AWKWARD CHRISTMAS HUGS

For introverts, there is nothing worse than being forced into a situation where you have to meet strangers and execute small talk. Actually, there is… small talk with your partner’s family’s extended family. I’ve no doubt it would raise the hackles of any introvert.

It’s the worst situation for an introvert to be in because unlike with random strangers, you can’t remove yourself unless you run out of the house on the pretense of an emergency of some kind. For many of us, sitting through tortuous family gatherings, especially for special occasions like Christmas, is a must.


We travelled almost seven hours and stayed with my husband’s parents for Christmas 2020. On Boxing Day, some of his extended family came over for a visit. The in-law’s family room housed my husband’s two uncles, two aunts, cousin and her two children as well as the eight of us that were already there. Teas and sweets were passed around, and the small talk began.

True to form, as soon as the small talk began, I made excuses to leave to another room. I gathered the children and set up the Nintendo Switch to play video games. I stayed with them in the front room on the pretense of supervision. I was really avoiding the awkward small talk and uncomfortable feeling of having many sets of eyes on me while I tried mumbling my way through conversations. I didn’t need that stress in my life. Was it rude? Most definitely, but I’ve made no secret about my anxiety with small talk.

When the children had their fill of video games and decided to play a game called “Don’t Step In It”, I reluctantly returned to the family room where all the adults had gathered.

“Find a chair and stop looking like an outsider,” chastised one of my husband’s aunts upon seeing me lurk around the fringes of the room.

“I’m fine where I am,” I replied sheepishly. I hate being made a spectacle. I’d happily hide in the shadows if it meant no one asked me uncomfortable questions or expected me to converse like a grown adult. No thank you.

When the time came for people to leave, I stood around awkwardly, knowing that I had to say goodbye to them. I walked out with my husband and children, waved goodbye to one set of aunts and uncles then returned to bid farewell to the other set still inside the house. The aunt gave me a big hug and threw out my ‘I don’t really like to be touched’ rule. As the uncle made his rounds with his goodbyes, I stood there debating whether the uncle would expect a hug too because his wife just gave me one.

The aunt totally threw me with the hug. Now I was confused as to the appropriate social etiquette expected of me. So when the uncle turned to me, I gave him a hug and surprised the both of us. It was self-inflicted awkwardness and you know how I hate feeling awkward.

When everyone was gone, I threw myself on the couch near my brother-in-law and his partner and bemoaned how awkward the experience was for me. My brother-in-law’s partner, a fellow introvert, hadn’t enjoyed the small talk and mostly sat there listening to others converse instead.

Fellow introverts, what is the secret to small talk with extended family? Better yet, how do you avoid giving and receiving awkward hugs?

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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MY STRUGGLE WITH SMALL TALK

Do you find it hard to partake in small talk? Does it make you feel anxious? Or do you have the gift of the gab?

There are so many factors required to have a successful conversation with another person.

  • Using exact words to effectively express your thoughts
  • Understanding body language and its nuances
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Finding a balance between listening and speaking
  • Showing an interest in the person and what they have to say
  • Offering interesting topic threads
  • Remembering to relax
  • Smile

If you suffer from social anxiety, being thrust into situations where you must engage in conversation can be scary. It might feel easier to avoid it altogether.

So why do I force myself to engage in conversation?

I recognise that to communicate and engage with others means social interaction. It means forging new relationships and strengthening others. It means developing my sense of self and belonging.

Ultimately, I don’t want my life to be consumed by my anxiety. I won’t allow it to tear me down. Therefore, I must engage.


Butcher: “Hello there!”

Me: “Hi.”

Butcher: “How can I help? What would you like?”

Oh my God, I don’t know. Sh?t, I better hurry! Sh?t, how do you say that word ’enchiladas’?

Me: “Um. Six en-chill-a-dars please?”

Butcher: “My wife just took one of these last night and upped to Mildura.”

What? What did he just say? Am I supposed to reply? I just want to tick dinner off my list.

Me: “Oh. That’s a long way.”

Butcher: “She loves them. Drove after work last night and got there this morning.”

Okay, I think I’m supposed to say something here. Fudge if I know. Why is he telling me this? Breathe. Relax. You can do this. It’s just a conversation. Be normal.

Me: “Yeah, she must love them to drive that far.”

