As Plain As The Nose On Your Face

Recently, I had the oh-so-fabulous experience of enjoying the side effect of a very runny, red nose during a winter head cold.  This side effect was a delightful, large red sore on the strip of skin between my nostrils.  At first, it was just red, then it became raw, and then it bled and scabbed over.

Despite my most excellent make-up application skills, it was clearly visible to anyone within, say, a 3 mile radius.  You may be wondering why I am sharing this terrible tale, and I promise there is a compelling reason.  For you see, what happened next is an interesting study in the willingness of people to invest in others and to share direct feedback openly and willingly.

One gentleman I was meeting with kept swiping at his nose furiously while he was talking to me, as if to will me to wipe that hideous mucous blob off my nose.  I believe he honestly thought I didn’t know it was there.  As he invested considerable effort swiping at his nose, and looking wholly uncomfortable, I wondered why he didn’t just say, “um, Karen?  You have a little something under your nose.”

Another colleague I met with during my unfortunate nose sore episode also swiped at his nose a few times.  Not with as much vigor as the first guy, and his motions were more like a repeated pinching of the  nostril area with his thumb and index finger, but I’m certain he was also trying to relay to me, through body language, that I had a huge snot glob attached to my face.

My husband, God love him, didn’t notice for about 3 days.  He finally said something like, “oh, poor Princess.  You have a sore nose, huh?”. Yes, Captain Obvious.  I have a sore nose.  I thought of the saying, “to have a happy marriage, keep one eye closed.”. It seemed to be working for him.

For me, I had to embrace it.  It was after all, going no where soon.  I actually appreciated the opportunity it gave me to ponder why sharing feedback with others make most of us so uncomfortable.

Consider this: I actually knew I had a lesion on my nose.  I could tell it was freaking some people out.  We both would have felt better if my colleagues had asked about it, pointed it out, or just handed me a tissue.  I could have thanked them for their concern and shared my funny story about living with a nose sore.

What stopped them?  What had them choose to direct their energies in to subliminal messaging?  Other than my social dynamic curiosity, what stopped me from blurting out what a drag it is to have a sore on your nose?

Perhaps it’s the fear of conflict.  Perhaps it’s the desire to not hurt someone’s feelings.  Perhaps it’s the absolute lack of words for that situation.  I can’t be sure.  I do know that every kindergartener or 1st grader I came in to contact with at my daughter’s school pointed it out.

Some said, inquisitively, “what’s on your nose?”. Some said matter-of-factly, “you have something on your nose.”. One little girl just handed me a Kleenex and said, “here you go,” in a sing song way before she skipped off.

There’s a lot to be learned about honest, invested, caring communication from our young people.  And there’s a lot of opportunity to consider what stops us from sharing feedback with others.  After all, what you have to share may be right on the nose.


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