The Uncomfort Zone
by Adam Zack — November 6, 2018
I have a birthmark the size of a quarter right on my neck. It’s natural, I did nothing to cause it and don’t even really see it when I look in the mirror. I was probably 7 when I first got teased about it. “What is it, a hickey??!!!” I didn’t even know what a hickey was (and fortunately, only had to live through the embarrassment of a real hickey once). I have been chided about it probably a thousand times. From the nickname “Hickey Man” to endless “Who gave you the hickey??!!” (Your mom did was always a good comeback.) But the most memorable comment came from a total stranger. I was working in one of our grocery stores and passed a customer on the aisle, asking him if I could help him find anything. He responded that I should have my birthmark checked out by a doctor (at least he didn’t call it a hickey) to make sure it wasn’t cancerous. Turns out he was a doctor. I did ask my doctor about it on a future visit, turns out it’s just a birthmark, not skin cancer OR a hickey.
This was probably 20 years ago, and it still stands out as an incredible act of caring. I tell people to please just tell me when I have bad breath, or a booger hanging, or my fly in down but rarely does it happen, except at home. It’s a very uncomfortable situation to point out something that is just not in place. You may get a defensive, offended or embarrassed response. How do you tactfully tell an employee that they smell bad? Even worse, how would you ever broach the subject with a customer? So, the question comes down to whether it’s better to just not say anything. “Barn door’s open” is a subtle way to tell someone his zipper’s down, but the funniest is “You’ve got your fly set for Monica instead of Hillary” or “I thought you were crazy, now I see your nuts.” Deep down, I think the recipient (also known as the offending party) should appreciate the input. Who wants to go around all day on a breath offensive or reminding everyone who sees them that it’s time to buy Kleenex? It’s not just a tactful leader than can point out life’s embarrassments, it’s a thoughtful and caring fellow human being.
Filed Under: Company Blog