We all spend a lot of time in our lives working to minimize “the awkward.” We mentally rehearse little phrases to fill uneasy silences. We employ carefully crafted expressions to communicate the difficult messages. We avoid unpleasant circumstances like the plague, and we are all quick to play the awkward blame game.
It’s natural, really. Who wants to witness a never-ending, foot-in-the-mouth conversation with a colleague? Awkward situations are often uncomfortable because they are embarrassing or difficult.
But maybe there is more than meets the eye when it comes to uncomfortable.
So today, my advice is to EMBRACE the AWKWARD. Of course, there are limits to such advice. I am not recommending that you say inappropriate things or try to make others feel uneasy. I want to suggest that maybe awkward situations are not all bad.
Sometimes I feel uncomfortable because I am trying something new. As we all know, creativity takes courage. When you are pitching a new idea, sometimes the faces of your audience members are less than encouraging. You might even feel awkward. But should this experience be avoided?
We miss out on a lot when we are too afraid of “the awkward.” The classic example is avoiding confrontation. We do not stand up for ourselves in conversations and meetings. We choose to be silent rather than to be uncomfortable. Consequently, we lose out on significant raises and great projects. Or worse, we sacrifice a better relationship because of fear of a tense moment. I suggest that it might be time for us to be brave. Be respectful and prudent. But be brave. Pitch our ideas with zeal! Articulate our position valiantly!
We let fear of the awkward take control of our lives in another way. Have you thought about writing someone a thank you note and then you chickened out? You might have thought it would seem too forward or be out of place. Most of us are guilty of holding back praise because we think it might be uncomfortable. We do not compliment others when we should; we fail to congratulate when it is appropriate. Sometimes it’s not because we’re forgetful or ungrateful. We just don’t know if it’s appropriate. And it might not be. But what if it is? What if we’re just letting fear control us when we should be brave? When should give over-the-top commendation, we keep silent. When we should be embarrassingly grateful, we give a terse “thanks!”
My bet is that it won’t even be uncomfortable. Maybe for a moment, we’ll feel uneasy, but then it’ll be over. We’ll be thankful we said it, and “the awkward” won’t be in control any longer.