About a week ago, James and I drove to Hampton Beach to see Mike Birbiglia perform his new show, “Thank God for Jokes,” which had us laughing until our cheeks hurt. I’m not usually that interested in seeing comedians because they’re sometimes mean spirited or gross, but Birbiglia is more of a storyteller than a comedian. Plus that, he’s sweet like that guy in your college study group who made you laugh but was too shy to make a move. Vans sneakers and all.
In this show, he talks about how his mom has always asked him not to curse in his shows–something he’s stuck to for his entire career. That is, until he was invited on to perform with the Muppets. He ran out onstage to a cheering crowd, realized that he had forgotten his stool, blurted out “OH, FUCK!” and awkwardly slow ran backstage to facepalm/grab his forgotten prop.
This especially struck a cord with me because I often feel like I’m saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time (WTWT).
For example: about two hours into my current job, my boss explained that everyone puts their vacation requests into Outlook as a meeting request because she sometimes gets a little flaky (her word, not mine!) about remembering those things. I said, “Well, at least you’re self aware!” If it had been anyone else, I probably would’ve been added to some kind of secret black list–thank god Elaine is Elaine and she just burst out laughing.
In an attempt to improve on my WTWT problem, I found these tips by corporate consultant Karen Exkorn in a Huffington Post article called “Five Tips On How To Say The Right Thing All (Or At Least Most) The Time,” which I’m paraphrasing here:
5 Tips for Saying the Right Thing
Be mindful of what you’re saying. You may observe yourself saying things that don’t really reflect your outlook on the world! Words aren’t just words–they represent what’s going on inside you.
Think before you speak. It’s happened to all of us: someone makes a passing comment that sticks with you forever. When I was fourteen, a teacher said to me, “You know what your problem is? You’re lazy.” (This was supposed to motivate me to do more student council activities.) I’ve had a hard time sitting still since then, for fear of that “laziness” overtaking me. Words have power, so use them thoughtfully.
Don’t let your body language interrupt your message. In other words, don’t say, “I want to hear about your day!” while scrolling through your Facebook feed. Please.
Pat yourself on the back. Rather than having negative thoughts about yourself, like, “Ugh, I’m always messing everything up,” congratulate yourself on successes–even if they’re small! By opening yourself up to your own positive traits, you’ll be less preoccupied when chatting with others, and better able to listen well.
Use “eee” words. You know how you’re supposed to say “cheese!” in photos because it makes you smile? Exkorn suggests using words like “happy,” “glee,” and “silly” because it creates a sort of lasting muscle memory that promotes smiling and better conversation.
If you have the gift of gab, what advice do you have for saying the right thing?
(Apologies if you came and saw the video that was posted here earlier! I’d mistakenly thought it was one I’d watched previously, but it turns out that one has mysteriously been deleted from the internet. So now you’ll just have to go see Birbiglia’s live show to hear the story, which you should do anyway. In the meantime, I’ll share this bit about being on time + yoga, which is also from the show. As an on-time person, I really love this.)
Photo Credit: Darling be Darling