“In a desperately awkward situation we reach for the nearest platitude. “
I am a words guy.
I love words; love using words well and love people who can use words effectively & elegantly at the same time.
I almost called this “scrambling for the word.” This is the time & the place for which you have to find something to say.
I imagine we have all been in a situation which demands you to say something … the empty space calls for you to step forward with a word or two … and … well … say something.
And then there are the truly awkward situations … the ones which make you uncomfortable and calls for you to step forward and say something. .
Awkward, bungling, inept and even ungainly … all words which refer to actions lacking in skill or grace or even to the faulty results of such actions.
We can be clumsy in these situations. ‘Clumsy’ meaning a halting or imprecise action and having a propensity for making mistakes with all the impending uncomfortable results that coincide with your clumsiness.
And awkward suggests similar defects to clumsy just not as bad … let’s just say awkward is proportionately less bad and emotionally it is tied more to a state of mind, being unnerved, than clumsy <which is tied more to physical>.
Inept suggests you never find the right word <so that doesn’t really for with what I want to say>.
And ungainly specifically suggests a lack of grace which certainly reflects many of us as we scramble for a word or phrase.
And then there is the scrambling itself.
Some do it silently <hoping like hell it arrives before the appropriate time passes>.
And some just punt … they offer the ‘nearest platitude.’
And maybe it is within the scrambling itself that we separate the amateurs from the professionals … the inept-inclined from the skilled-inclined.
Or the ones who have figured out what the U.S. Navy SEALs say … “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
In the business world, no matter how good you are, you have had to scramble for the right thing to say. You have been caught off guard and you have found yourself in an awkward situation.
What do you do? <and all of us for that matter>
You get into your own head. You dig around for the phrase that pays … something to deploy against the quiet space demanding you to say something.
“You’re told that you’re in your head too much, a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.
Or maybe there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”
All the while you struggle to stay focused on what needs to be accomplished … struggling because awkward situations make you feel uncomfortable and you are desperately seeking to get out of the discomfort zone and into the comfort zone.
I just said that.
I point it out because some asshat is going to come along and say something trite like “remember, it’s a good thing to feel uncomfortable … it means you’re moving forward and exploring new territory.”
Let me point out that not all uncomfortable is created equal and not all exploration is meaningful.
Awkward situations are often situations of survival. And if that sounds dramatic I meant it to.
In business … more often than not … success is a battle of attrition – survive and advance.
Die and done.
And while survival in an awkward situation is always a tricky thing in business … all that scrambling around in your head <thinking as it is sometime called> is compounded by a belief you need to … well … not die.
And that permits me to go back to platitudes.
Platitudes are played simply for survival.
They sound stupid <sometimes>.
They sound hollow intellectually <often>.
They sound meaningless <because more often than not they are>.
They sound like you had nothing better to offer <which is true>
They permit you to play another day.
Even the best of the best get caught with no words in an awkward situation.
And even the best of the best will offer a platitude in an awkward situation.
The business world seems slightly more unforgiving today than it has been in the past.
Far too often being caught in an awkward situation and not offering the right words, or simply offering a platitude, brands you as someone who “cannot think on their feet.”
Certainly … if you are consistently ungainly in an awkward situation … you lack grace.
Certainly … if you are consistently clumsy in an awkward situation … you are clumsy.
But no one has the right words all the time in every awkward situation. And there are worse things than offering a platitude when scrambling for something to say … like, for example, making shit up.
But making shit up is a thought for another day. Today? Suffice it to say it never hurts to have a platitude handy for an awkward situation when you just cannot think of anything, or the right thing, to say.
“My body is a parlor trick called survival.”