A few years after I started Collegewise in Southern California, a male student of mine came straight from the beach and sat down at our meeting…without a shirt on, a scene not lost on my coworkers or the Collegewise students and parents who were in our office. There was nothing to do at that point but face the awkwardness head on, so I said,
“Dude, I can’t believe I have to say these words out loud, but you’ve got to put a shirt on before I can meet with you.”
High school counselors are faced with plenty of serious, delicate, or even crisis situations that have to be handled very carefully. But when you’re faced with something that’s just awkward, strange or outwardly hilarious, the best way to deal with it is often to face the situation head on.
Katie in our Bellevue, Washington office uses this approach with a lot of success. Here’s how she described it to one of our counselors today:
“I’m definitely a person that wants to make everyone comfortable, and when a situation is odd, my first instinct is to pretend it’s not happening and gloss over it all. But I’ve actually found that it can be a real point of connection if you address it directly in a way that’s lighthearted, not aggressive or rude.”
She also shared an example of a family she met with who only wanted to apply to highly selective colleges and kept referring to Cornell as a safety school (note to students—Cornell really isn’t a safety for anybody). So Katie faced it head on:
“So– Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins and Cornell… you’re aiming really low, huh?”
Katie said it got the family to laugh, and also recognize for just a moment that it might not be the best approach for a college list.
I’m not suggesting we be flippant when it’s important and I trust good counselors to recognize the difference. Serious or delicate situations call for an appropriately measured response. But when it ventures into awkward land, face it head on.