactly what you do at work with great clarity, but you cannot even remember where he works, much less what he does.
Solution: Generalities are best. Ask open ended questions like, “How busy has work been for you?” or “What are your hours like these days?” that will lead them to talk about their job, wherein you can piece it together.
If you have an awkward situation that needs addressing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No guarantees on solutions, but two heads are better than one.