There is always a way to graciously address any situation, no matter how uncomfortable. Plain and simple: ignoring the truth or being phony feeds into the discomfort of the most awkward situations and makes them worse.
The trick is telling the truth nicely. This means using nice words, nice intentions, a nice tone, and nice body language. Consider when Anthony Bourdain visited Namibia on his TV show, No Reservations. “That’s the best part of the warthog,” they told him, displaying the warthog anus. In the narration, he declared, “Behold, the worst meal of my life…” But when he was with the bushmen, he took a bite, a real bite, chewed and swallowed it. Afterwards, he reflected, “As hard as I try to appear gracious, it ain’t easy.” That’s right. It ain’t easy, but it’s important so he is gracious. He continued, “Lesson number one as a traveler: food given as a gesture of hospitality is always gratefully accepted. Always. Because no matter how weird or even how horrible it may seem to you, for someone else, it’s their means of subsistence. It’s their favorite meal. It’s their gesture of generosity. So put on your game face, eat up, and ask for seconds.”
This is why Anthony Bourdain can go anywhere in the world and get along with almost anyone. He’s respectful and kind. Kind may not be a word usually associated with Anthony Bourdain, but it’s true. When you find yourself in a “warthog anus” situation:
- Say something kind, even if it’s just “thank you.”
- Search for some truth to say. That you liked the texture or the sauce or even just the color of the dish (“What a beautiful, caramel hue!”). You can mention that it’s your first time eating warthog anus, that this is something very new and different for you, and that you feel so honored to be able to taste the family’s special dish. That will help you “bridge” to a different but related topic. Dig deep. You get the idea.
- And when you say the kind words, use a kind tone.
- Body language-wise, sit up straight, look people in the eyes, and smile. Connect with them. If you’re telling the truth, that will be easy to do.
This an excerpt from “The PR Fix for the Everyday Person” © 2015 by Jenny Fujita and Joy Koerte.