What to Say in Awkward Situations – Part 1

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Knowing what to say in awkward situations can be tricky. Even if you have great English conversation skills, some situations can bring up strong emotions and feelings, which can cloud your thoughts.

In this week’s video, I’ve put together a few easy-to-remember expressions that you can use when you find yourself in these situations.

Some of them are quite lighthearted – like when your friend or partner has cooked a meal that you didn’t enjoy, and you want to be honest with them, but you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Other situations are more serious – like when your friend’s loved one has passed away.

How can you approach these conversations in a caring, honest way? How can you show your support? These expressions will help you do that.

If you’ve ever been in an awkward situation, share it with the community in the comment section.

Let’s help each other out with this one!

▬ Contents of this video ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

0:00 – Intro
1:37 – What to say when your partner breaks up with you
4:00 – What to say when someone have overstayed at your house
5:51 – What to say when your friend or partner has cooked you a bad meal
7:24 – What to say when someone you are casually dating wants to make it serious
8:42 – What to say when your friend wants to do something you don’t want to do.
10:22 – What to say when someone has lost a loved one.
12:28 – Conclusion

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish.

Today we’re going to talk about what to say in awkward situations, you know those times when you just can’t think of what to say because it’s kind of uncomfortable?

This is part one in a whole series on this topic and we’re gonna focus on relationships with people who are close to us.

You know how do you respond when someone’s lost a loved one? What do you say? What do you say to a friend who wants to do something that you don’t really want to do?

So I’ve got six of these awkward uncomfortable situations where sometimes we just don’t know what to say.

Now it’s so important to pay attention to the words that I’m using but also to the tone, the pause and the facial expression that I’m using because all of these things are so important when we’re communicating.

Before we get started make sure you hit that subscribe button down there, give this video a like if you’ve been enjoying it. I like making videos that you like too so make sure you let me know.

If you’ve got any special requests, drop them down in the comments below.

So as I said, this is the relationships edition so I’m sharing useful English phrases that will help you in awkward and uncomfortable situations with the people who are closest to us in our lives.


Situation #1: Your boyfriend or your girlfriend breaks up with you

So imagine this, you’re sitting at a restaurant. You’re looking across the table at your partner, you’re just about to have a lovely dinner at a busy restaurant.

You reach down to take your glass and have a sip and you hear them say:

  • Look, I just don’t think this is working anymore. I think we should break up.

In any language, this is a difficult conversation to have, an uncomfortable conversation to have. And depending on how it makes you feel, your mind might go completely blank, maybe you saw it coming but perhaps it was a complete shock and maybe you’re heartbroken.

But whatever the case, you still need to respond in this moment, don’t you?

So firstly, you take a deep breath and you compose yourself. All right I can do this.

Since it’s probably quite upsetting in the moment, it might actually be hard to think about what to say and it’s okay to take that long pause and to really think about what you’re going to say before you blurt it out but here are a few things that you could say.

  • Really? That makes me so sad. I think it’s best if I just leave and head home.

Now, this might sound like you’ve just given up but it’s a really useful way of getting out of this situation because saying too much might make you angry or upset and if you just want to keep it simple, at least you’ll be able to take some time to think about what you want to do and how you want to respond.

Another option is:

  • I’m feeling really overwhelmed right now. Can we please talk about this again in a few days?

If you’re the type of person who needs some time to process information, this is a good option for you because if there are thousands of thoughts flying around in your head,

it’s really hard to make sense of them in that one moment so giving yourself a little bit of time and the ability to come back to that conversation with some clearer thoughts is definitely a good option too.


Okay uncomfortable situation number two is probably one of my favourites.

Situation #2: The overstayed welcome

So you know when someone stays at your house longer than you want them to? They just won’t leave, they can’t take the hint.

Maybe it’s a relative who’s been there for a few hours or maybe a boyfriend or a friend who has slept over for a few nights but you really like your own space.

It’s been four days now since you initially invited them over and there’s no sign of them leaving, they’re settled in.

So in this situation, you could definitely say:

  • You know what, I’ve got a few things to do around the house today, let’s meet up again the day after tomorrow and do something fun.


So when you’re saying this, it’s best to actually start performing those actions as you go rather than just sitting on the couch and telling them that you want them to leave.

It helps to show them that you’ve got other things to do. So you could start washing the dishes, packing some clothes, anything that gets you moving and you know gives them the hint that you need to be using your own space to do some things that you’ve got to get done.

But it also tells them that you do want to see them again in a couple of days so no feelings hurt.

Now if you want to be a little more direct, you could try saying:

  • I love having you stay over but I also enjoy my own space. Do you think we could just limit sleepovers to two nights in a row?

This is a good one for a boyfriend or girlfriend who’s staying over at your house a little more than you really want them to and you know you’re like: All right I really like you but I don’t want you here all the time. I need my own space too.


Situation number 3: Your friend has cooked you a bad meal

Okay the third situation is your friend has cooked you a bad meal.

Now food is subjective, isn’t it? Some people like things sweet, salty, sour, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the meal that your friend has cooked you is bad, though perhaps it is. Maybe it’s just not to your taste.

