Just say it

January 10, 2011


“If you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you’re learning to say it better.” This is a quote from David Mamet but I read it in Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

December was a rough month for me personally. I spent a lot of days dealing with difficult stuff and lot of nights having a few beers at my neighborhood pub. I say “pub” so coolly and casually you’d never know I live in Texas. We don’t have pubs in Texas, we have bars; and those aren’t in your neighborhood, they’re a perilous 20-minute drive away.

But last year, we got a neighborhood pub. And I love it. And I knew I loved it but I didn’t know how much until December. This place became a beacon that got me through the day. It was a haven of normalcy amid chaos.

I decided I should tell the owner. I wanted him to know what he has built here. His blood and sweat and cash and risk-taking have made a difference. He made something good.

Brian is not the easiest guy to talk to and I could never find the right time. But for some reason, on New Year’s Eve, when he’s extra-busy running around rearranging tables and attending to customers, I pop-up out of my chair and decide this is my moment. Before any words come out of my mouth, I tear up. He says, “What’s wrong??” Not a good start. He’s freaked out. So I choke out a few personal details and the stuff about the haven and how he made this and how much it means to me. But he still has freak-out face. I keep talking trying to make it better. All he can say is stuff from the handbook like, “It’s our pleasure to serve you.” I’m totally dying. I had this vision of a bonding moment but instead I’m drowning in awkwardness. I ended our mutual misery by saying, “I just wanted you to know” or something like that and trotted away.

I went back to my table and that was it. No further interaction with him that night. I was, and still am, mortified. And yet, given the chance, I would do it again.

I saw Brian a few days later. We both acted as if nothing happened. But I noticed he chatted a little longer than usual. He made a bit more eye contact than he had in the past. I took it as a sign that my message somehow penetrated my tears and his fright. I hope I’m right.

Saying something was a risk. Saying nothing would have been infinitely easier. I am learing that it’s better to stretch and share something and make meaning out of what could be a bland, standard encounter. I had something to say and, while I did not say it well, next time I’ll be a little braver and say it a little better.

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2 Comments on “Just say it”

  1. Melody Says:

    So much of the really important parts (of these stories we’re living) gets awesomely messy. In the most real moments, the sophisticated veneer drops back (even while we beg for it to remain,) and if we push through, the good stuff happens. It matters when we can see how good that stuff is, even when it’s cloaked in awkwardness.

    Here’s to your bravery. And to more authenticity from us all.


  2. Nicholas Riley Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Next round on me. Cheers !


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