We have all been there. Stuck in conversation with the zany great Aunt (N.B not a direct link to any of my family members), the slightly over-friendly work colleague, the ‘friend’ who won’t stop talking about themselves. It is ‘unheard of’ to frown, and to show our true emotions, despite how much pain and frustration we are feeling, unless we are Gordon Ramsay and reply with the ever famous ‘F….’, well you fill in the blanks.

So how do we avoid the situations where you stand…and stand…and keep on smiling before the feeble ‘oh, I think someone is calling me’ excuse comes out to play. What action should we take to ensure awkward conversations and situations don’t keep on happening? Can we ever avoid them? Is it just me who gets myself into these things?

5. The distant family/family friend member.

Having sociable parents often means you have equally sociable (or not so in worse cases) acquaintances that you have to converse with at the annual New Years Eve celebrations. You find yourself stuck in the callously repetitive ‘yes I’m a student, no I am not drunk all the time (depending on who you’re addressing), the course is average-when I make it in (if you’re addressing a ‘cool’ younger cousin or acquaintance), no I do not have any life plans aside from spending the Summer basking in the sun with copious amounts of cider with my friends…and what?’ When in fact you could save everyone the hassle, create a tape consisting of ‘I am in my third and final year at…(enclose University here), it is English I am studying (because you never have and never will remember) and no I do not have a boyfriend, because ‘courting’ is not the same these days and I am not engaged by 19. Though this may sound incredibly bitter, I actually have pleasant conversations with family friends…albeit a bit too often and a bit too samey each time I see them. There’s nothing wrong with small talk and curiosity, but sometimes my toothy smile begins to hurt as I hear you propel familiar and painful questions at me year after year.

4. The boss/annoying colleague.

The problem scenario. These people are your work friends, your co-workers, and more importantly the man or woman who is writing your monthly pay-check. Smiling tip? Even if the boss or annoying colleague Jim cracks an awful joke, smile pleasantly and laugh a little, whilst a smile won’t necessarily give you friends in hand, it can potentially lose you your ‘sparkly’ reputation, believe me, a teacher said she was ‘scared and concerned’ when I stopped smiling for a second in class…a good workout for the cheek muscles, but a little soul-destroying when your heart is a little low for whatever reason. However, no pain no gain, and sometimes even smiling can create better feeling of optimism? Are you trying it now? How is that working out for you?

3. The tutor/lecturer

Being cornered after a lecture always feels a little disconcerting, where my impression of rabbit-in-headlights comes into play.  Nodding along to ‘yes, the topic of religion in Victorian literature is fascinating’ accompanied by a smile, may not seem totally convincing to you, but could affirm the tutor’s hard work was not done in vein and could always convince you to believe it yourself…provoking some ‘interesting’ essay ideas. Tutors and lecturers are paid for their efforts, granted, however being rude and dismissive could leave a bad impression, and smiling and pleasantry could equally leave an impression, but a more positive, if a little creepy (depending on how you smile) one.

2. The distant relative

There is nothing more common at family reunions/gatherings as ‘I remember you when you were born…do you remember me, Clare? you must remember me, I was wearing the purple dress at your Christening’. Whilst the ‘I remember you when you were this tall…’ will live on for future families I am certain, it can be a little tiresome grinning with ‘yes, i have grown a little…that sometimes happens after 16 years of living’, the best thing is to grin and bear it. These people are family, and whilst you have no choice in who you are related to, you do have a choice in how you act towards those you are related to. It is never fun to be seen as the miserable cousin who never makes an effort, whereas being polite and smiling softly can only help you in these awkward situations…unless it leads on to…

1. The persistent party conversation thief

Ever been caught talking to someone you don’t have much interest in, but have run out of ‘i’m popping to the ladies’ get out of jail free cards? Being at university for three years can undoubtedly provide you with situations where you aren’t necessarily interested in the city’s town hall, or colour scheme of the house in which you are supposedly meant to be ‘partying’. Smiling sweetly whilst thinking ‘YOU’RE BORING ME TO TEARS’ can be a difficult facial expression to perfect. I am certain I have at least once in my life (each week probably) been the notorious conversation starter, dragger, and murderer but it does not mean I am exempt from being on the other end either. Smiling nicely and nodding with a vacant expression= they think you’re interested and continue. Perhaps in this situation a simple ‘sorry, I must go and say hello to my friend over there quickly, i’ll be right back’ will suffice, and save you any boredom tears.

Whilst this guide is not condoning two-faced behaviour, think of it as a little boost to keep your polite, friendly nature up the way it should be. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this a lot then perhaps you are too nice, patient and smiley? Try folding your arms, looking at the floor and picking your conversations wisely. A smile won’t lose you friends, but it could always gain potential connections, and maintain your reputation as ‘mr/mrs nice guy’, if you’ve got the patience to read to the end of this article then I am certain you have the patience to keep up that smile in dire situations…after all, we all do it.