So of course, keep this in mind when you’re sharing feedback I guess, about the meal and you know make sure that the way that you are expressing yourself is always with a really clear, kind, gentle tone so that you don’t hurt their feelings.

Try not to be too blunt here. So you could say something like:

  • I usually prefer something a little different, it’s quite unusual for me, I’m not sure if I like it.

So with this response, you’re letting them know that the meal wasn’t to your taste. Maybe it’s just because you prefer different things so no feelings hurt. You’re still able to be honest.

  • This was nice. I know another recipe that was quite similar. Maybe I can cook it for you next time?

So making plans to do another activity together is a good way to let them know that you still appreciate them and what they’ve done for you.

You could also try and make it fun and helpful you know rather than patronising and sounding like: My meal that I’m gonna cook you is so much better than yours, wait till you taste it.

Try not to do that.


Situation #4: Someone you are casually dating wants to make it serious

Okay so a friend of mine recently told me that a girl he was casually dating asked him to make their relationship more serious, more official. I guess she wanted to introduce him to her family but he is not interested at all.

So what do you say in this situation when you don’t want to go further in a relationship with someone? With these responses, a really firm direct tone is so important.

There are so many non-verbal cues that you need to be aware of in a conversation like this where people are hinting at things rather than saying them directly so you’ve got to be alert, ready for this one.


If it’s a friend who’s asking you to go out on a date with them but you’re not really interested, you can definitely say something like:

  • I love our friendship and would just prefer to keep it this way.

And of course, if it’s someone you’ve been seeing for a little while  or a friend that you have feelings for who’s asking you this question and you want to say yes, then of course simply say:

  • Yeah of course, let’s make it official.


Situation #5: Your friend wants to do something you don’t want to do. 

All right our next awkward uncomfortable situation is when your friend wants to do something with you that you don’t want to do. Maybe your friend or your partner wants to go on a holiday somewhere but you don’t really want to or they want to go skydiving and you’re afraid of heights.

Well, you can let them know that although you don’t want to do what they’ve suggested, you do still want to hang out with them.

  • I’m not really into that idea. What if we try this instead?

This is the best answer because you’re communicating your message really clearly but you’re also suggesting an alternative for them and it helps them to know that you’re not completely blowing them off right you still want to do something, just not that thing.

  • Thanks for inviting me but I don’t think I’ll go

… and maybe then you can add on an excuse.


So expressing gratitude is a good way to show appreciation for the person who’s thought of you and invited you, you don’t want to hurt their feelings but you know me, I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings so making up a little excuse as to why you can’t go even if it’s not true is gonna soften the blow right? It’s gonna make them feel less bad, less hurt.

  • Thanks for inviting me but I don’t think I’ll go. I’ve got plans that weekend. I’m supposed to be going camping.


Situation #6: Someone has lost a loved one

So our next and last situation is an extremely hard and sad, and uncomfortable situation but it happens and I wanted to help you with what you can say in a situation where you want to support a friend or a family member when someone tells you that they’ve lost a loved one, that someone that they care about that’s close to them has passed away.

This is devastating, it’s always hard to know what to say. You feel quite helpless because nothing that you say is gonna change their feelings or make their pain go away.

But being supportive and listening is so important, the goal isn’t to make them feel better, it’s just to let them know that you’re there for them, that you’re listening if they need you for anything. You’re there.


Now depending how close that person is to them, the feeling of deep sorrow that comes with grief means that in this moment you need to tread carefully and pay really close attention to the tone and the delivery of your words.

You can say something like:

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine the pain you’re feeling right now.

This is just a way to acknowledge their grief and to express your sympathy for them.

And notice how soft and gentle my tone is? Whilst I was saying it, I didn’t look down, I kept my eyes directly on you and that’s important too to show that you’re being genuine and sincere.


Now I also think it’s important to follow up with some sort of support. For example.

  • Tell me about your mother or your father or your friend who passed away.

We often think that people don’t want to talk when they’re going through a hard time but there are often so many happy memories that can make them laugh or smile and remember someone fondly so talking about it could actually help them to feel better or at least offer a little distraction.

You might suggest: Would you like to go for a walk? We don’t have to talk about anything, let’s just get some fresh air.

Now this is useful for people who you know would just rather be silent and not talk, that’s okay too.


So we’ve just been through six awkward, uncomfortable situations and how to respond to them in English, some of them were more serious and sad, others were relaxed and perhaps a little funny but just make sure you pay attention to the tone and the way each of those phrases were delivered to the listener, really important to focus on those non-verbal visual cues as well with facial expressions and that kind of thing.

So I really hope you enjoyed the lesson. If you are looking for a few tips on how to say I love you, check out this video here.

That can also be quite an awkward situation or an uncomfortable situation where you feel unsure so hopefully there’s a few good tips in there.

Of course, hit the subscribe button right down there and turn on notifications so that you find out when my next video is available.

Otherwise, I will see you next week. Bye for now!


Links mentioned in the video

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