Just a public service announcement on behalf of all socially awkward people:
If I know you well, little, or even not at all, and we are walking past each other, please know that it is 100% A-Okay to just say “hi”, or smile, or maybe not even acknowledge me at all as we pass by. Why? To avoid the unnecessary two-second conversations I always find to be painfully awkward.
2: “Hi! How are you?”
1: “Good! How are you?”
2: “I’m good.”
Now that is how these two-second conversations are normally supposed to go. For me, they usually go like this:
Other: “Hi, how are you?”
Me: “I’m good.”
Other: “That’s… good.”
Look, it’s not that I don’t want to know how you are, but we are literally just passing by each other and I never feel like there is even enough time to ask you how you are also doing because by then you will have already passed by me and let’s face it, you are probably going to say something along the lines of being “good” or “fine”.
Again, it’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I feel like I’ve missed the window to ask it back to you out of politeness. And then after we’ve passed by each other, I always end up feeling rude for not asking it back, because that is how these social interactions go. There are cues.
But often I find this to be even more painful:
Other: “Hi, how are you?”
Me: “Good, how are you?”
Me: [What do I say now?! Do I just leave it there? Was that the end?]
And for whatever reason there are also times where we’ve both asked how the other is doing and we still have not yet passed by each other. What then?!
I most definitely know that I am overthinking this (I am writing a blog post about it for crying out loud), but let’s be real; the least awkward way of passing by a little known acquaintance when you have no time for a chat is to each just say hi to each other and leave it at that.
Recently I had quite the embarrassing encounter that I’m sure will make me cringe for several days. You see, like many people, I work in a big building for a big company that has a LOT of employees milling around. Often there is this one quiet hallway that I frequently walk through in the back of house area where people who are fellow employees – who I’ve usually never seen or met before – will sometimes pass by. If I pass by someone I don’t know, I usually either just smile or just look busy if they look busy.
But recently this one guy passed by me who I decided I would look down and not acknowledge as I pass by, simply because I had never seen him before and he looked to be in a rush. But at the very last second, literally as he passed by right next to me he said, “Wazzuuuuup!”
And because I am by no means witty in any shape or form and I have strange reactions, my instinct was just to say, “wazzuuuup!” right back at him in the exact same high-pitched tone as him.
Just imagine that. A one-second encounter where two strangers are just going, “Wazzuuuuuppp!” to each other. Yeah. I immediately cringed as soon as I said it and vowed to bury myself in a hole afterwards.
Also another interesting encounter was by a coworker who is now a good friend and thank goodness we’ve passed that weird stage. He’s from the UK and when I first met him I didn’t know that asking “are you okay?” is the UK equivalent of asking “how are you?” in Australia. So every time he saw me he would say, “Are you okay?” And I’d ask, “Why…? Do I look tired or something?” and he would reply with something like, “Oh, just wanted to know how you’re doing.”
You would think my brain would connect the dots but honestly this same conversation happened a few times until I had an epiphany of sorts. There was one girl who also used to work with me who was also from the UK and she always asked me, “are you okay?” but I always replied with a simple “yeah”. Because I guess she always used to ask me this when we were busy. I assumed she thought I always looked flustered or overwhelmed.
Let’s just hope that the encounters I classify as socially awkward are really just in my head and that the other person doesn’t feel the awkward eternally emanating from me.