Psychology and Relationships

How to handle 3 awkward social situations with ease, according to a Harvard-trained etiquette expert

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Parties or friendly get-togethers can be fun, healthy environments to replenish energy or blow off steam. Depending on your level of social anxiety, though, a small family gathering or happy hour with friends can also be a source of stress.

Sara Jane Ho, host of the Netflix show "Mind Your Manners," and author of a book by the same title, considers herself an expert at navigating some of the more uncomfortable scenarios that can occur at parties.

"I feel that part of etiquette is about putting people around you at ease," she told CNBC Make It last year. "Instead of etiquette being a restricting convention, I see it as being an empowering tool." 

Here are three common, but potentially awkward, social situations and how to handle them with ease.

1. Forgetting someone's name.

"If you've met somebody multiple times but still cannot remember their name, you should never let on that you've forgotten their name," Ho says.

Instead, pull out your phone and say you'd like to keep in touch. They can input their Instagram handle or search their name on Facebook, solving the problem for you.

"What I like to do is say, 'I got a new phone recently, and all my contacts were wiped out. Can you put in your number again?'" she says. 

You can also ask if they've met one of your friends.

"If you're at a party, just introduce them to someone else," says Ho. "That way, they'll introduce themselves."

2. Exiting an uncomfortable conversation.

Like with the previous scenario, the best way to get out of a conversation with someone is to introduce them to somebody else, Ho says. Then, excuse yourself to grab a drink at the bar or use the bathroom.

"It's so seamless they won't even notice."

3. Responding to a rude family member.

Familial discomfort can be a little trickier to smooth over because, generally, people are more candid with their parents or siblings.

"If it's your siblings or cousins you grew up with, it's fine to have a bit of a jab here and there," Ho says.

With aunts or uncles, you should probably be more respectful, though. "I just sort of do a smile and look away or remove myself from their side," she says.

If it's your partner's parents, let your spouse handle it. "If you want to piss off your in-laws, let your spouse do it, not you," she says.

In the moment be agreeable and smile. Later, your spouse can explain to their parents why certain comments are inappropriate, Ho says.

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