Now here are some sobering stats. Over 95% of the world’s population has health problems. One-third of us have more than 5 illnesses, and 15% of us live with some form of disability. Even though most of us are walking around with some kind of health problem, we don’t talk about it. We even feel ashamed about it (!). Social exclusion is real for people living with chronic illness or disability. And that’s on us. We don’t design societies that are truly inclusive of the many different types of bodies that co-exist among us.
“We don’t design societies that are truly inclusive of the many different types of bodies that co-exist among us.”
And so here we are: uncomfortable and silent, avoiding the real uncomfortable business of being sick. Avoiding all the conversations that come with it, because they are just plain awkward. But, we have to have them. Why? Because, 95% of us are going through some kind of health issue. And if it’s not you, it’s probably a friend or loved one. So, can we please just talk about it?
It’s 2019. Time to stop avoiding it and embrace your inner awkwardness.
To get you started, we’ve come up with a list of three great ways that awkward conversations can actually benefit you in the long run – prepare to be amazed, though slightly uncomfortable at first.
Three reasons to have an awkward conversation
#1. There are huge health benefits to expressing yourself
Being able to express yourself is an important part of your own mental and physical health. If you’ve been avoiding – or maybe even dreading – a particular topic of conversation, you may be holding onto what’s known as internal stress. This is when external issues cause you to overanalyze, and essentially worry excessively about something.
By keeping these emotions bottled up, this stress can then manifest itself as physical tension, resulting in migraines, sleeplessness, and even high blood pressure. If you suffer from a chronic illness, additional stress can sometimes aggravate existing conditions – which we don’t want!
In striking up that long overdue uncomfortable conversation, you’ll be able to release this nervous energy, and maybe expel the stress you’ve been internalizing. And even if the conversation doesn’t go exactly to plan…
#2. Talking can help generate new ideas
Have you ever wondered why you can often have some of your brightest ideas midway through a sentence? It’s almost as if, in verbalizing your thoughts, you’ve gained access to this wonderful new place where eureka moments are born.
There have been various studies into why this happens; some believe that in the process of talking, our internal monologue is forced to slow down, allowing us to process information in a more mindful, considered way.
In getting the information out of our head and into the world, we’re given the opportunity to organize our thoughts into logical sentences, and achieve a deeper level of understanding about what we’re really thinking or feeling.
So even if your fellow interlocutor isn’t up to much, you may find that the conversation does help you to discover some new realizations about the awkward topic in question.
Which leads us to our final amazing fact about awkwardness…
#3. Defining the awkwardness helps to reduce it
Surely this sounds a little counterintuitive; engage in awkwardness and all of a sudden, it’ll be less awkward?!
Well no, not quite like that. However, a fascinating study at UCLA showed that being able to externalize and even simply label one’s emotions can actually minimize their intensity.
The evidence suggests that in using language to define our experiences, we suppress the amygdala (our fight-or-flight response system that produces extreme reactions when exposed to “threats”) and instead start engaging the prefrontal cortex (the clever bit that deals with logic, problem-solving and rational thought).
These findings might explain why, in times of great frustration or anger, our immediate response is the need to tell a friend exactly what happened. In labeling our emotions within a social setting, we’re able to place them within in the context of a conversation, instead of leaving them to stew in our heads (i.e. moving them into an external sphere, as opposed to keeping them in an internal one).
Verbalising your thoughts and feelings is a hugely important part of sustaining a healthy and happy brain, and the more awkward conversations you have, the better you’ll get at them. We’ve even created a glossary of awkward, cause we need a whole new dictionary of terms to describe our wonderfully awkward tribe.
Got any tips on how you like to strike up awkward conversations?
Has your most recent awkward conversation helped you in ways you could never have imagined?
Then feel free to post a comment and share with us – we’d love to hear your thoughts and stories about the benefits of awkwardness!
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