Awkward Days

Photo by Wei Wang on UnsplashHas this ever happened to you?

You’re walking around your neighborhood—pre-pandemic or even these days—and another person is walking towards you. You smile, say hi, or nod to that other personas they come close enough to you to see, hear, or observe your gesture.

And the other person does . . . nothing.

They don’t smile back. They don’t speak a greeting. They don’t look at you.

They just keep walking.

It’s as if you’re not even there.

Awkward. (And there are many other, less generous words to describe this.)

I really don’t like this behavior. I’m tempted to say, “I hate it.”

Yes, “hate” is a strong word to choose, yet choosing to NOT mirror my greeting or smile back to me (or to anyone else—it can’t be just me) is puzzling.

Yes, this person could be having a terrible day. Yes, this person could have just heard very sad or upsetting news. Yes, this person simply could not have seen or heard my gesture.

My unofficial research from years of observing this behavior tells me that I can’t be meeting just people who are having bad days, hearing bad news, or have bad eyesight.

I think this behavior is rude, and it’s has boggled me for years. OK, it’s not keeping me up at night, but it’s something I come back to—for about 10 minutes at a time—a few times each year.

“Why?” I ask myself. Why does someone choose the path of more resistance? The path of NOT saying hello?

If you’re thinking, “Whew, Leila, get some therapy! This is NOT your problem,” I agree with you.

This is not my problem.

But since my job and passion (and well, my mission in life) is to help others better understand the people around them so they can do better work, I’d like to figure this out.

Over the years I’ve varied my responses to these folks. I’ve loudly exclaimed, “Hello!” or “Good morning!”—trying to shock them into responding.

I’ve uttered snarky responses under my breath. “Guess it’s not a good day for you” or “Ohh-KAY!” or “No soup for you!”

I’ve told myself these people are similar to the leaders I choose not to work with: they’re not coachable. They are not willing to ask for, accept, or work with the feedback others share with them. Not coachable.

I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that nothing I’ve done has changed the behavior of these not-smiling-back folks.

The pandemic has made this puzzle less of a priority for me, as I’ve been forced to walk farther away from people, whether on trails or sidewalks. And, in general, I try to head outside for exercise when there are fewer people around, which is tough as San Francisco Bay Area weather + dense living = always lots of people outside.

Of course, we’re all (mostly and rightly so) masked, and that makes it much harder to see what people are saying with their faces.

Last week I encountered someone walking towards me, and I got ready to wave, nod, or do something, and then I stopped myself.

I told myself to save my emotional energy and do nothing.

And that person walked closer to me, she said, “Hello.”

And I then said the same to her.


After that happened, I told myself, “Leila, keep saying hello, nodding, and waving and accept that the people who don’t respond don’t need to take up any more room in your head. Your head is full enough of people, problems, and possibilities.” A little bit of weight lifted off my shoulders. A rock removed from my emotional baggage!

No more awkward wondering about these folks. Instead I’m focusing on YOUR awkward interactions (at work).

And that leads me to the next section in this message to you . . . which is what I want to talk to you about during the free webinar in March: how to avoid awkward conversations as a new manager.

Avoiding Awkward Discussions as a “New” Manager: Our March Webinar Topic

Mark your calendars for March 18 at 8 am PT/11 ET. Here’s why:

  1. It’s Awkward Moments Day (Yes, it’s a real thing. Does it need to be real thing? That’s debatable.)
  2. It’s the date for our next webinar, and it’s about how to avoid some of the awkward conversations you might have as a new manager (and that can be “new” to a company and/or “new” to management).

The registration page will be ready next week, so, for now, mark your calendars.

Did You Miss Last Week’s Webinar About Bad Managers?

On February 17, I walked a group of leaders through the following:

  1. The 3 groups bad managers fall into.
  2. How to turn around bad managers: the mistakes and the best practices.
  3. The B.A.D. coaching framework you can use to help bad managers become strong members of your team.

It’s OK if you missed it because you can watch the replay here. Watch it soon, as the replay will only be up through March 8.  

Free Training, Anyone??

Interested in checking out my EQ or Goal Setting workshops on Udemy?

Here’s a link to take the EQ workshop for free.

Here’s a link to take the Goal Setting workshop for free.

Both links expire February 28 at 4 pm PT, so click them today.

Also, the links work for an unlimited number of people, so sharing is encouraged. Cool.


Talk to you next week, and whenever you’re tired of not waving, not saying hello, and not nodding to me, you can unsubscribe below.

It’s cool. I’ll still wave back.

And I’ll be here when you’re ready to discuss 1:1 executive coaching or online manager training for teams(new programs starting end of March, so get your teams in there now).

Lead with ease,

PS The Awesome Leader LinkedIn page is here. Join me for more frequent resources. Shorter messages, too. 😉