Archive for August, 2010

6 Ways to Cure Foot-In-Mouth Disease

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Watching Family Feud years ago I saw one of the funniest examples of Foot-In-Mouth that I’ve ever seen in my life. Funny to me, funny to Dickie Dawson who was doubled over with laughter so bad he had to sit down on the stage and try to stop. It was the “lightning round.” He started to ask the mother of the family a question: “In what month…” At the word “month” she blurted out “March!” That got ol’ Dickie going. What was so funny about “March” says you? Because the full question was “In what month of pregnancy does a woman start to show?” It wasn’t the name of a month, it was a number he was looking for. Her answer was so out of whack with the question that he just couldn’t stop himself from laughing. Hard. She, of course, was somewhat mortified but got over it quickly. It’s a game show, after all.

Not so funny when Foot-In_Mouth happened to someone I know. He was having a conversation with a woman. It was going well right up to the end. She said she had to leave to go to work. He said he had the day off. She said “Enjoy your day off.” He said, “You too.” She said, somewhat less that elatedly (to say the least) “Thanks.” He felt flattened. No, he felt like he made a total jerk of himself. She’ll get over it, probably did in about 2 seconds, but it stayed with him all day. What did he do wrong?

How to avoid Foot-In-Mouth Disease:

1. Listen to what the other person is saying.¬† I know you want to speak. Especially when things are going well and you want to show someone that you’re being attentive to her but wait. Let her speak. Listen to what she’s saying. If you don’t hear what is being said how can you even think of responding?

2. Wait to answer. Yeah, time is of the essence. Take to long to answer & somebody’s going to think you’re a dimwit, right? The “wrong” answer also makes you look like a dimwit. Even dimmer. It can turn a great exchange into a “goodbye.” Is that what you want?

3. Pay attention. It’s not enough to “listen” and wait until the other person’s finished. Those are rules for using the sink in a public washroom. Is that what’s going on? If so, then all I can say is Insert foot¬† in mouth and chew vigorously. You gotta pay attention to what’s being said & not just wait until the other person’s finished. It’s not about “It’s my turn to talk.” You’re trying to respond.

4. It’s a dialog, not a duologue. What’s a “duologue?” Something someone I knew made up or stole from someone else (just like I stole it from him) to describe two people talking at each other. Two monologues that look like a conversation from the outside. Neither is listening to the other except to hear when to start speaking. Like when one pauses for a moment. This doesn’t make for conversation. It just makes for making noise at each other. You got something important to say? So does your partner in the conversation.

5. Relax! This is the big one. Even if you do make a faux pas you can recover from it unless you just screwed the pooch, in which case you’re dead meat anyway. Most of the time your partner in conversation will accept your acknowledgment that you have just started chewing on your foot, especially if you spit it out immediately. Embarrassing? Sure. Can you laugh at yourself? Important to learn. If your partner in conversation laughs with you as you spit toenails, you’re in. If not, apologize for not hearing correctly. Apology not accepted? How bad was what you said? Probably not so bad as you think, it was just the wrong moment. Give it time. Relax because you can

6. Make a good second impression. Really. Try applying the steps above next time. No next time? Maybe not with that person. How about someone else? You are going to speak with someone sometime, aren’t you?

That’s it. Oh, yeah. One more thing. The cure for Foot-In-Mouth is like the way to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. Learn to listen – listen to learn. Fish & whistle – oh wait: wrong song. OK. Listen, wait, pay attention, etc. Courage! Faint heart never won fair whatever.