Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Booger me!

The other day I was doing some pre-purchase research shopping.  I've got some tech purchases on the horizon and want to make good decisions.  I believe I know what I want, broadly, but there is some fine tuning to do.  So I went for a look.

The first bloke who spoke to me was friendly enough.  He could answer all my questions quickly and easily.  He wasn't judgemental.  I won't be buying from him though.  You see he had a booger, a booby, a piece of dried snot hanging from his nose.  As he was taller than me, this was quite off putting. It was all I could see and it's all I can remember of him.

In facilitating corporate education about delivering feedback I often raise different feedback scenarios to gauge comfort levels in delivering feedback.  The body odour and the booger are both on the list.  People often tell me that their decision about whether to give feedback is entirely dependent on the relationship with the person; the more casual the relationship, the less chance there is that the person who needs to know will be told that they have some nasal hygiene to attend to.  Yet universally, everyone says that if they had the issue, they'd want someone to tell them.

I will confess, I didn't tell him.  He deserved to know, but I just didn't know what to say.  I tried the subtle hint thing - surreptitiously wiping my nose.  When that didn't work, I did it conspicuously.  Surely his salesman training in rapport building would cause him to mirror my body language at some point!  It didn't happen.  So he was left ignorant and without a sale.  What are his work colleagues doing that they have not let him know?

What I find interesting is that if this had been friend or even a close work colleague, I would have just said, "You need to wipe your nose."  They would have done it.  There might have been a moment of awkwardness, but they would have been grateful.  End of story.  Why then is it so hard to tell a stranger?  Perhaps there's a fear of that moment of awkwardness - you can ride it out with someone you know well, but don't know how a stranger will react.  I suppose he could have punched me on the nose.  Looking at the guy, I reckon he just would have dealt with it and continued to talk to me about my tech needs.  Maybe there would have been a little flush of embarrassment.

I've given all kinds of personal feedback to people.  I once told my boss that she had her dress on inside out. I once told an actor that I had to kiss on stage that he had bad breath.  I once told a female colleague that she needed to deal with her body odour, not take her shoes off in meetings because her feet smelt terrible and wear something that didn't expose her breasts when in a work setting.  These tasks often fall to me.  I just tell them the news factually.  Once the embarrassment is forgotten, everyone is generally relieved.  (The next time I saw the female colleague in question, she was wearing a skivvy!  Problem solved.)

I think the only time I've given a stranger awkward feedback was when I walked out of the women's toilets behind a woman who had the back of her skirt tucked into her pantihose. Imagine that! She was mortified when I used a very gentle voice to tell her that she needed to fix the back of her skirt.  I just could not let her continue on in the world.

I am feeling a little guilty about Booger Boy.  Maybe I'll go back and explain why he didn't get the sale.


  1. Ah....if only someone had been able to tell me when; 1. the toilet paper was trailing out of my jeans.... 2. My skirt was tucked into my tights. My life would be so different...

  2. Would you tell them?
    If I had seen you, I think I would have said something. Perhaps there's a female solidarity thing. Unless we're in a cat fight, then all bets are off!