Wisdom//

Rebound From Any Awkward Moment

In a bind? Not to worry.

Image credit: Ayo Ogunseinde

Become invincible using these three words

Warning: In this story, I am not the hero, I am the villain.

1:00 PM

On a Sunday afternoon, my wife and I arrived at the library, ready to get some work done.

1:02 PM

We take the elevator up to the 5th floor, where they have study rooms, periodicals, and the quiet room. The quiet room is designed so that people can work and study in peace.

1:03 PM

We settle into the quiet room, we’re the only two people there.

1:03:30 PM

Thinking that the room was soundproof, and also wanting to make my wife laugh…I devise a (to me) hilarious plan to play five seconds of The Notorious BIG’s Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems.

1:04 PM

I press play. My wife quoted me as whispering “This is what I think of your quiet room.”

1:04:05 PM

After five glorious, rebellious seconds, a library employee opens the door and politely tells me that the quiet room is (shocker) meant for being quiet. She asks if we might rather use one of the nearby meeting rooms. My wife thinks this is a fantastic idea.

1:05 PM

I sheepishly grab my bag and we walk to the meeting room. My quiet room revolution fizzles out like a wet sparkler. Biggie would be disappointed.

I was kicked out of the quiet room at the library.

Learn what my hilariously awkward moment can teach you about how to handle any uncomfortable situation, and help prevent you from replaying events over and over after the fact.

You know the events:

“I can’t believe I called the client by the wrong name all meeting!”

“Why didn’t I talk to anyone at the party last night?!” (Here’s my fix for that)

“…Did I just hit reply all?” (Sorry, no excuse for this one, you’ve got box seats in hell.)

1:04 PM: I press play. My wife quoted me as whispering “This is what I think of your quiet room.”

What can we learn from this?

  • I clearly did not respect the nature of the quiet room.
  • I have a strong aversion to being a obedient rule follower.
  • I love gangster rap.

After that, I realized something interesting.

If something socially awkward happened to me years ago, I would have gone through a familiar cycle:

  • Obsess over the event. “What the hell was I thinking?!”
  • Second guess myself. “What I should have said was THIS!”
  • Internalize my actions to my identity. “I am so stupid.”

The most important takeaway is: Separate your actions from your identity. How many times have you talked with someone and:

  • They didn’t quite get your joke.
  • There was an awkward pause.
  • You ran out of things to say.

And later you replayed the conversation in your head.

Worse than that…you started to meld that interaction into who you are, and associate it with your identity.

Not good.

What’s the fix?

Realize that this type of negative overgeneralization of events is a form of cognitive distortion known as “labeling”. Labeling is insidious because it fuses actions (which are tiny samples sizes of behavior) with our identity.

Author and researcher Brené Brown has a philosophy:

Guilt = I did a bad thing. Shame = I AM a bad person.

Once we separate our actions from our identity, we become free.

So the next time you do something awkward…like playing gangster rap in a library quiet room, or telling a story in a group and people don’t react quite the way you expect:

Flush it.

Destroy the link between your actions and who you are. Delete all thoughts of “What do these actions say about who I am as a person?” This is the most difficult step. I do a couple of deep breaths to center myself and move on to the next step.

Fix it.

If there is anything about the situation that is within your control, mentally adjust your approach for next time. (For me, that means not playing gangster rap in the quiet room) The wisdom here is knowing the difference between what you can and can’t control.

Forget it.

Move on. Close the book. Replaying an event is counterproductive and will almost always lead to “because that’s who I am” thinking. Often the biggest key here is simply giving yourself the permission to move on.

By flushing and fixing, you’ve earned the right to forget.

Cultivating the skills of flush, fix, and forget will help you rebound from any awkward moment.

Use it often. Focus on what you can directly control, and discard the rest.

(Unless you hit reply all.)

Next step.

If you found this useful, you’ll find my 27 page free guide on how to Join & Enjoy Group Conversations even more useful. Get it here.


One last thing.

If you liked this, would you mind recommending it by clicking the green heart 💚 so others can read it too?

Originally published at medium.com

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.