Did he mean she loves enchiladas? Is six enough for dinner?

Butcher: “My daughter lives up there and had her baby last night.”

How long does it take to wrap these enchiladas?! I can feel my anxiety levels rising. This conversation is hurting my mind. New baby. Ok, so remember to congratulate him.

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Butcher: “Thanks. My wife’s already saying she wants to come back.”

You seem like a really nice dude and I’m really glad you’re chatting to me but I suck at this and I feel awkward. Please have mercy on me!

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Fudge! That’s not what I meant to say. I forgot the congratulations.

Butcher: “Uh, thanks?”

Me: “Um, congratulations?”

Oh my gosh! He did say his daughter, right? He looks young. I hope I haven’t misheard. This conversation is going downhill. Abort! Abort!

Butcher: “It’s my third grandkid. Here you are.”

Oh thank goodness.

Me: “Thanks. Have a great day.”

I need to get out of here.

Butcher: “You haven’t paid yet.”

Me: “You too. I mean, sorry I haven’t.”

Did I just say that? How embarrassing! I hope the next butcher isn’t as talkative.


Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THE SILVER LINING OF BEING AWKWARD

Humans are social creatures. It’s important for us to feel a sense of belonging. This fundamental need drives us to seek company; to form meaningful relationships with others; to engage in conversation. Essentially, we seek to make a human connection. A disconnect can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression.

I struggled with my sense of identity and belonging throughout childhood and early adulthood. I was an extremely introverted child and shied away from people. I wasn’t able to effectively communicate and therefore, I found it difficult to make friends.

As a grown-ass adult, conversation still doesn’t come easily for me. Unfortunately, I’m also awkward as f#@k. Random sh!t just comes out of my pie hole. On the outside, I might look aloof and confident but on the inside, I’m a jumbled mess of insecurities that could rival that of a fifteen-year-old teenager. My six-year-old daughter has more pizzazz and social skills than I do. It’s really embarrassing. Luckily my friends accept me for who I am, flaws and all.

Recently, I met a mother of a child in the same swimming class as my daughter.


“Hello,” I said to the woman sitting next to me.

She gave me a welcoming smile and asked, “Which one is your child?”

“Oh Mandy,” I replied, pointing at the rambunctious girl doing cannonballs into the pool and getting told off. I rolled my eyes. She had a few minutes until class started and still managed to get into trouble.

“You’ve got a lively one there,” she laughed.

I giggled. “You don’t know the half of it!” Mandy’s a Little Miss Independent.

Lisa, the woman, was a talker. This suited me just fine as it prevented me from any outbreaks of verbal diarrhoea.

“Breanna does choir, ballet and swimming on Saturdays. She does Japanese, tennis and piano during the school week.”

“Oh Mandy does piano,” I threw in. It had been a while since I contributed to the conversation and I didn’t want to look disinterested.

“Yes, piano is so good for the brain. Breanna has done it for a few years now. She’s excelling at the moment. Did you know that music makes children smarter? I’ve listened to classical music since Breanna was in my tummy.”

Lisa rambled on and on. I don’t think she had paused since we started talking. How did she do that? She must have huge lung capacity.

I gave a noncommittal grunt as I watched Mandy attempt breast stroke. I was so proud that she was giving it a go.

“And of course, I had to speak to her teacher about the girl not inviting Breanna to her party. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”

I realised I had zoned out. I tried refocusing on what Lisa was saying.

Does she realise she’s monopolising the conversation? Is she a nervous chatterer? Is it possible that someone is more socially inept than me?

Our girls hopped out of the pool and rushed over to get dried. Lisa was still talking. I heard ‘coffee’, ‘next time’ and ‘see you’. My brain connected some imaginary dots.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” I replied, absent-mindedly stuffing Mandy’s things into her swim bag.

Lisa shot me a wary expression and left.

“Mum, why did you say you’d love to when she said ‘see you’?” Mandy asked me with a look of confusion.

“Lisa asked me to go for a coffee next time she sees me,” I said, a little uncertain.

“No she didn’t.” Mandy scrunched her brow. “She said she needed a coffee next time, and she said see you.”

“Oh.” That explained the weird look then.


Yes, I’m socially awkward. Yes, I say random things. Silver linings people. I’m pretty awesome at listening… most of the time.

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