“What I was going to say was…. nothing”

I have a client who’s become a friend. Yes, it actually happens in real life. You too could love a consultant if you knew one for long enough. Anyway, she was on a major fitness programme. Long swims, bike rides, gym workouts. This determined woman was on a mission to recapture her former, svelte self (that’s a long queue, right there).

Riding Accident: It was a cool Sunday morning in Stillorgan. Following a steep hill climb, somewhat exhausted, she had a pedal malfunction and fell over the handlebars of the bike. Result = broken fingers, facial lacerations, dented dignity.  Later that day, the Orthopedic Surgeon seemed competent and in control. He’d seen it all before. She asked: “When do you think I’ll be able to get going on the fitness regime again?”  He replied: “Now, now, take it easy. After all, the older lady takes longer to heal”. Are you familiar with the expression ‘fit to be tied’? She laughed (afterwards) and we had a fun conversation around ‘what was the worst thing ever said to you?’

Dental Block:  My personal favourite was the local dentist in Clontarf who has a reputation for being grumpy.  As I was sitting in his high chair, he asked: “Do you know what ‘getting long in the tooth’ means”.  I mumbled ‘YYYYY-esh’ (it’s hard to communicate with a mouthful of Novocain without sounding like a Dutch porn star). Then he held a huge mirror in front of my face and explained how gums recede as you age. Educational? Yes. Helpful? No (did I mention he was my former-Dentist?).

Truth Telling: There are some people who seem to pride themselves on ‘being authentic’. They use phrases like “I don’t do politics” and “I tell it like it is”.  In her recently published book Your Brand, the consultant Veronica Canning said that she often asks people who make similar claims: “And how is that working out for you?” Unless you learn how to become socially skillful you continually bump into invisible barriers. For sure, you can trade on brainpower. A high IQ is a good thing. If it’s high enough and if you can find a job that’s lonely enough, it might work out fine. But most of us have to learn to negotiate human relations in the same way we learn to manoeuvre when driving. Of course, now and again you break this rule. You deliberately stand up and confront bad service, bullying or unethical practice. You decide that straight-talking is called for and you don’t shy away. But Jesus, not all of the time. Cool the jets!

When in doubt: There are some topics in the world where you just don’t go (‘old’, ‘fat’ and ‘bald’ are good for starters). Perhaps we should take our lead from that great management philosopher Ronan Keating when he sings:“You say it best, when you say nothing at all”. Sometimes, being really clever, is knowing when to sing dumb.

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