Avoiding awkward situations

Britons and their awkward social encounters

When we asked Britons what socially awkward situations they found themselves in, six in ten (59%) said they have pretended to understand what someone said when they hadn’t heard them clearly, while a similar number (57%) had forgotten the name of an acquaintance.

A half (52%) have run into someone they had wanted to avoid, while other awkward situations Britons have encountered include:

  • Had a wardrobe malfunction (e.g. fly down or clothes inside out) – 27%
  • Disclosed information to a person who was not supposed to know – 22%
  • Sent a a private message to the wrong person – 17%
  • Caught doing something private and embarrassing in public – 13%

Preventing an awkward meeting

When we drilled down into one particular awkward situation – namely seeing someone that you want to avoid – two thirds (66%) said they prevented meeting someone by pretending not to notice them.

If this fails to work, a rather novel one in six (16%) 18-34 year olds have tried pretending they’re someone else, for example, by speaking a foreign language. However, a slightly more orthodox 70% of Brits deal with the encounter by making up an excuse so they could leave quickly.


Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,003 UK adults aged 18+ from 18th to 22nd July 2014. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.