That awkward moment...

In an earlier post, I talked about the importance of not taking life too seriously, one of the more interesting occurrences I have found in in life is when their is a 'mismatch' on the volume level of seriousness. In this article, I talk about the 'flipside' of that volume meter.

"Getting along with others", in conversation or otherwise requires all of the involved parties to hold some level of trust between one another. That trust is easily misplaced, when one or more parties have the seriousness dial turned way up, and others have it way down.

In a recent episode  of Seth Godin' s"Akimbo" - The Hedonic Treadmill, the start of the episode is an interview where the interviewee talks about an amplifier that has a dial of "11" ? Why - because if they want it to be louder they can go 'past 10' all the way up to '11'. The interviewer asks, well 'Why don't you just make the "10" louder?" and the awkward moment begins...

Let us say, for example, you and a friend are having a conversation and you are both teasing one another about a specific movie...hmm let's say Episode 1 of the Phantom Menace.  All of a sudden the funny laughter suddenly becomes awkward and the awkward may even turn to anger. Somehow, something that was said in 'jest' touches the other persons 'serious' button and we switch from carrying on to a serious argument, and your  like...wait how did we even get here?

Over the years, growing up, this seemed to happen to me time and time again, I wanted to 'fit in' to be part of the group, everyone carrying on teasing one another, and suddenly - somehow I say the 'wrong' thing and become the outcast.  It felt like there was this unwritten set of rules that we are all supposed to just 'know' about what to say, but somehow I was not born knowing it.  My dial is still at '4' while suddenly the other person (or group is all the way at 11)

Sometimes this happens at the very start of a conversation, you maybe talking about a piece of work, something that seems obvious will take months to complete, and you quip, "yeah, no way that will get completed today", you laugh, and no one else laughs with you. - and for some reason they assumed of course the work would only take a day??.

I think the real secret is to identify when this moment happens and switch yourself to 'mirror' the expectations of the other person, but it is not always easy to do.  If the other person suddenly no longer wants to joke around, continuing to joke around will not help the situation, but 'switching' into a matching serious mode can seem a bit fake and perhaps come across poorly, ineffective, and make the problem worse.

The irony is if you can switch to a serious mode, even for a moment, you show the other person your care and that you take the matter seriously as well, this will allow them to relax a little and the conversation (hopefully) can become less awkward and get you back on track again.

Last year, I was having  a particular difficultly in communication and I came up with this 'brilliant' idea. I spent the majority of the weekend trying to plan my next communication, trying to find 'common ground' between myself and the other party to try and repair some of the trust which had eroded from multiple of these continued 'awkward moments'

I had put a great deal of work into the planning, practiced how I wanted to go over it.  I even created a set of cue cards and made a bit of a game out of it --- It  bombed miserably !!  

My intention was good, but it did not come off that way. Reflecting now, that perhaps it seemed that I had some 'hidden motivation'.  Although I did not, my communication did not 'get to the point  - I just wanted to try and make things better, so that I could sleep at night.. Perhaps if I had spent more time listening and less time trying to 'fix things'..maybe that would have made the difference - who knows??

All things in moderation right? - there is a time for joking around and a time to be serious, and at the end of the day, people relate to the things they have in common with one another. People feel relaxed and comfortable when they feel in unison with the people they are talking with...I still do not fully know the answer...but I try whenever I can to try and avoid ...that awkward moment!




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