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Is there anything more uncomfortable than watching people who are obviously uncomfortable with being with one another fake being comfortable with each other? Perhaps thrown together by design or fate, there’s no talking, no communication, no eye contact, no engagement of the minds and no sharing of ideas. Just that uncomfortable look on their faces accompanied by uncomfortable body language.
It’s uncomfortable to watch but, I’ll admit, kinda fun. The uncomfortable fun begins when they have to appear comfortable. Because they’re uncomfortable and try to look comfortable for whatever reason, it makes the situation even more uncomfortable.
Whether it’s a first date, presidential debate, prom night, a family reunion, standing in front of a judge for a vehicle violation or a tense business meeting, nothing is more uncomfortable than watching people fake comfortability. Again, it’s fun to watch sometimes but rough.
So, what if the uncomfortable situation involves watching two world leaders of two of the most powerful nations on earth meet for a photo-op? And these two powerful leaders obviously don’t get along and don’t care for one another. It’s painful to watch and, yes, uncomfortable.
Years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama provided us with such a moment that will live in the archives of the uncomfortable hall of fame of uncomfortable history. It seems the wing of this hall of fame is always growing.
I mean, these guys really didn’t like each other, and they weren’t shy about showing it. But because the fate of the free world and peace on earth depended on it, they got together and showed the world what it looks like to go global with being uncomfortable.
They barely shook hands, hardly talked, barely looked at each other. It was very unfortunate.
Well, it’s time for a cupcake, folks.
I propose a constitutional amendment that, in essence, requires any American president to bring cupcakes when meeting with a Russian leader. I’ll expand that to include any world leader. It doesn’t matter who brings the cupcakes as long as they have them for their meeting.
When each digs into a Hostess, I bet they become buds. I bet that by the end of the day, the two are wearing matching T-shirts (hopefully not saying “I’m with Stupid”), trying on each other’s shoes, imitating other world leaders, trading baseball cards, seeing who can spit the farthest, sitting on a fence making faces at people passing by, laughing, and hating life when the Secret Service says it’s getting dark and time to go home.
Kind of silly, but not really. The lesson here is spending thoughtful time to proactively identify and recognize issues to defuse or neutralize potentially uncomfortable or unproductive situations before their occurrence. There is a valuable lesson in the cupcake that should carry into business, politics, sports, marriage, friends, relatives and advocacy.
Anytime there is an engagement of humans with any prospect of tension and uncomfortableness, proactively recognize and defuse the problem before it begins; head it off. Sounds simple, but it’s not a common practice. And yet, identifying a conflict ahead of time and defusing a potentially adverse situation will eliminate uncomfortableness and move to productivity.
The cupcake can instantly allow an equal playing field and eliminate egos. Though the cupcake doesn’t resolve conflicting opinions on issues, participants start from an entirely different position of calmness, respect and cupcake rationality.
There’s an old political saying, “Hang a lantern on your problem.” I’ll expand that to include hanging a lantern on potentially counterproductive issues to illuminate the negative and identify and diffuse a negative situation.
It’s all about thoughtfulness and selfless gestures to offset explosive situations and defusing it rather than letting someone else exploit it. Thoughtful proactivity is effective.