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How To Handle Awkward Social Situations

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We've all been there - forgetting someone's name at a party, getting stuck with the check, or having to fend off unwanted sexual advances. So what are you supposed to do? Sarah Ivens, former editor of OK! Magazine, and author of numerous modern etiquette guides offers advice to help us through awkward social situations.

LISA: For howdini.com I’m Lisa Birnbach. What if you are having an awkward night, everything goes wrong, and your social life is unraveling in front of your eyes. And your out with people from work, what do you do? Sarah Ivens is here she is the editor-in-chief of Ok in America and the author of many modern etiquette books. Sarah you forget somebody’s name and you can’t rebound from that, what do you do?

SARAH: Fess up I mean just admit it. Cause I’ve been out with people and its so embarrassing, people have forgotten my name, there standing on the other side of me saying, “Daring have you met honey bun,” its so embarrassing. We all know what’s going on so just fess up. Say I’m really sorry I can’t remember. If you can, remember any fact about them to make them feel special. “I remember you from Ohio, but what you name?” Anything-just fess up, say I’m really, really sorry I’ve forgotten your name. What’s your name again, and listen and use their name back in conversations a few times. I mean not, “How are you Lisa? I love you Lisa? Goodnight Lisa?” I mean don’t go mad. Try and use and introduce them to a few people in the next few minutes. Think of something that maybe connects their name to something you remember about them. That will make it easy like a trigger, like if their name is Rose, that’s an easy one you can think of a rose. Any little tricks like that is good, but just be honest about it, don’t start using a strange nickname.

LISA: If you notice someone can’t remember you name you should bail them out.

SARAH: Help them out-

LISA: Do not let them struggle.

SARAH: I’m ah, all for even if there is three seconds of, “Oh this is my friend….” I’m Sarah. You know like just be open and go for it, you know. We’re too worried about stuff like that I think.

LISA: Right, no that could be bad. Now here’s another terrible situation, you’re out to dinner with a group, and nobody picks up the tab. And that was awkward, and you weren’t counting on that being the host for the dinner.

SARAH: Absolutely, I mean there are a few rules here. If you’ve asked everyone out for dinner you, if you’ve made any implication with the invitation that you would be…that I would love to treat you all. Or its my birthday, I’m going to take my best friends out, or anything like that, then they have reason to think your paying. If you haven’t, you’ve just suggested that we should all get together and go out or whatever then it’s down to everyone to pay their share. Absolutely, so if people aren’t putting their hands in their pocket, which is a pet peeve of mine, it’s so mean and petty. Number one you shouldn’t go out with these kinds of people.

LISA: There not good friends.

SARAH: But you know that wouldn’t help you out on the night, so on the night take charge be quite bossy. Just say all right the checks here everyone, should I pay my fare. You know be bossy. I’ll be mother, does anyone have a calculator, ask someone else, “Doe’s anyone have a calculator on their mobile phone, you know.

LISA: Should we just split this four ways, that kind of thing right?

SARAH: Yes, and don’t just sit there looking at it, worrying cause that’s not going to get anyone anywhere. You know, really just take charge, be bossy.

LISA: That’s not the end of the world. That’s not the most embarrassing situation.

SARAH: No, and you know what they should be more embarrassed.

LISA: They won’t be. They won’t be.

SARAH: They won’t will they. Then again going back to point one don’t be friends with these people.

LISA: Okay, what if somebody grabs the check, but you really want to be the host of the dinner?

SARAH: If someone wants to pay offer twice, I mean that’s my rule. You go, all get this, are you sure, I don’t mind, no I’ll get it. If you’re sure, I was expecting to pay for this blah blah blah. If you try offer twice, and they still say no I insist, that is it stop struggling. You don’t want a tug of war in a restaurant over a check. You don’t its embarrassing. So accept graciously, and say thank you, say thank you at the time. And when your saying goodnights for the evening say thank you again. Just make a mental not and you will treat them next time. Its fine let them pay.

LISA: That’s not, that’s not that big a deal, here is a big deal. You’re out at a party or at a dinner, out anywhere, or in, and your friend’s boyfriend, fiancé, husband starts flirting with you. Then what do you do?

SARAH: That’s embarrassing; really I mean just shut them down. Be all about your friend. If someone goes, “Hey you look hot this evening” not as hot as your wife you lucky thing. She’s my best friend and she’s beautiful. You know, really back, everything back to your friend everything back. I mean it inappropriate and uncomfortable, just walk away, who cares you know.

LISA: Now if this kind of thing happens repeatedly, or if you found out that this same guy is hitting on other people, should you ever tell your friend?

SARAH: This is a nightmare isn’t it? I’ve had it happen to me once before and luckily my friend took it seriously, and she is now married to someone else who is lovely. Yes, you don’t want to be the tattletale who goes around causing trouble all the time. But if has happened a few times, its happened to other women, it’s gone beyond “Your looking sexy.” If it’s gone beyond that, it could be a drunk flirty guy trying to boost your confidence. Or him calling a suggesting you go out to coffee together. If this starts happening then you really have to tell your friend. And don’t put anything out there, just give her he facts, I think your husband is a #$*^ &^%. Be like, he called me randomly today to go for coffee, what’s that about? Put it out there. Don’t add your opinion just put out the facts.

LISA: Uhh ohh. Okay Sarah, thank you. For howdini I’m Lisa Birnbach.

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