When “awkward” is a good thing

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The barrier to learning isn’t complexity. It’s awkwardness.
~ Christopher Voss, author and negotiation consultant

Learning is change. Change is learning. Both are challenging. You’re doing things differently. You’re thinking new thoughts. You’re discovering new perspectives and new ways of being.

You are becoming different.

And that’s awkward. Fumbling through a new language, going from an iPhone to an Android, figuring out how to go  someplace you’ve never been (literally or metaphorically), starting a new job… I’m sure you can think of a half-dozen things right now that you’re learning as you change – and feeling awkward about – especially given the upheaval caused by the pandemic.

What we forget, as Voss alludes to, is that awkwardness is normal in these situations. If you weren’t feeling at least a little awkward, you wouldn’t be learning or changing.

Since all change involves learning, and all learning involves change, both cause awkwardness.

So there’s nothing “wrong” with you that you’re feeling awkward – or even clumsy – as you go about doing something new. In fact, it means you’re on the right track. Keep going!


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Christopher Voss was the lead international hostage negotiator for the FBI. He now runs his own negotiation consultancy and training company, The Black Swan Group, and has written my all-time top business book (except it’s about life and relationships and everything else as well), Never Split the Difference: negotiating as if your life depended on it. I HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone who ever negotiates anything – which is everyone. Read it. It’s entertaining and practical and profoundly useful.


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