OMG – I’ve Had Spinach Between My Teeth Since Lunch: Dealing With Awkward Situations

Asking For and Offering Feedback

We’re a bunch of cowards. Every single one of us. At least that’s how it seems, based on a personal experience from the other evening when I discovered this little green thing stuck between my teeth when I looked in the mirror at the end of a long day. 

Spinach between my teeth! Not a lot of spinach, but enough to make my smile look ridiculous – with the teeth of a Halloween ghoul. And, to top it off, I had the spinach for lunch – say, six hours ago? How many people had I smiled at, talked with, and exposed this monstrosity to?

Luckily, some people are braver. The other day, I put on a decent black office dress with a zip at the back; I was going to see a client that is more corporate than most here in Singapore (where even bankers don’t necessarily wear three-piece suits or the female equivalent). After having travelled halfway through town with the zip half open, a colleague kindly pointed out that I was unzipped and helped me pull it up. Thanks, Sharala!

What can we learn from this in the context of management? That giving unpleasant feedback is difficult: It takes a lot of courage.

I’ve pondered about the spinach-between-your-teeth-but-too-embarrassed-to-point-it-out phenomenon for a while. I even swore several years ago that every time someone talked to me with something between their teeth – whether it be vegetable, fruit, or anything else – I’d point it out.

But then one time, someone was talking to me and I could not bring myself to say, “You have something…” and point in the direction of the speck.  Which is really enough; You don’t even have to say the whole thing out loud. However, that day I was too much of a coward, and I left things as they were. I left it at having the person look ridiculous for hours, probably until he looked at himself in the mirror that evening. What’s worse is that his thoughts probably went back to all those people that he’d interacted with over the day, and who didn’t even tell him. He’d probably thought about me too, and how much of a coward I was.

Thinking back, I wish we could have gone through that little awkward moment together of “you have something…” whilst pointing to the teeth, which would have resulted in the two of us having built a stronger relationship based on trust. But I was too much of a coward.

One of my resolutions this year is to tell people when they have spinach between their teeth, when their zips are undone, and when there is a white string stuck on their backsides. There are people who have no fear facing sharks or climbing the highest mountains, but being faced with 0.01 grams of spinach transforms them into a total coward.

It’s the same with giving feedback at the office. There are things we all do that we are blind to. We all do things, the effects to which we are oblivious. And if we start seeing feedback as a chance to grow, we’d all be better off.

The principles about feedback are simply, and nearly always, easy to adhere to.

When receiving feedback, appreciate the fact that someone actually cares enough about you so you don’t walk around with spinach between your teeth all day long.

When giving feedback, see it in the light of being the mirror of the person you’re talking to. They don’t want to wait until the evening to see the spinach between their teeth.

It’s about how you provide and accept the feedback.

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Mette Johansson

For two decades, Mette held various leadership positions within the field of Corporate Communications in multinational companies. In 2013, she decided to make a pivotal change to her life, quit her safe job in the corporate world and founded two separate businesses – in the area of investment consultancy as well as in corporate training. The values that link the two businesses are supporting growth – growth in personal development and growth in wealth.

Mette has lived, studied and worked in 11 different countries and feels very much at home in Singapore’s multicultural society.

As a business coach, she is passionate about helping others succeed in their chosen careers. She believes that the key to success is focusing on small changes that lead to big results. She is a strong believer in and walks the talk about continuous learning and the self-improvement process.

As the author of the book “How to Make Yourself Promotable”, she talks about working on the basics to make that promotion you’re yearning for happen faster. It’s targeted especially for people who have already settled into their jobs and know they want more in corporate life.

In addition to training professionals, Mette dedicates part of her time and profits to charity. She is deeply involved in providing young generations in lesser-developed countries the soft skills needed to succeed in life as well as education.

Today, Mette Johansson invites corporations and individuals alike to proliferate Authentic Leadership with the 7-step process to “Unmask The Leader Within™”. This 7-step journey has the power to transform entire organisations, unleashing true leadership potential through value-based management, embracing visions, values and purposes, and promoting human leadership principles.

This post was first published on the MetaMind Training and has been reposted on Connected Women with the permission of the author.
Edited by: Michelle Sarthou, Image credit: Pexels

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