It's a strange feeling. You know what you should be doing, or should be saying but the feeling makes you hesitate and question yourself. Going any further would result in some level of vulnerability that you believe you're not mentally prepared for. In these moments many choose to not act, not speak up and will remain in their comfort zone. As a result, an opportunity is missed. It's in these moments I believe you should "Embrace The Awkward" because on the other side of awkward is a better, more honest reality.
Here are a few examples of Embracing The Awkward in action:
When you're in a situation that conflicts with your values
This is the light-hearted but offensive joke someone made that you don't find funny. Do you laugh with the rest and hope the moment passes, or do you let them know it’s inappropriate and you would prefer they didn't joke like that around you? It is the company happy hour, and everyone knows one of your colleagues has probably had a little too much to drink. Do you pretend not to see it, write it off as "Paul being Paul", or do you say something, call out the obvious and ensure Paul gets in an Uber? Both of these situations require you to embrace the awkward, stand by your beliefs, and say something!
When you know you rightfully deserve recognition
You've been bringing your a-game for a couple of years, you've exceeded the expectations laid out for you, you're outperforming your peers, and still nothing. No raise, no promotion, no real recognition of any sort. Who better to speak out on behalf of you, than you? Put a solid case together, schedule a meeting, stay professional, and embrace the awkward. You had a great idea in a meeting, everyone loved it, but at some point between you saying it, everyone talking about and leaving the meeting it now became Brian's idea. WTF! A couple of options are in front of you: just write it off knowing you'll have another idea another time, or chat with whoever led the meeting or Brian himself and let them know that you would like to stay very involved with the initiative since it was you that originally brought it up. You cannot rest on the hope someone will speak up on your behalf! Embrace the awkward, and go after your hard work!
When doing something stands in the way of you being in a "better place"
When I say "better place" I mean somewhere you want to be that isn’t where you are now. You know you belong there and all that separates you and this place is an uncomfortable or awkward moment. Many times this requires you to show a deeper level of vulnerability than you've been willing to show in the past. Maybe you want to be a dancer but were born with two left feet, or you would love to be able to run a marathon but have never made it around the block without walking. You will need to embrace the awkwardness and get into some dance lessons if you ever want to improve. You will need to embrace the awkward and get a coach or put together a long term running plan and bet on yourself. In these examples, the "awkward" is usually fear. Specifically the fear of failure. When you embrace the awkward in these situations, you're essentially telling yourself...
"I'm not going to fear failure."
When you're faced with a difficult conversation
In my experience (and I'm generalizing) there are two main predictors of one's ability to embrace the awkward in terms of "difficult conversations": 1. where you grew up and 2. how you were raised. Some people are predisposed to default to the niceties of a conversation and stay away from the difficult parts, while others dive headfirst into the good stuff! I do believe no matter where you're from or how you're raised, we all have the ability to improve our relationship with difficult conversations if we choose to embrace the awkwardness. For instance, how many times have you worked on a school or work project, and someone on your team wasn't pulling their weight? Many times the team compensates for the person by sharing additional workload instead of embracing the awkward and talking with the individual about contributing more to the team. Or how many times have you been in a group setting with friends, or on a conference call and someone said something that upset you? Do you just move on, or do you embrace the awkwardness and have that difficult conversation with your friend or colleague about the impact of their words? We all know having a difficult conversation isn’t easy (hence the name), but we also all know that many times, having that conversation will be worthwhile for everyone in the long run” (Note: I will have more articles specific to this topic in the future!).
We tell our kids to stand up to bullies, don’t falter to peer pressure, and hold tight to their beliefs. But do we really practice that enough ourselves? As adults that can all be summed up as "make sure you're willing to embrace the awkward when necessary".
I ask two things of you this week:
Know your values and when they're being challenged, know the recognition you've earned and have not received, know the better place you want to be and what is standing in your way, and know when a difficult conversation is necessary and stop to embrace the awkward!
Keep an eye out for others who may be faced with the decision to pretend something isn't happening or stepping up to take action, and encourage them to embrace the awkward.
Choosing not to Embrace the Awkward allows for thoughts to boil up until the point where you could end up exploding. That is not helpful. Choosing to do it in real-time, on an as-needed basis, with tact and poise will allow you to live in a more honest reality. So please, Embrace the Awkward because on the other side of awkward is growth!
Note: All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not a reflection of the viewpoint of my employer.