The Roomba is a pretty cool invention. It’s a little robot that can clean your room all by itself without bumping into your walls or falling off your stairs. How does it avoid these danger zones? It is programmed to retreat as soon as it senses a hard surface or an edge.
We have a lot in common with the Roomba. Whenever we sense danger, we are also programmed to retreat. The advantage of this response is that we don’t fall down stairs and bump into walls, but the serious disadvantage is that we spend our whole lives cleaning just one room.
That’s all well and good for the Roomba and for our ancestors (who had life threatening dangers lurking behind every boulder), but what about us?
These days the most common danger that triggers our retreat setting isn’t danger at all, but the itchy, sticky, twisty sensation of awkwardness.
A fear of awkwardness is a fear of surprise.
Awkwardness is awkward because we don’t know what to expect from others or the situation. We don’t know the right things to do or say.
So we retreat.
Conversation with a stranger? No, thanks.
Asking for a promotion? No, sir.
Taking a dance class? Um. That would be a no.
If this is your setting, my friend, you are living your life as a Roomba. There are lots of things you can do to shift out of tiny robot mode and embrace surprise, but today I want to share just one approach that works for me.
Whenever you find yourself in Awkward Zone with the burning desire to retreat, remind yourself to
get to the pot of gold on the other side of awkward.
Yep. That’s the whole strategy. The idea is to stop fixating on the sensation of awkwardness (awkwardness will happen) and keep your eye on the prize instead.
Because here’s the thing: that prize (whether it be a hot date, a raise, or overall happiness) will almost always be surrounded by a muddy moat of awkward. The quicker you get to the other side of awkward, the quicker you reach that rainbow.
What are your strategies for getting out of Roomba mode?